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NS mourns loss of former leader, 'remarkable railroader' Arnold McKinnon


Norfolk Southern Corp.’s second chairman and former chief executive officer Arnold McKinnon — whose “50-year legacy of railroad leadership won’t be duplicated or forgotten,” according to NSers — died May 18 in Washington, D.C. He was 81.

NS’ chairman, president and CEO from 1987 to 1992, McKinnon was among the first rail industry leaders to envision the railroad as an integral link in the global logistics chain, according to NS officials. Under his guidance, the Class I increased productivity and controlled costs, launched the Thoroughbred quality-improvement process and began developing managers who today serve as the railroad’s leaders.
In 1990, he accepted NS’ first Harriman Gold Medal Award for employee safety, marking the beginning of the Class I’s unprecedented and current streak of 19 consecutive Harriman awards.
After his retirement in 1992, McKinnon continued to serve on NS’ board until 2000, helping guide the railroad through the early stages of the Conrail integration. In 2007, NS named its Norfolk, Va., headquarters in his honor.
“So much of what Norfolk Southern is today, we owe to Arnold,” said NS Chairman, President and CEO Wick Moorman in a prepared statement. “Many of his ideas became part of our guiding principles. He was, quite simply, a remarkable railroader and a wonderful person.”
Adds former NS Chairman, President and CEO David Goode, who retired in 2006: “Arnold was a great leader for the company at a crucial time in its history and built for us a strong tradition of leadership in the community and in the nation. He was a great friend to all of us who served with him.”
McKinnon joined NS predecessor Southern Railway in 1951 as a law assistant. He became vice president of law in 1971 and executive vice VP of law and finance in 1981. When Southern Railway consolidated with the Norfolk and Western Railway to form Norfolk Southern Corp. in 1982, McKinnon became EVP of marketing. He developed the company’s new marketing structure and refined the concept of “the railroad as a service organization.”

McKinnon is survived by his wife Oriana and other family members.

Last year, McKinnon shared his thoughts on the rail industry’s and his own accomplishments during the past half century — including his role in the development of a crew reduction agreement that led to two-man crews — as part of Progressive Railroading’s 50th anniversary issue in June. Here’s what he believed to be the pinnacle of that time period, and something he had a large hand in: “I think it’s the willingness to improve the operation of the railroad day to day, and to become more efficient,” McKinnon said.

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Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/20/2009