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Leo Stanley Crane


Leo Stanley Crane was a lifelong railroad man whose willingness to adopt new ways of doing business led him on a 61-year journey through the ranks of railroading. His career highlights include a three-year term as president of the Southern Railway and the chairmanship of Conrail—where he turned an ailing government-subsidized amalgam of failing freight railroads into a profitable engine of commerce. He was twice honored as Railroader of the Year by Railway Age, in 1974 and again in 1983.

Stanley Crane was born in 1915. He earned a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering from George Washington University in 1938. Crane began his career on Southern Railway as a laboratory assistant.


He worked his way through the ranks as Chief Mechanical Officer and vice president of operations, including a two-year stint at Pennsylvania Railroad as director of industrial engineering. He was elected president of Southern Railway in 1976, CEO in 1977 and chairman in 1979.

In 1981, at age 65, Stanley Crane was appointed chairman of Conrail. The rail line had been created by the federal government in 1976 in an effort to salvage six main Eastern freight roads, all of which were on the path to extinction. Crane turned Conrail into a profitable railroad by parlaying $7 billion worth of government investment, along with wage and work-rule concessions by organized labor and a mandate to streamline operations, into a slimmer, more efficient railroad. Conrail had lost $1.5 billion in the previous four years but reported a profit in 1981 under Crane. The government tried to sell the line in 1985, but Crane thwarted the effort saying $1.2 billion was too low of a price. In 1999, Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation paid $10.5 billion to split Conrail between them.

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