Howard Elliott (railroad executive)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Howard Elliott
Portrait of Howard Elliott.jpg
Born (1860-12-06)December 6, 1860
New York
Died July 8, 1928(1928-07-08) (aged 67)
New York City
Nationality American

Howard Elliott (December 6, 1860 - July 8, 1928) was president of Northern Pacific Railway 1903-1913, and president of New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad beginning in 1913.


He was born on December 6, 1860, in New York, and entered railway service during the summer of 1880, during his college vacation as a rodman on the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. after his graduation for Lawrence Scientific School in 1881, he became, on October 17, clerk in the president's office of the St. Louis, Keokuk and Northwestern Railway, and during the following year for several months was a clerk in the assistant treasurer of the Chicago, Burlington and Kansas City and the St. Louis, Keokuk and Northwestern at Keokuk. From January 1, 1887 to May 1, 1891, he was general freight and passenger agent of the same roads, and from the latter date to January 1, 1896, also of the Hannibal and St. Joseph and Kansas City, St. Joseph and Council Bluffs. From January 1, 1896 to May 1, 1902, he was general manager of the same roads, and from May 1, 1902, to October 21, 1903, second vice-president of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy. On the latter date he was elected president of the Northern Pacific, and he is also president of various subsidiary companies of the Northern Pacific.

On July 25, 1913 he was elected president and director of the New York, New Haven and Hartford, as the selection of the special committee of directors appointed to choose a successor to Charles Sanger Mellen. The election become effective on September 1, but it was announced that at a meeting of the directors of some time in October that it would be proposed to make a change in the by-laws of the company, under which Mr. Elliott was to be elected chairman of the board of the entire New Haven system, and that each of the principal constituents of the system, the New York, New Haven and Hartford, the Boston and Maine, the New England Navigation Company, and the trolley line system, will have individual presidents. The new administrative plan conforms with recommendations of a committee of stockholders headed by George von L. Meyer. In becoming president of the New Haven, Mr. Elliott for the second time follows in Mr. Mellen's footsteps, having succeeded him as president of the Northern Pacific in 1903, when Mr. Mellen left that road to go to the New Haven.

Elliott's term as president of the New Haven began with the wreck of the Bar Harbor Express on September 2, 1913, a disaster of such scope that had not been seen on the New Haven.[1]

Mr. Elliott seems to be an excellent choice for dealing with the very difficult railway situation in New England. He is a native of the East, having been born in New York City. While his railway career has been spent on western lines, he will find himself perfectly at home in New England, for he received his education at Harvard University, having graduated from the Lawrence Scientific School in 1881 with the degree of civil engineer. One of the things that got Mr. Mellen into trouble was his undiplomatic way of talking to and dealing with people. his biting sarcasm and disregard for other people's feelings and opinions made him innumerable enemies.

Mr. Elliott is so differently constituted that he would be incapable of making enemies in this way, either for himself or for a railway that he was managing. He is naturally reserved, but in spite of this, he has made a practice in recent years of delivering numerous public addresses on railway subjects. In his personal relations with patrons of the road and in his public addresses he has been moderate, conciliatory and patient. He is an extremely sincere and earnest man, who leaves this impression on all with whom he comes in contact, whether in a business way or otherwise, and it seems to be a safe prediction that he will very soon win the regard and complete confidence of the people of New England both by what he says and by what he does. He accepts unreservedly the modern principle that railways and their officers are public servants, and tries to live up to this theory in both is utterances and in his management.

As a railway executive, he is one of the leaders of the country. He learned the business from the Burlington, from which so many able and successful railway managers have been graduated. He has served at different times in the engineering, the accounting, the traffic, and the operating departments and few men know both the theory and the practice of railway operation and management so thoroughly. He is a tireless worker, a master of details, and an excellent organizer. He makes his plans far ahead, and is indomitably persevering in carrying them out. He has had a difficult situation to deal with throughout his career on the Northern Pacific. The road when he took charge of it was not in very good physical condition, and he very greatly improved it. Its mileage was 5,111 miles and he increased it to 6,032 miles. Its revenue freight train load was 326 tons, and he increased it in 1912 to 511 tons. It looked as if the Northern Pacific was hard hit when the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul built its extension to the Puget Sound right through the Northern Pacific territory, and that the Northern Pacific did feel severely for some time the effects of this new competition, but Mr. Elliott sturdily met the issue, fought a good fight, maintained the road's dividend, and at the same time made large expenditures from earnings for improvements. In spite of the adverse conditions he was able to show a surplus of over $3,000,000 in 1911, and one of over $2,000,000 in 1912. When George J. Gould retired as president of the Missouri Pacific in 1911 Mr. Elliott was offered the presidency of that road, but declined it.

The foregoing indicated in a very inadequate way the manner of man who has now been given the task of solving the New England railway problem. If the owners of the New England railroads and the people of New England will give him a fair chance Mr. Elliott will do a great work for them, and his personality and his method are such that it would seem they should command the respect and support of both the owners and the patrons of these railways.

Mr. Elliott has always taken active part in the social and business life of the cities in which he has resided, and also by acting in co-operation with various organizations, aided in the conservation movement, and materially forwarded the agricultural interest of the West.

He died on July 8, 1928.[2]


  1. ^ "Sleeping Homecomers Victims of Rear-end Collision". New York Times. September 3, 1913. Retrieved December 21, 2013. "With twenty-one persons dead and over two score injured, many of them mortally, the first day of office of Howard Elliott, who succeeded Charles S. Mellen as President of the New York, New Haven & Hartford, was ushered in by one of the most disastrous wrecks even in the history of that disastrous road, surpassing in horror any that had darkened the administration of his predecessor." 
  2. ^ "Howard Elliott Dies At Age Of 67; Former President Of New Haven And Northern Pacific Railroads. Victim Of Heart Disease End To Career Of Half A Century Comes At Dennis, Mass.--Was Of Distinguished Family. Began As A Level Rodman. Elected President Of Northern Pacific. Member Of Railroads' War Board. Overseen At Harvard. Director In Many Companies.". Associated Press in New York Times. July 9, 1928. Retrieved 2008-07-31. "Howard Elliott, former President of the New York, New Haven Hartford and the Northern Pacific railroads, died here late tonight of heart disease." 
  • Railway Age Gazette (August 1, 1913) pp. 177-8.
Preceded by
Charles Sanger Mellen
President of Northern Pacific Railway
1903 – 1913
Succeeded by
Jule Murat Hannaford