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Six Months In

April 28th, 2016

I have been at my new job at the Mass Central for six months now, and looking back over the time, it has definitely been challenging at times, quiet at others, and possibly some of the most rewarding time I have had in my 20+ years in this industry. While any day at a short line is different from the day before, for the most part my job at the Morristown & Erie was the same it had been for 20 years – make sure that the freight went to the right place, and make sure that the customers are happy. There were “extracurricular activities” that made things interesting, but for the most part the job was the same.

So what is so different at the Mass Central? First of all, for the first time in my career, I am the boss. While I have been the boss at SDS for 17 years, there is a big difference between bossing yourself around and being responsible for nine other people. There have been times when I have been in a room with the guys, and all of them have looked to me for an answer, and it is at that point that you realize that the answer you give is the answer that they are going to follow, whether it is the best answer or not. You try to give them the best answer that you can, and while your gut is generally right, there are times that you don’t get it right. That is when you own up to your mistake and work with the resources you have to make sure that you don’t make the same mistake a second time.

Another difference about being the boss is trying to bring the best out of your employees. Each person has their strengths and weaknesses, and being able to identify the strengths quickly and put them to the best use possible is a huge challenge. All of my guys (and gals) have their moments, but as a whole they all have made my job a lot easier. One of the other things that distinguish my employees is that they all have bought in on what we are doing to grow the railroad. To a person, they want to see the company grow and be successful, and are doing what they can to make it work.

For all of the good things, there are a couple of things that I am still dealing with. I still haven’t figured out a good schedule for which weekends I go home and which weekends my family comes up to Massachusetts. The drive home to New Jersey can range from 2 ¾ hours to 6 hours, and when it gets bad, it gets really bad. Finally, I do miss my family during the week. Everyone has done their best to adapt to not having me around, but it is not easy for them, and not for me when I wish I could be there to help.

All in all, this has been a very good move for me. I like the job, I like the people, and I like the challenge. The support of my family has been great, and while it isn’t perfect, it is a good start to this next chapter of my career.

–By Steve Friedland


steven-fb.jpg

Steve Friedland is a well-known leader in the short line industry who has devoted more than two decades to railroading. At the Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, he worked in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations. 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.

Family (The strange, dysfunctional type)

April 12th, 2016

Last week’s ASLRRA 2016 Connections was a really good meeting. It had all of the ingredients that you would expect: a great hotel, big expo with lots of suppliers to talk to, a good turnout of railroaders, good general sessions, and a set of breakouts with topics to interest everyone. It is an amazing process to watch, especially since Holly and I were some of the first people to arrive and some of the last to leave. You start as just another person in the hotel, somewhat anonymous, and then almost at once you start to take over the place, with exhibits in the hall, signage in the ballroom foyers, and people, lots of people. And, if you have been doing this for as long as I have (this was our 15th year exhibiting, and the 18th Annual I have been to), you know most of the people there.

I’ve written in the past about how this meeting could not run without its volunteers, and this year was no exception. The cast of characters is vast, from roadmasters, customer service managers, attorneys, accountants and railroad executives, and they are all there because they want to be. They enjoy helping, and want to help because it is their way to give back to their association. They all recognize what the ASLRRA means and gives to them, and this is their small way to say thank you.

For the volunteers, this group of people is family. The relatives all gather once a year, exchange stories about what has been going on in their lives since they last saw each other, break bread together, and generally have a good time, like many “normal” families. Like your own family, there are the weird cousins, the cut ups, and “that” cousin that has an opinion on everything. The ironic thing is that I see a lot of these people more than I see my own aunts, uncles, and cousins, and I probably know more about what is going on in my railroad family’s lives than what is going on with my biologic ones.

Back in 2012, I chaired the meeting, and we had a staff and volunteer dinner before the meeting started to thank everyone who had donated their time to the cause. There were probably 50-60 people at the dinner, and once everyone had their fill of food and drink, the thank you speeches started. ASLRRA president Rich Timmons went first, and talked about all of the time and effort that was needed to put the meeting on and how it could not be done without the volunteers. Judy Petry, volunteer chair followed, and she also emphasized the importance of the work of the volunteers, and thanked them for the time they committed to the meeting. After the “professional” speech makers finished, it was my turn. Like my predecessors, I thanked everyone for their time and effort. I then focused on this “strange, dysfunctional family,” one that came together every year from all corners of the country to put on this monster of an event, and one that got along far better than some real families. I’m not sure how exactly this group formed the way that it did, but I am glad to be a member of it.

After the meeting hits its crescendo and things start to wind down, the “ownership” of the hotel passes from the ASLRRA to the next group to come in (this year it was the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, just a little bit different from short line railroaders), and we sink back into anonymity as the family spreads back out across the country. It is an awesome sight to watch the whole process happen, and a week after the most recent one I am ready to get back together with the whole family again in Dallas next year.

–By Steve Friedland


steven-fb.jpg

Steve Friedland is a well-known leader in the short line industry who has devoted more than two decades to railroading. At the Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, he worked in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations. 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.

It’s good, but not that good…

March 16th, 2016

With my new state of never being in one place for more than a couple of days at a time right now, you would think that a week on the road wouldn’t be that big a deal. Actually, it was, and for a number of reasons: First, I got to spend three nights at home in New Jersey in eight days, which wasn’t too bad. Next, I was in Washington D.C., for Railroad Day on Capitol Hill, where we had the combination “thank you for your past support, but we now need your support for this” tour, and that was followed by the CSX Short Line Conference in St. Augustine, where we all got to hear about how the economy is starting to put the brakes on the latest resurgence of rail traffic.

While I am sure that you all want to hear about the time spent with my family, I think it is more important to go into more detail about RR Day. With the cycle that the industry has been in over the last decade or so with Congress on the 45G investment tax credit, we go through one year of asking for their support for the renewal, then the next year of thanking them, followed by a year of asking for their support, and so on. This year, we had a two for one deal. Not only did we have to thank everyone for their support for the renewal of the tax credit, we also asked them for their support on a bill that had just been introduced to make the tax credit permanent.

You might think that this was a big ask, coming off of another successful renewal of the tax credit, but it really isn’t. Why? Because of the bipartisan support that the tax credit gets every time we go for the renewal. In this last renewal, the short line tax credit was in the top 25 of all bills introduced in this congress. We had 260 co-sponsors in the house, and 54 in the senate. These were from both sides of the aisle in both houses, so even in this splintered political landscape, small railroads got everyone’s attention for the right reasons.

Now on to CSX following the fun in D.C. Rail traffic, as a whole, can both lead and lag the economy at the same time due to the broad variety of commodities that we carry. What starts to get people’s attention is when volume drops. Now, it can drop quickly, like it did in 2008, or it can drop quietly, like it is doing now. If you had asked me two years ago if cheap energy prices could cause traffic to drop, I would have started calling the men in white coats. Two years ago the industry couldn’t find enough people to staff its trains, and locomotives could not be built fast enough. Right now, CSX alone has over 2000 people on furlough, and over 200 locomotives parked. When you are looking at efficiency by running fewer larger trains, you have to start wondering what that will do for velocity in the long run. Who would have thought that coal, the life blood of many a railroad, could be disappearing from some railroad’s portfolios?

So in the end, were they both successful meetings? Yes, but I wish they would have been reversed in order. I was making my first visits to the Massachusetts delegates this year, and it would have been more compelling to bring them the big picture story when we were trying to ask them to make a very important piece of funding for our part of the industry permanent.

–By Steve Friedland


steven-fb.jpg

Steve Friedland is a well-known leader in the short line industry who has devoted more than two decades to railroading. At the Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, he worked in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations. 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.

Ya Gotta Have Heart…

February 24th, 2016

I’ve written about my love of baseball many times in the past, and for the first time in many years, the off season has been a lot shorter for my New York Mets than it has been in years past.  Of course the outcome last season was not as good as we would have liked, but like any Chicago Cubs fan knows, there is always next year…

Like any baseball fan in the winter, you watch what moves the team has made to sign new players to the team, and what moves they make to retain any free agents.  Everyone wants their team to have the big name players, and hopes that they have the finances to pay the monstrous salaries that are in the game today, and there are a lot of players that try to chase the big bucks.  That being said, something happened more than once this year with the Mets that I was both a little surprised, and very impressed at what happened.  More than one player this year signed with the team for less than what they were offered by another team.  Why?  Because they liked the organization, liked where the team was going, and wanted to play for the team, even if it meant that they were going to get less money.  That says a lot about the organization and the people in it.

Now how does that apply to railroads?  Surprisingly, there are a number of parallels, especially with short lines.  First of all, let’s start with the money.  Chances are, if you are working for a short line, you are probably making less than the equivalent job at a Class I or commuter railroad.  That being said, there are some definite advantages for working for a short line.  The biggest one is the fact that you do have something approaching a normal home life (yes, this is coming from the person that is living in Massachusetts five days a week, but ignore my personal situation for the moment).  You generally get to go home to your own bed every night, which may not happen if you work for a bigger company.  Also, your hours generally remain the same, and in many cases are in daylight, a big plus if you have a family.

Finally, for the most part you are surrounded by people who also want to be there.  Some are long time veterans of the industry who have decided that the simpler life is better for them.  Others are young kids who have taken the short line path to work in an industry that they want to be in.  These younger people may be using the short line as a stepping stone to a position at a larger railroad, but a lot of them are now seeing a short line career as a long term prospect, because they can move their way up in the organization faster than they would at a Class I.

When I started in the industry there were not a lot of people my age, and for the longest time I was concerned that the industry was going to age its way into retirement.  Now there seems to be a youth revolution in the industry, and while I can still say with some knowledge that it still isn’t the money that is drawing them in, I do think it is the one thing that has defined short lines all along:  it’s their heart.

—By Steve Friedland


steven-fb.jpg

Steve Friedland is a well-known leader in the short line industry who has devoted more than two decades to railroading. At the Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, he worked in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations. 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.

While the Cat’s Away…

February 11th, 2016

Right now the political focus in this country is every place except Washington D.C., due to the hotly contested race for President. It’s kind of interesting spending time in a Super Tuesday state now, because I am seeing political ads on TV where having spent most of my time in New Jersey and having one of the last primaries, we would rarely see an ad on TV. Just because the focus is elsewhere, doesn’t mean that what is going on in Washington is any less important. In fact, there are two meetings coming up soon in the capital of our country that are the most important for our industry.

The first is Railroad Day on Capitol Hill. For eight years now I have been telling you how important it is to be in Washington to lobby Congress, and this year is no different. First of all, this is the least expensive meeting you will ever have to pay for: registration is free, and your only costs are your travel expenses and your time. The benefits far outweigh the costs, and while it is a very long and tiring day, you come away from it with a sense of satisfaction that you have been able to get your two bits in, and you really get a better understanding as to what it takes to run our government, and how you can influence it. Railroad Day is March 3, and registration is open on the ASLRRA web site, www.aslrra.org.

The second is another ASLRRA event, and that is the 2016 ASLRRA Connections convention. This is without a doubt the premier railroad event this year and another one that should not be missed. This year the convention is at the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, Maryland, and it runs from April 3 through April 6. The superlatives associated with the convention are not exaggerations: the exhibition is the largest and most comprehensive group of suppliers to the short line industry, the educational sessions (over 40 of them) provide insight into the latest goings on in the industry, and educational opportunities that don’t exist any other time of the year, and you are not going to get a better chance to interact with as many of your peers in one place at any other time. Registration is also on the ASLRRA web site, www.aslrra.org, and you can see all of the opportunities available at the meeting.

Both meetings are unique in what they cover, and the opportunities they present. They have been a long time fixture on my calendar, and should be on yours. Besides, chances are you won’t run into a political bigwig while you are there, because they are all out and about trying to get elected to the big house.

—By Steve Friedland


steven-fb.jpg

Steve Friedland is a well-known leader in the short line industry who has devoted more than two decades to railroading. At the Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, he worked in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations. 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.

It’s Science!

January 21st, 2016

I’m a huge fan of the TV show Mythbusters, and that fact that this is their last season is a loss for all of us, as the show has got a number of people, both young and old, interested in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). Being a tech geek and a Mechanical Engineer by education, their method of proving or disproving a myth by breaking it up into its parts and testing them in ascending scales just shows how using a classical approach to problem solving can take a problem of any size and make it manageable to solve.

For those of you who missed last week’s episode, the team took on a classic demonstration from science class: take a metal container, like a five gallon can, pour some boiling water in it, and seal the vessel. As the vessel cools (either naturally or with some help), a vacuum forms in the can, and the can collapses. Neat trick in small scale, but what happens if your can is a 30,000 gallon railroad tank car?

Needless to say, they did not start right off with the tank car. In fact, they started small, and then worked their way up through a number of different scale situations. In each of the small scale tests, the can collapsed, in some cases spectacularly. With the myth “proved” in small scale, all that was left was to go for the real rail car.

And with a real rail car they did do their tests. It was a T-111 tank car, a single wall steel car of the type that carries all sorts of liquids around this country, and they set up their test the same way they did with the smaller ones, except this time they instrumented the car to get a better and safer view of what was going on, from a safe distance. The first test recreated the small scale tests, and while they were able to pull almost a complete vacuum in the car, nothing happened. In fact, when they substituted their new looking car for one that was really rough around the edges and repeated the test, nothing happened. It took them dropping a concrete block on the rough car to induce a major defect (nothing that we would allow to be used on a railroad) and then pulling almost a complete vacuum to get the car to collapse, and when it did, it was flat.

In the end, the myth was busted. Why was it busted, if they were able to get the car to collapse? Once again, we go back to the process. It took so much additional damage and vacuum to cause the car to crumple that it would be almost impossible to get those conditions to occur in real life. For us, as railroaders, this is a good thing. It tells me that it takes a LOT of force to damage or breach a car, and that maybe some of the people who have concerns about cars being stored near them should take a deep breath. A car just sitting there isn’t going to breach or jump off the tracks on its own. It will take a huge act, admittedly one that will have other consequences to make a car add its contents to an event.

—By Steve Friedland


steven-fb.jpg

Steve Friedland is a well-known leader in the short line industry who has devoted more than two decades to railroading. At the Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, he worked in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations. 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.

Being Heard – Massachusetts Edition

January 7th, 2016

So here I am up in Massachusetts, about eight weeks into this new job, and I get an email telling me about a public hearing that the Joint Committee on Transportation of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was having, and that there was a bill that would allow the transfer of surplus railroad property from the DOT to the railroads in Massachusetts. Time to get the tie and jacket out of the closet in New Jersey and bring them up north to go to the statehouse in Boston to testify.

As I have written many times before, going to see politicians is something I have done for many years now, but in New Jersey we really dealt with the politicians on the national front, like congressmen and senators, and not as much with the state assemblymen or senators. I think this was more because there really was not as much legislation that applied to the railroads, and most railroad issues were handled directly by the DOT. As I have now found out, this is not the case in Massachusetts, and I was off to speak to the Joint Committee on Transportation.

As I mentioned above, this was a public hearing, and comments on roughly 30 different bills were going to be heard. For those of you who remember the TV show The West Wing, there was an episode that dealt with the day that the President’s staff had to meet with the general public and hear about all of the (sometimes crazy) ideas for the path that the president should follow. The hearing I was at was not terribly different. There were people who wanted to express their support for bills covering electronic traffic ticket generation, illegal use of handicap parking placards, bicycle paths and protective side guards on trucks, and medical examinations for some types of bus drivers, and then of course, the railroaders.

Instead of each of us going up one at a time to testify, we set up two panels of people to speak to the committee. Each of us on the panels got a chance to speak on the bill, which would benefit the small railroads by allowing MassDOT to make surplus materials, like rail or ties and other equipment directly available to them instead of having to sell the materials for scrap. What happens now is that we generally end up repurchasing the same materials from the dealers (at a higher price, and sometimes with funds from state grant programs), and we don’t get as big a bang for our buck as we can. While we were just a small percentage of the people who spoke that day, one thing that I noticed was that the committee members were listening to what we were saying, which wasn’t exactly the case during some of the other testimony. At any time, some of the members were looking down into their phones or doing paperwork, but when we were up there, I was able to make eye contact with each of the members there.

While I am sure that the content of our testimony was forgotten in minutes after we left, the important thing was that we were heard, and our support was on the record.

—By Steve Friedland


steven-fb.jpg

Steve Friedland is a well-known leader in the short line industry who has devoted more than two decades to railroading. At the Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, he worked in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations. 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.

Got Your Back

December 21st, 2015

One thing that sets the railroad industry apart from a lot of other ones is the fact that most training is done in the field and not in the classroom. Yes, there are a lot of items that you learn and study out of a book, but you really learn how to railroad as you practice your craft. Because of that, mentoring is an essential part of every railroader’s career. We all hear about the old timers in a company, and while to a young guy they may be crusty and old fashioned, those people are the ones who will teach you how to railroad properly. Admittedly, it may be through showing you the wrong way to do something, but in most cases these people will be the ones who give you the right tools to do your job.

I have had a number of mentors throughout my career, and they have come from all areas of the industry. It started with my supervisors and co-workers at the Morristown & Erie, and also my father, who I had pleasure of working with for a number of years. As my job responsibilities spread outside of the realm of the M&E, I met and took the teaching and advice of any number of industry leaders to heart, and all of that input helped me grow into who I am now. It is truly flattering now when someone comes to me for advice, and as a veteran in the industry, it is my responsibility to keep the “circle of life” going.

Last week I was in Chicago for SDS helping a company start up two railroads. As part of what I do with SDS there is always some mentoring of the customer, because it always comes out in conversation that they do something one way, and I would always discuss how we would do things on our railroad. This time, things were a little bit different. The company actually chose SDS in part because of the mentoring that would be available to them. While I did get paid for the software, the advice is on me. I was also flattered to see that the will to mentor didn’t stop with me. I got to see a friend at another railroad in Chicago while I was there, and I told him about my client, and what they were doing. Almost immediately he told me that their offices were near where he lived, and offered if they needed any assistance, he would be happy to stop by and see them, and if his railroad could be of assistance they would be happy to help. Needless to say I thanked him for the offer, and put him in touch with my client, who was happy to have a local “big brother” in addition to what I could offer them.

As we come to the end of another year, and we will look at who has left us and where we are going in the new year, we should all take the time to both absorb what we can from those who know, and try to pass our knowledge on to those who don’t.

Have a safe and happy holidays, and a joyous New Year.

—By Steve Friedland


steven-fb.jpg

Steve Friedland is a well-known leader in the short line industry who has devoted more than two decades to railroading. At the Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, he worked in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations. 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.

Rolling, Rolling, Rolling…

December 1st, 2015

As a result of my new job up in Massachusetts, I have been spending some significant time on the Mass Pike, which is the major East-West highway in the state. Now I can get over the people who don’t turn on their headlights when it is dark out (this happened twice the other day, so I guess it is a regular practice), but what really has caught my attention are the big trucks. I’m not talking about the twin 33’ trailers I am used to from UPS on the New Jersey Turnpike, I’m talking about the big twins that are allowed up here.

Scary does not begin to describe what it is like to try to pass one of these monstrosities. There is a bit of movement as the trailers try to follow the cab, and if it is windy or raining, you really hold your breath as you try to get past as quickly as possible. The good news is that they only are allowed on the highway itself, as there are “switching yards” set up next to some of the toll booths where these land trains can stop and uncouple the rear trailer so that they can go on the local roads. Even with that the turning radius of the double trailer units is huge.

All of the above has given me more reason to be thankful for the victories we have had in Congress recently regarding large and heavy trucks. There have been three moves in the last month to have amendments that would allow larger trucks on the roads, and with the help of lobbying by the ASLRRA and its members, the Coalition Against Bigger Trucks, and numerous highway safety advocates, all three were defeated. However, this was only temporary victory. The forces for the larger trucks are strong, and we need to continue this coalition to make sure the next time this pops up, we can continue to keep the large and heavy trucks off the road.

There are those who would try to say that we are trying to block the big trucks for business reasons, and while you could make a business case that this is true, what is much more significant is the safety issues for all of us who have to use the roads with these monsters of the road.

—By Steve Friedland


steven-fb.jpg

Steve Friedland is a well-known leader in the short line industry who has devoted more than two decades to railroading. At the Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, he worked in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations. 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.

And We’re…Moving On! Part 2

October 30th, 2015

Back in June when I walked out of the Morristown & Erie as an employee for the last time, I really didn’t think that I would be walking into the front door of another railroad as an employee any time soon. Why, you ask? Part of the reason was that I had spent almost all of my working life at one company, one that I have huge emotional ties to, and to be honest I wasn’t ready to be put into that situation again.

I had a great summer. I did a lot of work with SDS, travelled to a number of new and potential customers, spent time with my family, built a shed in the back yard, went on vacation, and basically got to sleep at night for six months knowing that there wasn’t a chance that the phone was going to ring and I would have to go out and turn off a grade crossing that was malfunctioning. And while I did enjoy myself, I did start reaching out to my network of railroad contacts letting them know that I might be interested in something if the right thing came along. Other than that, I put my resume in with one of the recruiters in the industry, and that was it. I would call it looking, but not searching.

Fast forward to September, and I got a call from Bob Bentley, an old friend who is president of Cambridge Communications & Signal Systems, who was inviting me to a demo of the PTC system that they had developed for shortlines. At the end of the conversation, Bob said to me, “So, I hear that you aren’t at the M&E anymore. Are you looking for something else?” Bob has been involved with the Massachusetts Central Railroad since its inception, and it turns out they were looking for someone to run the railroad. After a month of interviews, discussions, negotiations, and a number of very deep and serious discussions with my family, I can now say that the person that they found is me, and on Wednesday I accepted the position of vice president and general manager.

As I now embark on this new adventure, I can say that I am very excited about this new opportunity. The more I learn about the property, the more I see how my skills and ability will work well with the team that has made the railroad a quality operation. Together we will grow, and grow the business. My life will not be the only thing to change. I am going to have to be away from home in New Jersey during the week, and I know that this not going to be easy for Holly, Andrew and Rob. But, like the team at the railroad my team at home will work together on this, and we will make the best of it.

So, that is my story of what I did on my summer vacation. The good news is that I think I will have a whole new set of stories to tell going forward.

—By Steve Friedland


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Steve Friedland is a well-known leader in the short line industry who has devoted more than two decades to railroading. At the Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, he worked in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations. 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.