A better way to run a railroad? Altas shrugged:
Edward Burkhardt, CEO of Rail World Incorporated, was hailed 15 years ago as an Ayn Randian "achiever" in "A Better Way to Run a Railroad," originally published in the May 1998 issue of the Atlas Society's Navigator magazine:
Inevitably, the success of Wisconsin Central attracted the animosity of those who resent achievement. The vultures were ready to pounce whenever misfortune struck. And they did pounce in the aftermath of a train derailment caused by a broken switch in the small community of Weyauwega, Wisconsin, in March 1996. Thirty-five cars derailed, almost half of them containing liquefied petroleum gas. One car exploded, but the heroic efforts of the train’s conductor minimized the extent of the fire. No one was injured...
... Over 97 percent of the affected residents and businesses settled with the railroad within months. All but one of the remaining cases were settled out of court.
But the Wisconsin newspapers climbed all over the railroad, sensationalizing its safety record and operating practices. The politically reflexive Federal Railway Administration picked up the cue, sending a small army of inspectors to the property to examine all aspects of the railroad’s operation. Fines were levied against the railroad, primarily for nit-picking violations of regulations whose impact on safety was questionable. For example, Wisconsin Central had been experimenting with a one-man crew on certain trains, a common practice in New Zealand and Europe. As part of the resulting “agreement” with the FRA, that experiment had to be suspended. Recently, the Wisconsin legislature passed a law prohibiting one-man train crews in the state.
UPDATE: From the Globe and Mail:
This is not Mr. Burkhardt’s first experience of the disaster of derailment.
While he was at the helm of Wisconsin Central, a train jumped the tracks at 5:50 a.m. on March 4, 1996, in Weyauwega, Wis., releasing hazardous material that caught fire and consumed rail cars loaded with liquefied petroleum gas and propane. The derailment, according to a U.S. National Transportation Safety Board report, consumed a mill and forced the evacuation of thousands.
"There were no injuries directly attributable to the derailment, but three persons suffered minor injuries during the evacuation," the NTSB said, blaming the derailment on improper maintenance "because Wisconsin Central management did not ensure that the two employees responsible for inspecting the track structure were properly trained."