Back in 1996, NS had not fought the CSX/Conrail merger, but, instead, extracted a pound of flesh during the STB approval process. Let's assume that "pound of flesh" was intended to dilute the Conrail stronghold on NY/NJ.
1. NS gets to purchase:
- The Southern Tier and Croxton Yard
- The B&O from DC/Phila/Baltimore to Chicago
- Conrail's ex-Reading line from Phila to Bound Brook and rights beyond to connect to the port and Croxton.
2. CSX/CR have to accept reciprocal switching in North Jersey and Detroit.
3. NS would still have a big pile of cash to spend...and buys CP. Which is a bit of a train wreck, and pretty cheap and not a horrible fit.
East is sort of balanced again. NS + CP is significantly large enough to keep UP or BNSF from swallowing them whole.
Mergers go fairly smoothly because they are end - to -end and solid "Day One" operating plans can be developed and gradually implemented (not like the CR split!)
Smooth integration means that BNSF + CN is allowed.
UP + NS/CP follows on less than a decade later and finally BNSF/CN + CR/CSX.
And we're done.