Retiring INRD Chief Hoback Lauded at Dinner

Tom Hoback likes to collect toys. Unlike most men, though, he can afford really big ones, like a former Santa Fe office car that he and his wife own.

He also has 200 locomotives in his model railroad collection and his wife says he’s looking for more.

Of course, Hoback also bought a few 1 to 1 scale locomotives during his lifetime as a co-founder of the Indiana Rail Road.

Hoback will step down on June 30 as the president and CEO of INRD and more than 160 of his friends and colleagues gathered on June 12 at the Columbia Club in Indianapolis to salute his 30 years in the railroad industry.

That Hoback owns a former Santa Fe passenger car is hardly surprising given that he grew up in Illinois as a fan of the railroad for which his father once worked.

During their time at the podium, Hoback’s friends also portrayed him as a long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan with an addiction to Starbucks coffee

Some even described him as a single-minded taskmaster with a Type A personality who was prone to giving others “the look,” which they described as a piercing stare with steely blue eyes.

Hoback is widely credited with leading the transformation of a down and out former Illinois Central branch line from an abandonment candidate to a thriving regional railroad.

Today the INRD operates 500 miles of track, most of it in Indiana, and employs 200.

Much of focus involves hauling coal, but it has diversified its traffic base to hauling consumer and industrial products.
Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard presented Hoback with a framed proclamation declaring June 12  as Thomas G. Hoback Day.

Mark Ahearn, general counsel for the office of Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, presented Hoback a Sagamore of the Wabash award, the highest civilian honor bestowed in Indiana.

INRD Senior Vice President of Operations and Business Development Bob Babcock presented Hoback with a painting that depicted the various locomotives that the INRD has used over the years.

The painting, which was commissioned by the railroad’s employees, included a CF7, an SD40-2 and an SD90MAC.
Babcock said it was best to avoid the “r” word around Hoback, who refers to his next chapter as “a career change” instead of retirement.

Some of the gifts presented to Hoback were for laughs.

Indianapolis Power & Light Manager of Fuel Supply Harold Leitze gave Hoback a cane with a railroad whistle on top.

Leitze also got a few chuckles by recounting his dealings with INRD account executives.

“When I worked for Hoosier [Energy], I was told we were their No. 1 customer. Now I work for IPL, and I’m told the same thing. I guess that’s what they tell everyone,” Leitze said.

Pete Mills, who served as a CSX executive for 26 years, will succeed Hoback at INRD.

“I am following a legend. The success is a testament to Tom,” he said. “I will do everything I can to be the best steward I can be.”
Finally, Hoback got his turn at the microphone amid a standing ovation.

“It’s been a remarkable ride. I’m extremely honored and extremely humbled,” Hoback said. “The railroad was more than I expected it to be. We did some pretty incredible things.”

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