RAILROADS: The Experiment Begins

Early last Thursday morning, freight train B-6 from Enola, Pa., rumbled through a steady drizzle into position at the big Potomac switching yard south of Washington. "Just another working day," said Conductor Carroll Dikeman as he headed home. Well, not quite. Train B-6—along with nearly half of the other trains and 17,000 miles of track in 16 Northeastern and Midwestern states—had just become the property of the Consolidated Rail Corp., a Government-sponsored private company. ConRail's birth marks the largest corporate reorganization ever.

The new company also inherits the nation's largest railroading headache. By far its biggest component is the bankrupt...