Although many new extensions were completed during Edwin Gould)s administration as president, other improvements, as far reaching in effect, can be noted. The gross earnings were more than doubled, the grades on the main line were reduced and all were compensated for curvature, and seventy-five pound rails laid on main line from Gray's Point to Fort Worth.
At a special meeting of the stockholders on April 17, 1912, the by-laws of the company were changed and the office of chairman of the board created. A few days later (April 22, 1912) the board of directors met and elected Frank H. Britton president to replace Edwin Gould, who previously had been elected chairman of the board. The election of Britton marks the first time that a man who had made railroading his career was ever elevated to this office in the company.
Britton was a practical railroad man, having begun his experience as a telegraph operator, and going up through the ranks, as dispatcher and division superintendent. He was superintendent of the Chicago division of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad from 1886 to 1892. He left the railroad in the latter year to engage in business for himself, but returned after a short time to become general superintendent of the Minnesota and Wisconsin Railroad, and finally assistant general superintendant of the Great Northern Railroad. On the latter road he made a fine record for low operating expenses per ton mile. In 1899 he became connected with the St. Louis Southwestern as general superintendent, with headquarters at Tyler, Texas. About a year later, he became vice-president and general manager.
When Britton became president, the Cotton Belt was in its best financial condition. Since 1909, dividends up to five per cent had been paid on preferred stock, and with a surplus on hand, he converted the line from what had been known as one of the "Could Lines' Step-Children" to a very efficient and profitable Class 1 railroad. During all this time he gave particular attention to a high standard of tnaintenance of way and the acquisition of high class equipment. Britton established one of the first railroad industrial and agricultural departments, and brought from Washington, D.C., an expert to develop that branch of work.
When the 1913 depression curtailed passenger revenues, Britton initiated the use of gasoline-electric trains for branch lines and local runs. The first of these was established on the Shreveport branch in 1914.
During his administration a freight house with auxiliary facilities was completed and placed in service at St. Louis on January 1, 1913. This installation consists of a five-story, reinforced concrete building, 751 feet long and 30 feet wide, with several miles of house, team and storage tracks.
One other achievement which Britton accomplished before his death on July 26, 1916, was the planning and building of the Thebes Bridge across the Mississippi River. It was designed by Ralph Modjeski, and at the time of construction it was one of the most modern railroad bridges in the country and one of the very few cantilever type of bridges.
Edwin Could was elected to fill the vacancy of president until the annual meeting of the stockholders in the fall.
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