Mr. John W. Barriger III
John Walker Barriger III (1899-1976) was one of the most widely known and knowledgeable railroad executives in the history of the industry.He was widely recognized as a scholar of the railroad industry operations, railroad finance and its fascinating history. Barriger followed the footsteps of his late father and began to work in the railroad industry while a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the late 1910’s
In 1929, Barriger moved onto Wall Street specializing in railroad securities at Kuhn, Loeb and Co.This brought him to the attention of economist Frederick Prince Sr who was working on a national plan of railroad consolidation.Prince and other economists were acutely aware of the risks facing the railroad industry.New forms of competition for both passengers and freight threatened the industry as a whole.The recovery from the government take-over and heavy use of the railroads’ equipment and physical plant required enormous amounts of new debt that further increased the economic risk the companies were dealing with.
Prince, and his subordinate Barriger, believed that consolidation of the railroads would allow this risk to be spread out into organized and competitive systems that allowed stronger companies to shoulder the burden for multiple smaller railroad companies that they would control.This idea of a community of “super railroads” would influence Barriger throughout his career with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation during the Depression and post-war presidency of several railroads.Barriger would write an influential monograph on the ideal railroad system titled “Super Railroads” that was published by Simmons-Boardmann in 1956 and the idea would be a constant talking point for him for the rest of his professional life.
Barriger’s lifelong interest in the history of the railroad industry still benefits the public, students and scholars at the University of Missouri, St. Louis.His library and document collection resides as the core of the John W. Barriger III National Railroad Library within the St. Louis Mercantile Library at UMSL.