Virginia Rail Policy Institute recently lost railroader and rail historian, Jim McCellan, one of its most celebrated Fellows. Jim died in Virginia Beach on October 14, 2016 at the age of seventy-seven.

During his 40 year career in the railroad industry, Jim stewarded some of America's largest railroads to success, and oversaw the mergers and consolidations of others to ensure their survival in shifting business environments. At the time of his retirement, Jim was Senior Vice-President for Planning for Norfolk Southern Railroad. In addition to NS, Jim worked at Southern Railway, New York Central, Penn Central, the Federal Railroad Administration (twice), Amtrak, the U.S. Railway Administration and the Association of American Railroads. He was among the core group that created Amtrak and Conrail, and later was a part of the teams that created Norfolk Southern and then managed the split of Conrail between CSX and Norfolk Southern. 

After his retirement, Jim became Vice-President for Woodside Consulting, continuing his involvement in the industry and giving presentations around the world on the past and future of railroading.

Jim's untimely passing made news in major dailies around the nation and abroad. READ Jim McClellan's obituary here.    


The Rail Renaissance: More Work to Do (slide presentation)  


Jim McClellan was a valued Fellow of the Virginia Rail Policy Institute. In 2015, Jim gave his presentation  The Rail Renaissance: More Work to Do to the Board and Fellows of VRPI and their guests. Jim's presentation contained tons of information about the present state of America's freight rail industry, rail's present marketshare and growth trends, and the compelling challenges facing the industry before a 21th Century Rail Renaissance can occur. The slides also display dozens of Jim's  photos, taken during his many years of working on and riding the rails of North America.




Jim McClellan Named One of 75 Most Important People to American Railroading

Jim McClellan was cited by Trains Magazine as one of the 75 people who made American railroading what it is today. Jim and other historical figures in American railroading were featured in Trains' 75th anniversary issue (Vol. 75, No. 11, November, 2015), which traced the path of railroad history in the U.S. from 1940-2015 -- the first 75 years of the magazine.

Jim McClellan


Jim is described in the magazine as, "An avowed railfan, wide-ranging photographer, and rail strategist who had a hand in creating Amtrak and Conrail. McClellan was on Norfolk Southern's executive team in the late 1990's when he wrote a memo to the then CEO saying the chief should appear 'somewhat crazy' in meetings with CSX leaders to confuse them on NS's strategy. His opinions ae sought after by investors and historians alike." (p. 57)

Other prominent Virginia personalities featured among the 75 are retired NS Chairman, Wick Moorman, and prolific rail author, Bill Middleton (deceased).

More of Jim photos can be found at