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Freight Salesman on the RVRR

Freight Salesman on the RVRR
By Frank Reilly

Engine #17 crosses the Boulevard as the flagman protects the train from any unruly motorists. 2/11/1971. Collection of Frank Reilly.

When I was a CNJ freight salesman (1969-1972) the RV was part of my territory. In 1969 the DL&W had about 2%, the CNJ had less than 10%, andthe LV had the remainder of the RV's freight interchange business. It tookme about a year to change that radically.I visited every industry along the railroad and almost all were 100%trucks, including some very big companies such as Union Tab Card (they made the IBM cards for the old computers ... a very big business then),warehouses, a liquor distributor, etc. All of them had private sidings with weeds growing between the rails and were ripe prospects.

Initially I got them all to give us (CNJ - RV) only one or two cars on a trial basis. If they were happy with the service and transportation costs (always lower than trucks), then we'd increase it to more carloads. It worked very well and took months to get the customers confidence, but they saved money and received their goods in a timely manner and damage free manner. After a few months I'd have most or all of their business.

Bob Clark, president of the RV, was very happy with my efforts and the CNJ was very happy with all the truck diversions to his railroad. The LV wasn't too happy because much of their interchange business followed the new business to the CNJ, but they didn't seem to care.

During my first visit with the local company official I'd ask when was the last time they had seen or been contacted by a CNJ, DL&W, or LV freight salesmen. The answer was usually "never" or "at least 5 or 10 years ago". I kept in touch with them on a regular basis to maintain good relations and see if they had any problems with rail shipments or any new business. If there was a problem I had it corrected promptly. Then occassionally I'd take them out to lunch, which helped our relationship.

Some of my best days on the RV was when I'd spend the day with the RV train crew riding with them in the locomotive, taking plenty of color slides, and sharing a brew with them after the day was done. The most challenging part of the day was crossing Rt. 22 in Union (near the Flag Ship). The poor flagman took his life in his hands everyday trying to stop the speeding cars on Rt. 22 that wanted to beat our train across the grade crossing.

Engine #17 totes a CNJ hopper across the always busy Route 22 grade crossing. 10/12/1971. Collection of Frank Reilly.
The reason I was the first freight salesman the RV let on the property in over 10 years was because when my predecessor had visited the RV he heavily solicited piggyback shipments via the CNJ's "pig ramp" in Elizabethport, cutting the boxcar business out for the RV. That hurt the RV's bottom line and they didn't like it. Bob Clark's father George Clark was in charge at the time and he became down right hostile to the CNJ. Bob told me the last CNJ freight salesman that stopped in their office (10 years ago) was "punched out by my father". I had heard that story from the Vice President of Sales on the CNJ, so when I may my initial visit to the RV headquarters in Kenilworth I went in as an interested railfan (with my camera). After talking to Bob Clark for 10 minutes or so he asked what I did, and I said I was the new freight salesman for the CNJ with my territory being central NJ, including the RV. I was ready to duck his punch, but he said, "You know Frank, CNJ freight salesmen are not welcome on the RV." I asked for the story which he told me, as I had been told by the VP of sales on the CNJ.

I pledged to him the words piggyback or TOFC would never be spoken by me on his property to any industries on the RV. I kept my pledge. I said I would only go after new business that was currently moving by truck. After a few weeks the new business began to materialize. Bob Clark and I became friends and continued our business (and railfan) relationship until I left the CNJ in 1972 to create the Morris County Dept. of Transportation Management, from which I just retired on Sept. 1, 2004.

I really enjoyed working with the folks on the RV and their customers.

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