John Fishwick, president and chief executive officer of Norfolk & Western Railway, will retire this week after almost 37 years with the railroad and more than 11 years as chief executive. Fishwick is largely credited with the phenomenal growth of N&W over the past decade.

"In the early years when I became president, too many decisions were made on the basis of seat-of-the-pants judgment, and I've tried to avoid that," Fishwick said recently in an interview with United Press International.

Fishwick added that N&W prospered during the 1970s -- a period when other transportation-oriented corporations failed by the dozens -- by taking a "hard-nosed look at how we spend our money." During that time, the Roanoke-based railroad's earnings increased sixfold and revenue topped $1 billion.

Fishwick began his career with N&W in 1945, as assistant to the general solicitor. He later became senior vice president, then chairman and chief executive of the Erie Lackawanna Railway Co. and the Delaware and Hudson, both N&W subsidiaries. In 1970 he was named president of N&W Railway.

Fishwick anticipates approval of a merger between N&W and Southern Railway next year, an increase in coal business, diversification of the railroad into airlines, trucks and shipping lines and, in the future, a transcontinental merger. The company recently acquired 8 percent of the common stock of Piedmont Aviation Inc., a major regional air carrier.

The board of directors of N&W is expected to name corporate executive Robert Claytor to succeed Fishwick beginning this week.