Four Giants of the Modern Era

Make up Class of 2014 Inductees

D. William Brosnan

Joshua Lionel Cowen

John C. Kenefick

Alfred E. Perlman


The Board of Directors of the National Railroad Hall of Fame approved the 2014 class of inductees at its regular meeting on December 19th.  Accepted for induction were D. William Brosnan, Joshua Lionel Cowen, John C. Kenefick, and Alfred E. Perlman.


National Railroad Hall of Fame Founder and President Emeritus, Robert Bondi, observed, “The cumulative impact of these inductees was truly national in scope. From the Northeast to the South to the far West, they shaped our modern freight rail system, and by extension, impacted the lives of every American living today.  Even Cowen, founder of Lionel toy trains, shaped the course of many young people’s lives by inspiring them to appreciate railroads and to seek careers on the railroad industry.”


The four inductees were nominated by members of the general public.  Nominations were reviewed by members of the Hall of Fame’s Nominations and Inductions Committee and Rail Industry Advisory Group, whose recommendations were presented to the board for final approval.  (See a list of committee and advisory group members below.)

The board’s action brings to 42 the number of honorees in the Hall of Fame. The life accomplishments of the 2014 Inductees will be celebrated in a formal ceremony at a future date.

D. William Brosnan (1903 – 1985)

   Dennis William Brosnan got his start on the Southern Railway tamping ties.  He rose through the ranks to the office of President where he transformed the Southern into a lean, profitable machine. 

At a time when unit trains, 100-ton freight cars, automation, and mechanization were merely the conceptual imaginings of visionaries, Brosnan began planning for and implementing them. 

   Stories of Brosnan’s ruthlessness and fiery temperament are legendary among Southern veterans, who regarded him with a mixture of respect and fear.  A man of vision, nerve, and drive, Brosnan laid the underpinnings of the modern rail industry.

Joshua Lionel Cowen (1877 – 1965)

   Joshua Lionel Cowen incorporated the Lionel Manufacturing Company in 1900 for “the manufacture of electrical, mechanical, and industrial appliances . . . and toys.”  His first Lionel Electric Train catalog was published in 1902 and grew into an annual, full-color “wish book” that drove the dreams of millions of young boys --- and often their fathers, too.

   Cowen produced toys children could play with, not just toys to sit and watch.  Realizing that railroads were more than trains, his first catalog included accessories such as a suspension bridge, figure-8 track layout, and bumper stop for a dead-end siding.
   The extraordinary quality of Lionel trains propelled the company to a toy powerhouse with nearly $33 million in sales in 1953.  Cowen promoted the lore of railroading and inspired generations of children to become fans and employees of railroads.

John C. Kenefick (1921 - 2011)

   Like many young boys, John Cooper Kenefick daydreamed about railroading.  Starting as an apprentice in the mechanical department at the New York Central, he sought experience in a variety of departments to learn firsthand how railroads operate. 

   At the Union Pacific, Kenefick’s knowledge of operations propelled him rapidly through the ranks to President.  A hands-on executive, he travelled the railroad in its entirety twice a year to personally oversee projects, inspect track, and express appreciation to employees.

   Kenefick oversaw UP’s merger with the Missouri Pacific and the Western Pacific, creating the nation’s largest railroad in terms of revenue.  His steady hand and even temperament guided the UP through two turbulent decades:  the 1970’s era of stifling, federally mandated pricing and the 1980’s new competitive landscape that came with deregulation.  An industry giant, he guided the railroad into a new age of health and competitive strength.

Alfred E. Perlman (1902 – 1983)

   From the age of eight, Alfred E. Perlman claimed, he never wanted to be anything but a railroader.   An engine wiper and car cleaner in the Northern Pacific’s St. Paul yards at age 16, Perlman rose to the presidency of the New York Central and Western Pacific Railroads. 

   He was a leading exponent of research as a tool for the solution of management problems, as well as a reformer in maintenance and operations whose influence was felt across the railroad industry. 

   Soft-spoken, thoughtful, and reserved by nature, railroading was his hobby as well as his career.  Seeing things first hand was one of his lifelong habits. Even as chief executive officer, Perlman was known to carry boots and denims in his business car.


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