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In memoriam: NS strategic planner and Conrail-split contributor Jim McClellan


Jim McClellan, who played key roles in the creation of Amtrak and the Conrail split between Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX in 1999, died Oct. 14. He was 77.

He had a lifelong passion for trains and served in the rail industry for more than 40 years after receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in transportation economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1961. McClellan also served in the U.S. military as a Navy officer assigned to Atlantic fleet destroyers.

He began his railroading career in marketing capacities at the Southern Railway and the New York Central and Penn Central railroads from 1962 to 1968, then assumed a role in U.S. railway planning, policies and negotiations at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). McClellan later served a second stint at the FRA after working shortly in marketing at Amtrak in 1971.

In 1976, he joined the Association of American Railroads (AAR) in a rail planning, policies and negotiations role. The next year, he began a 21-year career at NS as director of corporate development. McClellan later served NS as assistant vice president of corporate planning, VP of planning and senior VP of planning. He retired from the Class I in 2003.

During his railroad career, McClellan developed an extensive knowledge of rail traffic and networks and strategic operational planning that was called upon when Amtrak was formed in 1971 and Conrail was split in 1999. CSX and NS vied for control of Conrail, and NS eventually obtained a 58 percent stake in Conrail’s stock.

McClellan left indelible marks on the rail industry, AAR officials said in a statement.

"America's rail industry has lost a true visionary, someone who passionately navigated railroading through a difficult operating period and whose contributions helped make the industry the powerhouse it is today," said AAR President and Chief Executive Officer Ed Hamberger.

NS Chairman, President and CEO James Squires agrees that McClellan was a visionary.

“His enthusiasm made tomorrow an exciting place to be. He drew the roadmap for modern railroading and never stopped asking, ‘what’s next?'" said Squires in a statement. "Jim’s friends and colleagues at Norfolk Southern join railroaders around the country as we mourn his passing.”