Southern Pacific Railroad History Center


Southern Pacific’s Sales Office in Tokyo, Japan

Southern Pacific President Rob Krebs established Southern Pacific’s Tokyo office in the early 1980s.  The purpose of the office was to maintain relationships with Southern Pacific’s  Asia-based shippers and to acquire new business.  Southern Pacific’s Asian shippers included largely ocean container carriers and automobile manufacturers.  Southern Pacific hauled the containers and automobiles between West Coast ports and major Midwest termini and interchange points.  The office staff in Tokyo included an American office manager and administrative support.  Southern Pacific’s western railroad competitors, Union Pacific Railroad and Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railway likewise had offices with American managers in Tokyo, while other Class I railroads hired local agents to represent them.

The office manager made periodic calls on shippers in Hong Kong, Seoul in South Korea, Taipei on Taiwan, and Beijing in mainland China, as well as in Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagoya in Japan.  The manager responded to questions on Southern Pacific service as well as explored the potential for new traffic opportunities.  The manager also arranged for visits with Southern Pacific’s shippers by senior Southern Pacific executives when they came to Asia, and he accompanied the executives on the visits.

In 1989, Southern Pacific hired a Japanese representative to focus on developing business in Japan.  That representative assumed the duties of the Tokyo office manager, when the last American Southern Pacific Tokyo office manager returned to San Francisco in 1992.   Union Pacific and Santa Fe had earlier withdrawn their American managers and placed Japanese in charge of their Tokyo offices.

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