Posts Tagged ‘railroad executives’

Rail Passenger Funding, Running Amtrak on Time, New NS President Didn’t Impress Some Workers

January 17, 2022

Bit and pieces of insights into the workings of railroad world . . .

I recently received in my email inbox a message quoting Evan Stair of the Friends of the Southwest Chief group in which he suggested that the promise of new and expanded service contained in the Amtrak Connects US plan is largely a mirage.

Stair, whose group has been promoting additional Amtrak service along Colorado’s Front Range and extending the Heartland Flyer north of Oklahoma City to connect with the Chief in Kansas, was commenting on a Bloomberg News story in which Amtrak President Stephen Gardner said the plan to add 39 new routes will require state financial support.

Amtrak has estimated the plan will cost $75 billion to implement.

In his interview, Gardner characterized the federal government as the capital partner but the ongoing operating expenses are the responsibility of the states and Amtrak.

And Amtrak has made clear that it’s responsibility to pay operating expenses will only last at best for five years. After that states will be on the hook to pay operating expenses as is the case now with state-supported corridors on the West Coast, in the Midwest and along the East Coast.

“I frankly believe the Amtrak Connects US program will result in few, if any new routes,” Stair wrote. “States are unlikely to commit to long-term operational dollars without some federal operational matches.”

Stair is probably right about that but could have gone even farther. It may not be realistic to think that states that are not now and/or have never paid Amtrak for corridor service will do so in the future even with a short-term Amtrak funding match for operational expenses.

Yes, I’m talking about you, Ohio.

Speaking of Amtrak, Canadian Pacific CEO Keith Creel told a Midwest shippers conference in Chicago last week that he was “proud” of having reached an agreement with the passenger carrier to allow for the prospect of additional passenger service on routes operated by CP and it merger partner Kansas City Southern.

As reported by Trains magazine, Creel also talked about how CP has become one of Amtrak’s best host railroads in dispatching its trains on time. It wasn’t always that way.

“Five years ago, six years ago, we didn’t lead the industry in Amtrak service,” Creel said.

He went on to say that his 30 years as an operating officer taught him that it’s not easy for a freight railroad to coexist with passenger service.

“I understand the conflicts sometimes and the tradeoffs sometimes when you mix high speed passenger rail with what is, in comparative terms, low-speed freight rail,” Creel said. “I understand the track geometry challenges, I understand the speed challenges. But I also understand that if you prioritize right, and there’s tradeoffs, and balance in a partnership, you can succeed. And that’s the approach we’ve taken at CP.”

Creel’s comments suggest that having the right attitude is key to running passenger trains on time and if CP can do it so could the other Class 1 Amtrak host railroads.

Yet CP doesn’t host as many Amtrak trains as its Class 1 brethren and doesn’t host any long-distance trains over thousands of miles.

Perhaps the best that can be expected is that the host railroads could do better than they do, but dispatching is a balancing act and there will be times when a host railroad puts its own interests ahead of avoiding delaying Amtrak for what the host sees as a relatively short period of time.

Speaking at the same shipper’s conference, new Norfolk Southern President Alan Shaw told a story of how on his first day in his new post he decided to go out into the field and meet and greet NS operating employees in Toledo, which is the largest NS crew change point on the system.

 “I wanted to thank [the employees] for their dedication to Norfolk Southern and our customers, and I wanted to get their input into how we fix service and how we continue to improve our productivity,” Shaw said.

As reported by Trains magazine on its website, Shaw said he approached some workers sitting outside the crew room.

He was wearing khakis, boots and a collared shirt and the workers thought he was an operations supervisor.

 “So I walk up and introduce myself. They told me their names, and one of the guys said, ‘Well, what do you do?’ I said, ‘Well, I’m the president’. And he looks at me, and I’m like, ‘Not Joe Biden president, but president of Norfolk Southern.’ And the other dude pulls out his phone, and he’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, I see the announcement. Congratulations!

“So that made me feel good. And then the one guy looks at me and says, ‘What craft did you come from?  . . . Were you mechanical, or engineering, or a conductor, or an engineer?’

“And I was like, ‘No, I started in finance.’ He was really not impressed with that. He goes, ‘Man, at some point, we’re going to have a craft employee running the railroad.’

“It is somewhat humbling when you go out there and talk to them, because they’ve got their own expectations.”

Shaw is right about that, but expectations are not reality. It’s possible that a future railroad president might have worked as a craft employee at an early point in his or her railroad career, but it is not realistic to think that C suite executives will be pulled from the ranks of operating or maintenance employees.

If you want to be a railroad president you need to have spent extensive time in such areas as finance, law or marketing and moved up the ranks in those departments.

Operating employees are not the only railroad stakeholders who have expectations and the expectations of some stakeholders carry more weight than those of others.

Shaw told another story about his first conversation with members of the railroad’s board of directors.

 “Their primary message to me was, ‘Don’t mess up,’” Shaw said. “Now, it was a little more forceful than that. I’ll let you use your imagination what the real verb was that they used.”

I think we can easily figure that one out.

P&L Names New CEO

December 29, 2021

P&L Transportation, which operates regional and short line railroads in Kentucky, Indiana and West Virginia, has named a new CEO.

Tom Garrett will replace the retiring Tony Reck on Jan. 1, 2022. Reck will continue to serve as chairman of the company and its subsidiaries.

Garrett is currently P&L’s president, a role he will continue to serve, the company said in a news release.

Reck joined P&L in 1986 as vice president of marketing and sales. He became its president and CEO in 1988.

Garrett has been with P&L since 1987 and held a number of management positions. He was named president in 2010.

P&L’s subsidiary railroads are the Paducah & Louisville; Evansville Western Railway; Appalachian & Ohio Railroad; and Midway Southern.

Fund Wants CN to Delay Naming New CEO

December 28, 2021

A hedge fund seeking to take control of top management of Canadian National wants the Montreal-based Class 1 to delay naming a replacement for its retiring CEO until after a shareholder meeting next March.

TCI Fund Management has put forth a slate of four nominees for seats on the CN board of directors who will be voted upon during the March 22 meeting.

However, TCI’s preferred choice to become CEO, Jim Vena, recently withdrew his name from consideration.

Current CEO J.J. Ruest plans to retire in January after a new CEO is named.

TCI has been critical of CN management this year for its handling of an unsuccessful effort to acquire Kansas City Southern.

That bid collapsed in the face of opposition from the U.S. Transportation Board.

CN rival Canadian Pacific was subsequently able to reach agreement to acquire KCS.

The two expect to merge next year pending approval by the STB.

CN Expects to Name New CEO in January

December 21, 2021

Canadian National indicated this week it expects to name a new CEO next month.

The Montreal-based Class 1 railroad is working with consulting firm Korn Ferry to review potential suitors for the job.

The new CEO will replace J.J. Ruest who this past October announced his retirement plans. Ruest plans to step down after a new CEO is named.

One candidate who will not be considered for the CN CEO position is Jim Vena, a former Union Pacific executive who had been pushed for the position by an activist investment firm that is seeking to oust the current CN management team

Vena, who had been supported by TCI Fund Management, informed the CN search committee reviewing CEO candidate that he is no longer interested in the position.

Vena had interviewed several times with the committee for the post. In addition to his work for UP, Vena also once worked as a CN manager, including serving as chief operating officer. He held the same position at UP until January 2021.

Former Conrail VP Who Once Worked in Cleveland for the NYC Dies

December 7, 2021

A former key executive of Conrail who once was assigned to a management post for the New York Central in Cleveland had died.

Richard B. “Dick” Hasselman, 95, served as senior vice president of operations during the first 11 years of Conrail.

He began his railroad career on the NYC in New York City and after holding various jobs and positions with the company was named regional superintendent-transportation at Cleveland.

A tribute written by former Trains editor Kevin Keefe that was posted on the magazine’s website credited Hasselman with helping Conrail to become “the model of a profitable, efficient, customer-oriented railroad.”

During his time as a Conrail vice president, Hasselman worked closely with Chairman Stanley Crane.

He died Sunday in Oceanside, California. The tribute can be read at

Squires to Retire in 2022 as NS CEO

December 3, 2021

Alan Shaw (left) will replace James Squires as NS CEO in 2022.

Norfolk Southern CEO James A. Squires plans to retire on May 1, 2022.

He will be succeeded by Alan Shaw, who is currently an NS executive vice president and the chief marketing officer.

Shaw will assume the position of NS president immediately as part of the transition plan. In a news release, NS said its top managers will report to Shaw.

In addition to his CEO duties, Squires serves as president and chairman of the board of directors.

NS also said Ed Elkins, vice president of industrial products, has been promoted to the positions of executive vice president and chief marketing officer.

Shaw has worked at NS for 27 years in marketing, operations and finance. He was been chief marketing officer since May 2015.

Squires was appointed CEO by NS in 2021 to replace the retiring Charles “Wick” Moorman.

He was named chairman of the NS board in October 2015.

Previously Squires served at NS as executive vice president administration, executive vice president finance and chief financial officer, senior vice president finance, senior vice president law, and vice president law.

INRD Promotes 3 to VP Level Positions

September 17, 2021

Indiana Rail Road this week promoted three managers to vice presidential positions.

Brian R. Jonaitis is now assistant vice president of business development, Shae M. LeDune is assistant vice president of human resources, and Josh T. Ward was named assistant vice president and controller.

Jonaitis joined INRD’s sales and marketing staff in 2005, while LeDune joined the railroad in 2009 before moving to the human resources department 2017. Ward joined the railroad as an accountant in 2003. 

INRD Names New President and CEO

June 14, 2021

The Indiana Rail Road has named Dewayne Swindall as its next president and CEO.

He replaces Peter Mills, who is leaving the company. Mills has headed INRD since July 2015.

Swindall is a former general superintendent at Canadian National who began his railroad career as a conductor and rose through a number of management positions with increasing responsibility.

He also worked for nine years as an executive at short line holding company Genesee & Wyoming.

NS Names New Labor VP

June 9, 2021

Jason Morris has been named vice president of labor relations at Norfolk Southern effective Oct. 1.

He replaces Scott Weaver, who is retiring from the company after 32 years.

Morris currently serves as assistant vice president of safety and environmental and will report to Annie Adams, executive vice president and chief transformation officer.

Morris joined the NS legal department in 2010, handling safety, labor and employment issues before moving into the safety and environmental department, where he served as system director of safety until his promotion to AVP in 2018.

Weaver began his career at NS in 1989 as a labor relations specialist. He was appointed vice president of labor relations in 2012.

3 CSX Executives Get New Roles

June 8, 2021

CSX announced Monday that it has given new roles to three top-ranking executives.

Mark K. Wallace, who had been executive vice president of sales and marketing, becomes executive vice president, a role focusing on special projects and initiatives supporting CEO James M. Foote.

Kevin S. Boone becomes executive vice president of sales and marketing after most recently serving as executive vice president and chief financial officer. He joined CSX in September 2017.

Sean R. Pelkey becomes vice president and acting chief financial officer. He most recently served as vice president, finance and treasury. He joined CSX in 2005.