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A little thanks

April 14th, 2014

I’ve written in the past about how the ASLRRA’s Connections conference is truly a group effort when it comes to making things happen when we are on site.  The volunteers, led by Judy Petry, are a well drilled and efficient machine when it comes to making this meeting happen.  All of the people who volunteer their time to the cause while also trying to make sure they attend the sessions they need to deserve a whole lot of thanks, but in this blog I am going to give my thanks to two people who really give their all to the meeting, and without whom putting this meeting on would be both more difficult and much more expensive.

As many of you know, I help the ASLRRA with the AV portion of their meetings.  During the Regional meetings and Railroad Day you can usually find me at the tech table running the sound and presentations for the sessions.  As you can imagine, Connections is a lot more complex, with the two large general sessions, eight breakout tracks and numerous committee meetings and training sessions, all of which usually require a laptop and projector.  The hotel does have an in-house AV company that the ASLRRA does contract with to provide the equipment for the general sessions and things like the screens and sound in the rooms, but it falls to us to set up the projectors and computers in each of the rooms.

Who’s us you ask?  Well, for Connections the crew swells to three, and the other two members are whom I am shining the spotlight on.  These guys handle most of the lugging, setup and breakdown, and management of the tech portion of the meeting.  You probably won’t notice them because they bring very little attention to themselves while they are working, and a lot of the work they do is done when you aren’t in the room.  But I do think it is time to introduce and thank them for the work they do.

Dave Moran is someone that a lot of you know from his time at GE Transportation’s Optimization Solutions (the former RMI).  He has been helping us for I think five years now, and he is one of the most unflappable and efficient people I know.  He handles the Cyber Cafés and networking the ASLRRA’s computers on site, and generally has everything set up or broken down in record time.  If some of you are thinking “doesn’t he work for SDS’ biggest competitor?” yes he does, and while we don’t talk shop during the convention, I am thankful every year for his bosses giving him to us for the convention.

Our other team member is Dan McCabe, who is the CFO/CIO of Tacoma Rail.  Dan came to us three years ago at the recommendation of Dave, and he has been a huge help to us ever since.  Dan is cut from the same fabric as Dave, and despite having his responsibilities at the railroad and with a young family, he makes the time to help us each year.  Dan also works with me at the tech table for the general sessions, and he has also been taking on a bigger role with the Meeting App prior to the meeting.

So if you are in San Diego on Tuesday, and you see a couple of guys flash past in red shirts with Super Dave or The Man on the back of them, stop them and thank them for helping with the meeting.  Just don’t stop them for too long, because they have a lot of work to do.

—By Steve Friedland


steven-fb.jpgSteve Friedland is a child of the railroad industry. Following summers and vacations working on the track gang for the family-owned Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, he started full-time in 1994. He has worked in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations, and currently is a member of the management team for the company as director of operations in Morristown, N.J. In 1999, he founded Short Line Data Systems, a provider of railroad EDI and dispatching software, AEI hardware, and management consulting to the short line industry. He currently serves as the ASLRRA representative to the AAR’s Wireless Communications Committee and is chairman of the joint AAR-ASLRRA Short Line Information Improvement Committee. He also is a member of the ASLRRA’s board of directors.

Here it comes

April 2nd, 2014

This one snuck up on me.  It’s not like I wasn’t involved, or not paying attention to the calendar, but here we are just about two weeks from heading out to San Diego for the ASLRRA 2014 Connections.  Wow.  The crates are packed and shipping out today, I’ve been reviewing presentations for the correct spelling of ASLRRA, and all of those little things that may make up a small part of the entire experience are starting to take their final form.

If you haven’t made plans to be in San Diego yet, what are you waiting for?  Alan Matheson and his band of merry men and women have put together a great program, and this is one of the best hotel locations we have ever had for an Annual Meeting.  As I mentioned above, I have had a bit of a preview of the presentations that will be given during the RailroadU sessions, and they have been impressive.  I can also plug myself, as this year I will be speaking in two separate sessions, the Tech Roundtable and in the Marketing track on Industrial Switching on Thursday.

Don’t forget about the exhibition.  Over 200 booths, almost as many different companies (including Short Line Data Systems, of course), and the widest selection of products and services available to the short line industry in one place that you are going to find this year.  Combine the exhibition with the educational sessions, and you can’t get more bang for your buck any place else.

One other thing.  If you are going to be in San Diego, and see a volunteer, or have a chance to talk to a presenter, thank them for donating their time and effort to the cause.  It takes a huge effort by an army of people working over a year on each meeting, and without their contribution Connections would not be made (pun intended).

—By Steve Friedland


steven-fb.jpgSteve Friedland is a child of the railroad industry. Following summers and vacations working on the track gang for the family-owned Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, he started full-time in 1994. He has worked in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations, and currently is a member of the management team for the company as director of operations in Morristown, N.J. In 1999, he founded Short Line Data Systems, a provider of railroad EDI and dispatching software, AEI hardware, and management consulting to the short line industry. He currently serves as the ASLRRA representative to the AAR’s Wireless Communications Committee and is chairman of the joint AAR-ASLRRA Short Line Information Improvement Committee. He also is a member of the ASLRRA’s board of directors.

Supreme Interest in Rails to Trails

March 20th, 2014

As a user of rail trails and someone who does volunteer work locally on converting abandoned rail lines into walking/biking trails, I read with interest the Supreme Court’s ruling last week in a pivotal rails-to-trails case.

The rails-to-trails movement was definitely dealt a setback when Supreme Court justices ruled 8-1 that essentially government easements used for railbeds expired when the railroads went out of business. The U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in the case of Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust et al. v. United States. At issue was whether the federal government retains an interest in railroad rights-of-way that were created by the federal General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875, after railroad activity ends on the corridor. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Marvin Brandt, the Wyoming landowner, and remanded the case to the appeals court for further consideration.

“This is a huge victory for landowners, particularly in the West,” said William Perry Pendley, president of the group that represented Brandt.

In 1976, the United States patented an 83-acre parcel of land in Fox Park, Wyo., surrounded by the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, to Melvin and Lulu Brandt. The patent conveyed to the Brandts fee simple title to the land “with all the rights, privileges, immunities, and appurtenances, of whatsoever nature, thereunto belonging, unto said claimants, their successors and assigns, forever.” The patent concludes by stating that the land was granted “subject to those rights for railroad purposes as have been granted to the Laramie, Hahn’s Peak & Pacific Railway Company, its successors or assigns.” The patent did not specify what would occur if the railroad abandoned this right of way.

The right of way referred to in the patent was obtained by the Laramie, Hahn’s Peak and Pacific Railroad in 1908, pursuant to the 1875 Act. The LHP&P was used primarily to transport timber and cattle. The LHP&P line struggled and changed hands numerous times until it was acquired by Union Pacific Railroad. In 1987, UP sold the rail line, including the right of way, to the Wyoming and Colorado Railroad, which later sought government approval to abandon it. The railroad tore up the tracks and ties and, after government approval, completed abandonment in 2004. In 2006, the United States initiated this action seeking a judicial declaration of abandonment and an order quieting title in the United States to the abandoned right of way. In addition to the railroad, the government named as defendants the owners of 31 parcels of land crossed by the abandoned right of way.

The government settled with or obtained a default judgment against all but one of those landowners—Marvin Brandt. He contested the government’s claim and filed a counterclaim on behalf of a family trust that now owns the Fox Park parcel, and himself as trustee. Brandt asserted that the stretch of the right of way crossing his family’s land was a mere easement that was extinguished upon abandonment by the railroad, so that, under common law property rules, he enjoyed full title to the land without the burden of the easement. The government countered that it had all along retained a reversionary interest in the railroad right of way.

The District Court granted summary judgment to the government and quieted title in the United States to the right of way over Brandt’s land. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

In his majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said “more than 70 years ago, the government argued before this Court that a right of way granted under the 1875 Act was a simple easement. The Court was persuaded, and so ruled. Now the government argues that such a right of way is tantamount to a limited fee with an implied reversionary interest. We decline to endorse such a stark change in position, especially given the special need for certainty and predictability where land titles are concerned.”

Justice Sonia Sotomayor was the lone dissenter from the majority opinion. “Since 1903, this Court has held that rights of way were granted to railroads with an implied possibility of reverter to the United States. By changing course today, the Court undermines the legality of thousands of miles of former rights of way that the public now enjoys as means of transportation and recreation. And lawsuits challenging the conversion of former rails to recreational trails alone may well cost American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars. I do not believe the law requires this result, and I respectfully dissent.”

While I did cover the Supreme Court early in my career as a reporter, I am not a lawyer (although I am surrounded by them in my family). It’s difficult to predict what type of impact the court’s ruling will have on future rails to trails activity, or on compensation for past trail conversions, so I turned to one of the experts: The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

RTC, which describes itself as the only national organization solely dedicated to defending the preservation of former railroad corridors for continued public use, filed an amicus brief in the case supporting the legal precedent that the U.S. does retain an interest in the rail corridor.

RTC said it was disappointed by the decision and predicts it will result in more litigation over rail-trails in federally granted rights of way. However, it believes that the vast majority of rail-trails and rail-trail projects will not be directly affected. According to RTC, existing rail-trails or trail projects are not affected by this decision if any of the following conditions are met:

  • The rail corridor is rail-banked,
  • The rail corridor was originally acquired by the railroad by a federally granted right-of-way through federal lands before 1875,
  • The railroad originally acquired the corridor from a private land owner, 
  • The trail manager owns the land adjacent to the rail corridor,
  • The trail manager owns full title (fee simple) to the corridor.
  • The railroad corridor falls within the original 13 colonies.

—By Kathy Keeney


Kathy Keeney is Publisher of the Rail Group. The granddaughter of a railroader, she has been writing about railroads for more than 25 years. She is a past president of The League of Railway Industry Women and served on the board of directors for the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.

One of Her Boys

March 10th, 2014

As we go through our careers, we have mentors who teach us the correct way to do our jobs and guide us on our career paths.  If you are truly fortunate, you also end up with someone who will take you under their wing and teach you things that take you further in a career than just what a mentor can do.  When the news came out yesterday that we had  lost Maggie Silver, I lost just that person.

My history with Maggie goes back a number of years before I actually met her in 1998.  My father had become more and more involved with the ASLRRA, and I started to hear more and more of the names of people who were the movers and shakers of the Eastern Region, like Walter Rich and one Maggie Silver.  You see, at that time, while there were elections for the board seats, to get your name on the ballot required you to have the blessing of Walter and Maggie, and if they felt that it wasn’t your time, you waited until it was.  My father was elected to the board when it was felt that he was ready, and he proudly served on it until his untimely death in 1998.  My father talked of the other people on the board and at the ASLRRA, and until the day of his funeral most of them were just names without faces.

On the day of my father’s funeral I met Maggie face to face for the first time.  We got to talk a little bit beyond the normal greetings, and it quickly became obvious to me that my father had been spinning tales of his son as much as he had been filling me in about his fellow railroaders.  As I started to attend ASLRRA functions she always took time to spend time with me and there were questions about how the railroad was doing, how I was doing, and as my family started to grow, how they were doing.  We also would discuss how the industry and the Association were doing, and she really took time to make sure I knew who I needed to know and what I needed to know from those people.  There would be times that I would walk up to her and her ever-present husband Bob Smith, and she would greet me by saying “and here comes another one of my boys.”  It was her way of saying that she really had my best interests at heart.

In 2007 I chaired the ASLRRA annual meeting for the first time.  Long time Eastern Region Vice President Walter Rich was ailing at the time, and a number of his friends were asked to record a personal message to him.  A place was needed to do the recording, and as meeting chairman I had a suite, so I offered the salon of my suite for the taping to take place.  Before everything started, I ran into Maggie, who was on her way to the room to oversee everything, and after she thanked me for offering up my room, she wanted to know when I was going to be recording my message.  After I got over the shock of being asked to participate in this project, I gave her a time and made sure to be there promptly.  I never got to see a lot of emotion from Maggie, but when I recorded my message I saw both the strain of the fact that one of her close friends was dying on her face, and later once I told my story there was such pride being shown by her that I knew I had done well.

We didn’t get to see or speak to each other much over the last couple of years.  I was fortunate to spend time with her in 2012 when I chaired the annual again and last year at the meeting in Atlanta.  Time and illness had taken their toll on her body, but her spirit was always strong, and while the order of discussion was shuffled up a bit (family came first, followed by business), I always made time in my crazy schedule for Maggie.

We have lost a true icon of the railroad industry, and one of the people responsible for how the modern short line industry operates today.  I will always remember Maggie for the support and education she provided a wet behind the ears thirty year old kid in the industry that had just lost his father and just wanted to keep his head above water.

I was proud to be one of her boys.

—By Steve Friedland


steven-fb.jpgSteve Friedland is a child of the railroad industry. Following summers and vacations working on the track gang for the family-owned Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, he started full-time in 1994. He has worked in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations, and currently is a member of the management team for the company as director of operations in Morristown, N.J. In 1999, he founded Short Line Data Systems, a provider of railroad EDI and dispatching software, AEI hardware, and management consulting to the short line industry. He currently serves as the ASLRRA representative to the AAR’s Wireless Communications Committee and is chairman of the joint AAR-ASLRRA Short Line Information Improvement Committee. He also is a member of the ASLRRA’s board of directors.

A Matter of Trust

March 6th, 2014

I was in St. Augustine earlier this week at the 25th CSX Short Line Conference, and as usual they put on one hell of a show.  While the presentations about how much of an impact we as short lines have on CSX’s bottom line were interesting, one fact really got me thinking about the railroad system as a whole:  at any one time, CSX itself has upwards of 180,000 cars on their railroad.  Think about what the value of the rolling stock alone is, and if you consider that (hopefully) at least half of these cars are loaded, we are talking about many billions of dollars moving on their system.  If you look at the entire rail system in North America, we are probably approaching a quarter of a trillion dollars of value of rolling stock and lading moving at any one time.  I don’t care how you slice it, it is a lot of money.

So what drives this massive economic machine?  A whole lot of trust.

We trust that when you ship a car that all of the railroads involved will move it.  Safely.

We trust that the car will move as quickly as possible to its destination.  And back when empty.

We trust that what is in the car is what you say it is.  And we will handle it in the appropriate manner.

We trust that our personnel will handle your equipment as if it were their own.  And we hope you do too with ours.

We trust that you will provide the information about movements in a timely manner.  And we will provide the same information back to you when necessary.

We trust that we will receive the proper payment for cars moved.  And we will pay for cars we have shipped.

And finally…

We trust that our employees come to work to do all of the above.  And we will enable them to return home safely.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  In the end it is, and as long as we maintain this trust and service between our fellow railroads and railroaders, we will continue to be the economic engine that we are.

—By Steve Friedland


steven-fb.jpgSteve Friedland is a child of the railroad industry. Following summers and vacations working on the track gang for the family-owned Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, he started full-time in 1994. He has worked in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations, and currently is a member of the management team for the company as director of operations in Morristown, N.J. In 1999, he founded Short Line Data Systems, a provider of railroad EDI and dispatching software, AEI hardware, and management consulting to the short line industry. He currently serves as the ASLRRA representative to the AAR’s Wireless Communications Committee and is chairman of the joint AAR-ASLRRA Short Line Information Improvement Committee. He also is a member of the ASLRRA’s board of directors.

Remembering Connie

March 5th, 2014

The railway industry lost another of its bright lights this week with the sudden passing of my friend, Connie Sumara.  Connie retired as vice president of Chicago Freight Car Leasing in late 2012, but she never ventured far from the industry she loved.

When you met Connie, she made quite an impression. And it wasn’t just because of her red hair. She had a stunning smile, a memorable voice, an upbeat spirit and a fantastic laugh.

Connie was a Chicago original. She loved talking about her hometown and some of its greatest features like world-class pizza. Connie had a friendly face. For those of us who travel a lot, a friendly face is a very welcome sight when you are hundreds of miles away from home. I looked forward to seeing Connie several times a year on the rail trade show circuit, particularly at RSI (and later Railway Interchange) events and, of course, at conferences for the League of Railway Industry Women.

Connie was a long-time leader of the LRIW and one of its founding members. She won every award the LRIW had, including Woman of the Year and Member of the Year. I first met Connie at an LRIW conference about 16 years ago and some of my fondest memories are times when we were dressed in our jeans, steel-toed boots, safety goggles and hard hats touring railcar plants or other rail facilities. I’ll never forget the pride she had when we were on a tour of Domino Sugar’s operation and Connie saw her company’s railcars in action. We all called them “Connie’s cars.”

She was a master at working a room and connecting people. Her leadership roles at the LRIW were a natural fit for her because she so enjoyed sharing her experiences working her way up the corporate ladder in a male-dominated industry in her 25 years at Chicago Freight Car. She served as a mentor for many young women at Chicago Freight Car and dozens of women she met through her LRIW connections.

Connie was a fighter and an inspiration as she worked to bounce back from the death of her beloved husband many years ago and through a series of ailments, including lupus. In retirement, she remained engaged in LRIW activities and was active in Operation Lifesaver in Illinois.

Her legacy will live on through her family, including son Richard and her grandchildren, all the people whose lives she touched and through the railway organization she nurtured and loved so much.

—By Kathy Keeney


Kathy Keeney is Publisher of the Rail Group. The granddaughter of a railroader, she has been writing about railroads for more than 25 years. She is a past president of The League of Railway Industry Women and served on the board of directors for the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.

Time to Make Plans

February 20th, 2014

I am not going to complain about snow again.  In fact, I am not going to look back at all in this blog because pitchers and catchers have reported to SPRING Training (I’m a Mets fan, and this is the time of year when I have hope), and soon all of this white stuff will be far behind us.

That being said, it also means that two of the most important Short Line events of the year are not that far away.  Railroad Day on Capitol Hill is March 13, and ASLRRA Connections 2014 is April 22-25.

I’ve written many times about the importance of Railroad Day, and this year may be one of the most important years to attend.  Railroads have received a lot of attention over the last twelve months, and unfortunately most of it has not been for good things.  Members of Congress have been making lots of noise about paying more attention to rail safety, and it is extremely important that we get in front of as many members as possible to make sure that they have a complete picture, but also that they know who they are affecting with the legislation that they work on.  There is nothing that impacts upon a member more than hearing from the people that vote for them, and it is just as important that their staffers get to know who you are since most of them never venture outside of the beltway.  Oh, and one last thing about Railroad Day:  it doesn’t cost anything to register to do it.  If you click  here you will be taken to information about the event. 

The big event for the year, of course, is ASLRRA Connections.  The annual convention of the association has become one of, if not the premier event for railroaders each year.  This year’s convention is at the Hilton Bayfront in San Diego, and I can tell you from personal experience that this is a very nice hotel.  The program is shaping up too, and convention chair Alan Matheson of Tacoma Rail has his convention committee putting the pieces together.  Registration will open soon, and the hotel block has just opened.  One thing to pay attention to because it is different this year:  the convention runs Tuesday-Friday, instead of the Saturday-Tuesday pattern that it usually takes.  Also, please be aware that the weekend prior to the convention is Easter weekend, so maybe you want to make a bit of a vacation of the trip?

Whatever you do, neither of these events should be missed.  The first helps get our message to our legislators and their staffs, while the other educates you on the latest goings on in our industry.

 —By Steve Friedland


steven-fb.jpgSteve Friedland is a child of the railroad industry. Following summers and vacations working on the track gang for the family-owned Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, he started full-time in 1994. He has worked in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations, and currently is a member of the management team for the company as director of operations in Morristown, N.J. In 1999, he founded Short Line Data Systems, a provider of railroad EDI and dispatching software, AEI hardware, and management consulting to the short line industry. He currently serves as the ASLRRA representative to the AAR’s Wireless Communications Committee and is chairman of the joint AAR-ASLRRA Short Line Information Improvement Committee. He also is a member of the ASLRRA’s board of directors.

The Year of Safety

February 13th, 2014

Railroad safety is in the national spotlight and it’s not likely to leave there soon.

That’s not tremendously surprising given last year’s high-profile accidents and derailments. As I wrote last summer, there are some rail accidents that are so big that you just know they are going to have a profound impact on the industry for years, if not decades. Lac-Megantic, in Canada’s Quebec province, moved near the top of the list following the devastating runaway train, derailment and fire there. Lac-Megantic joined a list that included cities like Chase in Maryland and Chatsworth in California, made famous by high-profile train accidents that spurred sweeping new rail regulations.

Freight railroads are taking steps of their own to operate more safely by reducing speeds and increasing inspections as precautions when transporting crude. Nevertheless, the Lac-Megantic  accident and a few others with crude have spurred a flurry of activity on local, state and national levels. In the U.S., it has prompted increased scrutiny from lawmakers and regulators of rail operations and equipment.

Just this week the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation’s Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security was scheduled to hold a hearing on “Enhancing Our Rail Safety: Current Challenges for Passenger and Freight Rail.” The hearing will examine the current state of safety on the nation’s passenger and freight rail networks, including discussion of recent high-profile rail accidents, positive train control implementation, and other key safety challenges. On Feb. 26, the Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials will hold a hearing on oversight of passenger and freight rail safety.  

Yesterday, the Railway Supply Institute Committee on Tank Cars wrote to the U.S. Department of Transportation urging it to consider several new safety measures for tank cars carrying crude oil and ethanol. RSICTC members include major manufacturers and lessors of rail tank cars who build more than 95 percent and own/lease over 70 percent of tank cars operating in North America.

RSICTC proposed additional safety requirements on newly manufactured railway tank cars, a prohibition on placing additional legacy tank cars into crude oil and ethanol service and prioritization of the modification of existing legacy crude oil and ethanol tank cars. The call comes after three years of waiting for the government to issue new rules that would create an industry standard and help mitigate product loss after train derailments.

“The discovery of new sources of crude oil in North America is one of the most important developments for our economy in the last few decades,” said RSI President Tom Simpson. “Addressing a 4,000-percent increase in delivery of those resources by rail and protecting the public requires actions by railroads, shippers, tank car manufacturers and the federal government. Today, we clearly laid out how tank cars can be made safer as quickly as possible.  Now it’s up to the federal government to complete its rulemaking and issue new standards for the manufacture and modification of tank cars meant to carry crude oil or ethanol.”

The RSI group urged DOT to issue revised tank car standards. “These standards should consider the work already done by engineers in the industry to improve tank car safety.  The absence of a science-based, government-mandated standard is chilling investment, hindering job creation and slowing down the rollout of new, stronger, cars that can potentially save lives and limit damage after train accidents occur,” Simpson said.

The North American energy renaissance has been a boon for railroads, but the national focus won’t move back onto that positive news story until the industry and its overseers take steps to improve safety. Those steps will likely include a combination of changes in railcar design, other technology, operations, and perhaps even routing of some trains.

—By Kathy Keeney


Kathy Keeney is Publisher of the Rail Group. The granddaughter of a railroader, she has been writing about railroads for nearly 30 years. She is a past president of The League of Railway Industry Women and served on the board of directors for the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.

Let it Snow … Somewhere Else!

February 5th, 2014

Phil, I hope you were wrong.

Stan, the same for you.

Rob, you don’t know what you are talking about.

(In case you were wondering, Phil and Stan are two famous groundhogs. Rob is my youngest son, whose birthday was on Sunday and we stuck him outside to see if he could see his shadow.  All of them reportedly did.)

America, we fooled you all on Sunday.  You see, I live about 20 miles from where the Super Bowl was played, and we had a beautiful 50 degree winter day in New Jersey.  That, my friends, was the warmest day we have had all winter.  Other than that, we have had sub 20 degree temps all winter, and snow.  Lots of snow.  Now I am not talking about the feet of snow that Buffalo gets, or the inch and a half that paralyzed Atlanta last week, but snow events every couple of days that drop a new three to six inches of powder on top of what we already have.  Combine that with the cold temperatures, and nothing melts.

What does this mean for the railroad?  Well, we can run, but because a large part of our system requires us to operate over NJTransit, we are at their mercy as to when we can get out on their railroad.  Add to that the constant need to dig out switches every couple of days, and you can see where this starts getting old very quickly.  We have also been somewhat fortunate that it has been cold and not the usual climate around here in the winter, which has temperatures hovering a little above and a little below the freezing mark, and we end up with a constant freeze and thaw cycle.  This means that the powder has remained powder, and there has not been a lot of ice.  For now.

So while I sit here at my computer in the midst of storm number two for the last 72 hours, and the prospects for more snow next week are there, I hope those of you in the warmer regions of the country are enjoying your mild weather.

And knowing human nature, we’ll be complaining about the heat six months from now.

 —By Steve Friedland


steven-fb.jpgSteve Friedland is a child of the railroad industry. Following summers and vacations working on the track gang for the family-owned Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, he started full-time in 1994. He has worked in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations, and currently is a member of the management team for the company as director of operations in Morristown, N.J. In 1999, he founded Short Line Data Systems, a provider of railroad EDI and dispatching software, AEI hardware, and management consulting to the short line industry. He currently serves as the ASLRRA representative to the AAR’s Wireless Communications Committee and is chairman of the joint AAR-ASLRRA Short Line Information Improvement Committee. He also is a member of the ASLRRA’s board of directors.

Hail to the Chief

January 20th, 2014

Last night I received some really great news.  My good friend, Judy Petry, was named President and General Manager of Farmrail.  I cannot think of a harder working or more dedicated person in our industry, and this title is just recognition for the many years of hard work that she has put in for her company and employees, and for what she has done for the railroad industry as a whole.

My personal history with Judy goes back to 1996, when I attended my first RMI users group meeting in Atlanta.  This was one of my first industry events, and Judy was leading the users group at the time.  I don’t think that our paths crossed much in those early years of my industry involvement, but as I got more involved there was no way that you weren’t going to get to know Judy.  This happened through our involvement in the ASLRRA and its Annual Meetings, where Judy has been volunteer chair forever and both of us have chaired the event multiple times. We have also both been involved on industry committees that dealt mainly with event reporting and Electronic Data Interchange.  I also think that we became good friends because it was easy for her to remember my name.  You see, her husband’s name is Steven, her son’s name is Steven, and her son in-law’s name is Steven (thankfully her daughter’s name is Erica).  Need I say more?

While I know that she is probably blushing while she is reading this, I do have a couple of other nice things to say about her.  She is a consummate professional and leader, with the ability to organize and energize a group at the drop of a hat.  She has been recognized as an industry leader by multiple groups over the years, including Outstanding Woman of the Year by the League of Railway Industry Women.  I have also had the pleasure of serving on the ASLRRA’s Board of Directors with her for many years, where she is the Central Region’s Vice President.  She is also a proud mother and grandmother, and if you give her the opportunity, she will gladly show you tons of pictures of her grandbabies.

At this point all I can say is congratulations to my friend and mentor.  Hopefully this new title will give you a minute or two of more time to enjoy things outside of the office, and know that this is a truly most deserved promotion.

 —By Steve Friedland


steven-fb.jpgSteve Friedland is a child of the railroad industry. Following summers and vacations working on the track gang for the family-owned Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, he started full-time in 1994. He has worked in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations, and currently is a member of the management team for the company as director of operations in Morristown, N.J. In 1999, he founded Short Line Data Systems, a provider of railroad EDI and dispatching software, AEI hardware, and management consulting to the short line industry. He currently serves as the ASLRRA representative to the AAR’s Wireless Communications Committee and is chairman of the joint AAR-ASLRRA Short Line Information Improvement Committee. He also is a member of the ASLRRA’s board of directors.