CSX Railroad Chief Hayes T. Watkins Promotes One-Stop Shippin’…



When Hayes T. Watkins was once 4 years outdated, his oldsters spotted that he had memorized no less than two dozen license-plate numbers and may fit them to the names of the house owners of the automobiles. A newspaper in Jefferson County, Ky., described him as a “completely standard boy” with an “extraordinary love for studying numbers”.

True to shape, the numbers prodigy grew as much as be an accountant. His ascent from a junior body of workers task on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway to the placement of leader govt at railroad large CSX Corp was once much less predictable.

Mr. Watkins, who described himself as a rustic boy, took on C&O’s proprietor, Chessie Systems Inc. Okay Seaboard Coast Line Industries Inc. Negotiated a 1980 merger with CSX to shape CSX. Mr. Watkins served as CSX-Various Chairman, CEO and Chairman till his retirement in 1991.

Eager to make one-stop delivery, Mr. Watkins began a trucking industry and bought Sea-Land Corp., an operator of container ships. CSX additionally bought barge and gas-pipeline operations. The corporate later offered maximum of the ones belongings to concentrate on rail products and services. Customers depended on logistics corporations to seek out the most productive techniques to transport freight.

Mr Watkins died on 29 July on the age of 96.

He by no means had a profession plan. “Everyone can be , I consider, if they only fascinated about doing their perfect after which principally let nature take its direction,” he wrote.

As a railroad CEO, Mr. Watkins inherited an extraordinary assets – the Greenbrier lodge in West Virginia, which got here with 3 golfing lessons, using stables and a bunker, which was once designed to be a secret nuclear-bomb refuge for individuals of Congress. was once designed to paintings as It was once bought by means of the C&O Railroad in 1910.

Mr. Watkins beloved the Greenbrier and made up our minds so as to add different accommodations. In 1986, CSX got Lawrence S. Rockefeller and a 3rd in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Two years later, underneath force from buyers to keep on with the core industry, CSX offered the ones accommodations for a large benefit.

In chapter court cases, the Greenbrier was once offered in 2009 to Jim Justice, who’s now the governor of West Virginia.

Hayes Thomas Watkins Jr. was once born on January 26, 1926, close to Louisville, Ky. The circle of relatives moved to a farm the place they grew tobacco and corn after their father misplaced his task as a financial institution cashier right through the Depression. Young Hays realized to plow equestrian and graduated at age 16 because the valedictorian of his high-school elegance in New Castle, Ky.

To get away the farming lifestyles, he enrolled at what’s now Western Kentucky University, the place he supported himself by means of ready tables at a boarding area. He joined the military on the finish of World War II, realized the Japanese as a part of arrangements for a deliberate invasion, and was once then deported to the Panama Canal Zone after Japan’s give up.

Mr Watkins resumed his research and earned some extent in accounting. He then earned an MBA level from Northwestern University, the place his thesis was once on “setting apart rail working bills between freight and passenger products and services”.

C&O employed him in early 1949, simplest two months after the coal strike led to a loss in earnings. He in brief returned to the farm and tied himself to the plow prior to being re-hired by means of C&O.

He met Betty Jean Wright on a blind date. They married a yr later in 1950.

He labored for a spell as an inside auditor in a railroad corporate. “One of our extra attention-grabbing findings,” he later wrote, “was once a loss of fundamental accounting wisdom by means of accounting division officers and key workers.” He created a direction to show them the fundamentals.

Eventually the chairman of the railroad corporate, Cyrus S. Eaton stuck sight of him and started attending board conferences to offer monetary knowledge. In early 1971, to his personal marvel, he was once named leader govt of the chess components. During his first yr as CEO, every other coal strike lower earnings deep. The corporate not noted dividend bills for the primary time since 1922. Mr. Watkins persisted the calls of livid buyers.

As railroads misplaced the freight industry to trucking opponents, Mr. Watkins sought after to diversify and mix other modes of freight transportation underneath one company umbrella, he wrote in a 2001 memoir, “Just Call Me Hes.” In 1981 the corporate marketed “a truck-rail-truck combo that gives door-to-door, single-system freight provider at money-saving costs.”

Customers, alternatively, had been acquainted with operating with other transportation corporations, and maximum didn’t really feel the desire for a unmarried supplier. “They simply were not going to switch,” Mr Watkins later concluded.

Diversification in power and lodge didn’t happen. Wall Street analysts “nonetheless see us as a railroad,” he wrote. “Everything else was once outlandish.” As the corporate moved into new territories, some railroad apparatus broke down, and CSX misplaced marketplace proportion. By the past due Nineteen Eighties, CSX had begun to promote peripheral actions and concentrate on its core.

Today, CSX does now not have barges or ships. About 93% of earnings comes from railroad operations, even supposing the corporate’s place in trucking may be modest. Last yr it got a trucking corporate that specialize in the transportation of bulk liquid chemical compounds.

Mr Watkins, who lives close to Richmond, Va., is survived by means of his spouse of 72 years, Betty Watkins, a son, 3 grandchildren and a great-grandson.

He hated crooked tables and was once desperate to toss pointless papers. A neat desk, he wrote, “is an indication of a blank, sharp thoughts.” He labored with day by day ink at the New York Times crossword puzzle. In his retirement, he explored his circle of relatives roots in England, Ireland and Germany. His genealogical database, saved in huge ringed binders, contained just about 30,000 names—every other memorable quantity.

write to James R. Hagerty at bob.hagerty@wsj.com

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