RealAg Book Club: Railroader: The Unfiltered Genius and Controversy of Four-Time CEO Hunter Harrison

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

Among the many things that impact farmers and ranchers — railways are fairly high on the list since they have a massive impact on our ability to get products to the port for export.

In this episode of RealAgriculture’s Book Club podcast, RealAg Radio host Shaun Haney joins author Howard Green to discuss his book Railroader: The Unfiltered Genius and Controversy of Four-Time CEO Hunter Harrison.

During his lifetime, Hunter Harrison was the CEO of Illinois Central Railroad (IC), Canadian National Railway (CN), Canadian Pacific Railway (CP), and CSX Corporation.

Dubbed as unique, and by some, a little quirky, Harrison led a very successful life. Before Harrison’s passing, Green was able to interview him numerous times; so he could encapture his personality in the book he was writing. Green believes that the reason for Harrison’s success was because he was a person who was, “never content, and never satisfied.”

“I think those character traits really go back to his youth. He had a difficult period with his father — as you may recall from the book — and he was never quite measuring up to what [his father] thought he should be,” Green explains. “He needed a focus. And it wasn’t that he was particularly drawn to the railroad industry, he had been working at a bakery in Memphis for 50 cents per hour and the railroad was paying two dollars per hour in 1963 and they needed people, so he went there, and he kind of fell in love with the industry, because he could find success there.”

“He could see how those networks operated, almost in three dimensions, whereas everybody else would see them in one dimension. As a result, he ended up running them more efficiently than anybody else, really, in the modern era.”

As Haney points out, everyone in this industry seems to have a Hunter Harrison story, and this book is chalked right full of them; both serious, and lighthearted.

Be sure to check out the interview below to learn more about Hunter Harrison and his career, through the entertaining strung-together words of Howard Green!

For more information on how to purchase the book along with other recommendations, click here.

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