Sir Brian Robertson. Tea and Railway Talk With British Visitor, Published 29 October 1957Sir Brian Robertson poured tea and talked railways yesterday afternoon in his stylish suite down at the Chateau Laurier.
Nobody was more competent to do either than Sir Brian. He could pour tea well because he was an Englishman, and he could talk railways well because he is the Chairman of the British Transportation Commission.
He arrived in the capital for a quick look see, a call on Governor General Massey, and some railroad information, and then doubled back to Montreal and the Empress of Scotland. Right now, he is headed for the high seas.
Though the conversation began with dome cars, he brushed them off lightly, saying they were not for England. Journeys were too short, and tunnels too low, he averred.
Starved For Capital
"But our trouble has been that we were starved for capital in Britain," said Sir Brian, "and we've got to bring our railways back to where they once were, when they were renowned as the finest in Europe.
Sir Brian saw steam trains diminishing in the U.K. to be replaced by electric or dicsel. The trouble with electric units was that construction was slow. As to diesel powre (sic), Britain, after alll, did not produce diesel fuel, and it was an economy depending on the freedom of the seas.
The distinguished visitor saw some luxury trains, with possibly a little free space in the way of club cars on this continent offered it.
Getting into the economics of railroading, he said that actually "there was no free competition" but he though that Britain offered some advantages that perhaps were not found here. One was that the British railways could charge what they liked "under a celling".
The other was that they could give a special or discriminatory tariff if they chose.
Private Freight Deals
In other words, they did not need to publish their tariff, and they could make private freight deals with private companies.
Summing up, as the tea ran out, Sir Brian said that these were difficult times but he was sure the railroads would get through them successfully.
He wanted to say that Canadian railway officials were efficient and they deserved every support from the Canadian people.
Reminded that he had been here ten years ago. Sir Brian spoke briefly of his years as Military Governor of Germany, and how he had addressed the Canadian Club here.
"I remember," smiled Sir Brian, "driving Into Government House and being welcomed on the grounds by His Excellency on skis!"