Here are two articles that appeared within a few weeks of each other in 1904. One article discusses cutbacks on the Erie Railroad. The other article maintains that any cutbacks were necessary because of service improvements.
From the Belmont Dispatch, May 27, 1904. Transcribed by Karen Meisenheimer.
The Erie is Cutting Down Its Working Force
Dull Traffic is Causing the Erie and all [???] in Every Possible Way –Shops Closed and Many Men Laid Off
In keeping with the plan of retrenchment that seems to be the order of the day with railroads, the North Peterson repair shops of the Erie were closed down indefinitely Saturday morning, and those who found employment there will have to seek it elsewhere for the present. For some time past at these shops there has been a reduction of 10 to 25 men a month, until lately there was a small force at work. Saturday morning the hoal [sic] laying off came. There is a gradual but steady laying off of men wherever it is possible, not only on the Erie but other railroads, owing the slackening up in business throughout the country.
While traffic is yet fair, it is not as good as in the boom days of the past two or three years, and the railroads, as well as many business men and manufacturers are shortening sail to meet the condition. For the past two years at the North Peterson shop the work of repairing, upholstering and repainting the Erie coaches was carried on, and this at one time gave employment to several hundred men.
About fifty men employed in the Erie shops at Port Jervis were discharged recently and a similar reduction of working forces in the other department is expected. All Saturday work in all departments has been ordered discontinued until further notice.
At Susquehanna fifteen men employed by the Erie in the car shops were discharged May 12. This is one-third of the number employed in that department. It is reported that there will be a proportion—are discharge throughout all the other departments. Work is also discontinued Saturdays until further notice.
From the Belmont Dispatch, June 10, 1904. Transcribed by Karen Meisenheimer.
TRAIN SERVICE EVEN BETTER
Better Grades, Improved Locomotives And Machinery
“The idea seems to be prevalent among some people that the expense cutting trip of the Erie officials over the road and the consequent laying off of a number of men and the taking out of some of the towers has impaired the service of the road,” said an Erie official recently, “but this is not so. The expenses which have been cut down were necessitated by the many improvements which have been going on for the past year. The Erie company has been spending millions of dollars in reducing grades, taking our curves, building new bridges, rehabilitating rolling stock, revising shops, and in fact, doing everything possible to increase efficiency, comfort and luxury.
“We are putting on larger engines so that longer trains can be hauled and consequently less men will have to be employed.” Speaking of the railroads in general, he said that they were doing more business at the present time than any time in the past five years. “And not only has there been a large increase in the traffic,” the official continued, “but there has been a general improvement in the grades, the capacity of yards, in the size of cars and in the general efficiency of the service.”