By Paul N. Wilson for American Magazine in 1922
The Amador-Central Railroad of California earns its own way, pays a profit, and has never asked a cent from anyone. And a woman runs it! Mrs. Meta J. Erickson, who is doing what big railroad magnates say can’t be done, has been president of the Amador-Central for a good many years. She’s the only woman railroad president in the world.
The A. C. R. R., twelve miles long, is probably the shortest commercial road in the United States which is run on its own merits and not as an adjunct to some larger enterprise. But it’s a regular railroad, just the same. It’s regulated by the Railroad Commission, collects war tax, runs on schedule, and is in everything just like its bigger brothers.
Every man employed on the road is an “old timer,” except the men of the section gang. Ralph Miller, the conductor, was chainman on the engineering gang which built the road. If anyone develops a grievance, Mrs. Erickson goes out, calls him by his first name, and they talk over the difficulty.
The road, which is capitalized for seven hundred thousand dollars, was built by Mrs. Erickson’s husband in 1903, but he didn’t live long to profit from it. Since that time she has guided its destinies through hard times, high prices, and all the dangers which beset the prosperous path of a railroad.
During the recent era of high prices and frenzied finance, Mrs. Erickson never raised rates once or curtailed operating expenses. She wisely bought large amounts of rails and ties before the raise in cost.
“Many railroads have too much-padded expenses and stock profits to pay,” explains the busy woman president. “We pay dividends on what the road actually cost to build —and they are handsome dividends at that,” with a smile. “We run on a sensible, economical basis; but I don’t think there’s a road in the country which is better kept up.”
Three engines are used, and a lot of cars, because the Amador-Central runs through a very rich gold and timber district. At its head is the famous Kennedy mine, the deepest gold shaft in the world. The fact that it’s a small road doesn’t mean that it isn’t businesslike. Mrs. Erickson runs her road with as much adherence to detail as though it were the Pennsylvania Railroad. She is now planning to extend the road twenty-two miles farther into the mining district. It will be run on the same principle —paying its own way.