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Here We Go Again

March 24th, 2015

Tomorrow Holly and I head off to Orlando to start the wind up to the ASLRRA 2015 Connections convention.  This will be (I think) the fifteenth time I have attended the convention, and in that time a lot has changed.  When I first attended in 1998, I was a 30-something railroader that really did not know much beyond the confines of the railroads in New Jersey, and was just starting to learn about how railroads relate to their Class 1 partners.  By 2002 (I didn’t attend the meeting in 2000, and the 2001 meeting didn’t happen due to 9/11), I had expanded my world to include SDS, and we moved from the purely railroad world to the supplier world and started exhibiting at the meeting.  Since then my world has included being both a railroader and a supplier, committee chair, Associate and Railroad member of the Board of Directors, speaker, meeting volunteer, Audio Visual Chair, and Chair of the meeting twice, in 2007 and 2012.

This year’s meeting will include for me a couple of days of prep, including name badge printing, general session rehearsals, and graphics preparation, committee meetings and the Board meeting, and putting together our booth.  And then the meeting starts.  I will be bouncing between the General Sessions, appearances in the booth to talk to current and potential customers, helping with the massive machine that keeps the meeting running, and I’m also a speaker on a panel in one of the breakouts.  Following the meeting, we’ll take a couple of days to see the Mouse, sleep, and finally head for home.

If it sounds like a full and busy ten days, it is.  Some of you are probably thinking I am crazy for doing this year after year, and wonder what the payoff is for me.

Why do I do this to this level?  First of all, I need to support my customers, and hopefully find a couple of new ones too.  I am very fortunate that Holly is a great salesperson, and we have had help in the booth over the years from some great family friends.  Next, I believe in what the ASLRRA is here to do, and with a strong association, the small railroad industry will thrive.  Finally, these are my friends and my rail “family.”  You can’t put a better group of people together.  Whether we work for complementary or competitive companies, all gets put aside for the meeting, and we have a great time making the event happen.

As with every change of the calendar, it is also a time for some to move on.  At this year’s meeting we will be saying au revoir to two of our friends who will be retiring.  Tom Streicher has been the guru of safety and operations for the Association for a long time, and my association with Tom predates his time at the ASLRRA, and I am honored to call him both an associate and friend.  Cheryl Huyck is one of my oldest friends in the industry, and I first spoke to her when I was still in college.  I worked with her when she was at the AAR and Railinc, and she was one of the first people to know that I had decided to build the program that eventually became ROCS.  When I heard that she had left Railinc, I immediately called Rich Timmons and suggested that she would be a good person to bring into the ASLRRA fold (as did a couple of other people).  She has been at the Association since 2006, and it has been my privilege to call her a friend for well over 20 years.

So, if you run into me at the convention, I might be hurrying to put out a fire, or look a little tired, but please understand, I’ll be having a great time.

—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.

It Just Won’t Work

March 10th, 2015

Ok folks, tighten your belts and hold on tight, this one is going to be a full on rant.

This has to stop.  What, you ask?  People believing that if they stop their vehicle on a grade crossing that a magical bubble of protection will lower around them and keep them from harm.  Get over it people, that won’t happen, and in fact, you and your vehicle will probably be turned from a three-dimensional object into a quite flat two -dimensional one.  You will also put the crew (and passengers if it is a passenger train) at risk of injury or death.

Bottom line:  if it is a grade crossing, don’t stop on it.  Gates – don’t go around them.  Flashers – if they are blinking and the bell is ringing, stop.

Here’s something radical and probably excessive:  if a vehicle is found stopped or parked on a grade crossing, charge the owner with intent to injure.  No parking ticket here folks, we are talking a criminal act.  You can’t convince me that with all of the coverage the accidents are getting these days that people don’t know about what the potential outcome of stopping or parking over a crossing is, and the only reason I can come up with why they would do it would be that they were intending to harm the train.

Why am I this upset?  This is the result of a truck stopped on a grade crossing in the way of a northbound Amtrak train yesterday:


Do you see the locomotive sitting on its side perpendicular to the tracks?  It was being operated by a friend yesterday.  A friend who saw the truck parked across the tracks and put his train into full emergency braking.  A friend who braced himself and had to watch the collision and ride out the locomotive being flipped on its side.  A friend who was fortunate to walk away from the accident without physical injury.  A friend who will be living with the psychological effects from this accident for the rest of his life.

We need to protect our employees, folks, because right now, they are the ones who are at risk.

—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.

 

Dreaming of Warmer Times

February 22nd, 2015

As I write this, I am sitting in my office at the M&E wearing long johns and heavy socks, in addition to my usual attire.  It is in the single digits outside, and the heater for my office trailer is doing what it can to get the temperature up to 65 degrees. We have been fortunate (so far) in New Jersey to avoid the depths of snow up in New England, and we have a snow pack on the ground that is probably about eight to twelve inches.  We have also been fortunate that we have been able to keep the railroad running with minimal disruption.  This time last year we were in the middle of storm after storm, and at one point it took us ten days to clear one of our lines due to the snow and ice accumulation.

Enough talking about another dreary winter. Let’s move on to something that will be in a much warmer place, and the discussion of snow and freezing temperatures will be a thing of the past.

What is it, you ask? Of course I am talking about the ASLRRA 2015 Connections, which will take place March 28-31 at the Hilton Orlando in Orlando, Florida. Those of you who have been reading this blog over the years know that I am very involved with the meeting on a number of levels, so my reasons for you at attend come from a completely biased viewpoint.

Let me give you the biased reasons to attend first. The meeting is simply the biggest short line railroad event.  There is no other place that you will be able to interact with more people in your industry, no other place that you will be able to get more education about topics that affect your operations, and no other place that you will be able to see the best products and services available for your company.  Everything that has been used to describe this meeting usually includes the words bigger and more, because Meeting Chairman Gary Griswell and the planning committee have created an event that has more exhibitors in the biggest exhibition ever, more educational sessions, and more opportunities for interaction than ever before.

Now for the non-biased bit. It should be warmer and greener than just about any place that you are right now (if you are in Hawaii, Mexico, or Miami, you have my apologies).  Orlando in the early spring is not a bad place to be, and you are still at the start of Easter week, so the crowds won’t be too bad.  There won’t be any snow (if there is we have much bigger problems), ice (except in your drink), or bone chilling cold (if you set the air conditioning in your room that low it’s on you).  So make your plans to be in Orlando on March 28-31, and see what ASLRRA Connections is all about.

—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.

 

Fit for Duty?

February 19th, 2015

We all go to work when we are tired. We might need an extra cup of coffee or tea on those days (or a Red Bull, I suppose) but we can get our work done, albeit a bit more slowly or less efficiently. For those of us with office jobs, it might mean having to read an email a few times to understand it completely or being a little less engaged in a conference call or staff meeting.

Tiredness, however, can be a serious problem in the transportation environment – especially when it’s brought on by an underlying sleep or medical problem.

Requiring medical fitness for duty was on the National Transportation Safety Board’s Top 10 so-called Most Wanted List for 2015. Sounds simple enough but in reality is it? Some pilots, vessel and train operators are not medically fit to operate vehicles. Those suffering from impairing medical disorders should not be at the controls unless they receive medical treatment that mitigates the risk to the public.

NTSB said the medical certification processes for safety critical personnel vary widely across modes of transportation. Although the NTSB has found that obstructive sleep apnea has been a factor in multiple accidents, transportation modes often still lack a complete screening process for this condition.

In a 2013 train derailment in the Bronx, the engineer’s sleep apnea was undiagnosed until the week following the derailment, despite many visits for occupational and personal health care. With a change in his work patterns, the combination of the untreated sleep apnea and fatigue from his disrupted sleep schedule led to his fatigue at the time of the accident.

In March 2014, a CTA Blue Line train struck a barrier and went airborne, landing atop an escalator at Chicago’s O’Hare airport station. The woman operating the Chicago commuter train that derailed and injured more than 30 people admitted she fell asleep before the accident and only woke up on impact. She said she had dozed off before and overshot a station. It’s still unclear what role an underlying condition or changing work schedule played in that accident.

Since 2001, the NTSB has identified obstructive sleep apnea as a factor in at least nine accidents in four transportation modes, and recommended that the Federal Railroad Administration require all railroads to screen for and treat sleep apnea more than a decade ago.

The Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study, a longitudinal study of cardiopulmonary sleep disorders among middle-aged working adults, estimated that 2 percent of women and 4 percent of men have sleep apnea. According to the Wisconsin study, 9 percent of women and 24 percent of men have undiagnosed sleep-disordered breathing, a condition that in some people results in excessive daytime sleepiness.

In mid-December, MTA Metro-North Railroad selected a health care company to provide medical testing and evaluation services for a seven-month pilot project focusing on obstructive sleep apnea and locomotive engineers. The railroad developed the pilot in tandem with Long Island Rail Road and New York City Transit, which will be closely following its results. All 410 Metro-North engineers and about 20 engineers in training will undergo an initial screening by the railroad’s Occupational Health Services Department based on industry best practices. Those locomotive engineers recommended for additional screening will be referred to a contractor that specializes in sleep disorders.

The vendor will provide training and test equipment for an at-home, overnight sleep test. In the morning, the engineer will use a prepaid mailer and send the test device back to the vendor. Test data will be analyzed and, if needed, employees will be referred to a sleep specialist for additional testing and/or treatment.

Last month, U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) charged that the MTA still does not have a specific plan to test and treat Long Island Rail Road engineers for sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, and urged that the MTA quickly expand its Metro-North pilot program to include LIRR engineers.

“A light rail crash in Boston prompted the MTA to start testing New York City’s subway engineers for dangerous sleep disorders and then, a Metro-North crash prompted the testing of Metro-North engineers; it shouldn’t take a Long Island Rail Road crash for the MTA to test and treat LIRR engineers for sleep disorders, like sleep apnea,” said Senator Schumer. “Time and again, NTSB has made common-sense recommendations that transit agencies have taken far too long to implement in a comprehensive way. There should be no delay in starting a pilot program for testing LIRR engineers who may suffer from obstructive sleep apnea syndrome, which could put thousands of daily commuters at risk if undetected.”

I don’t often agree with the New York Senator, but I’ve agreed with him at least twice in the last few weeks – once on sleep apnea testing for railroad workers and the other on his new legislation to provide more funds to improve engineering, education and enforcement at railroad grade crossings.

—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 and for the Washington Chapter of WTS.

First Times

February 2nd, 2015

Last week was a little different than the norm, as I got to participate in two widely different and important parts of our industry.  In both cases the people involved were new to the rail industry, and each was trying to work their way into what would be their place of business for the next couple of years.

The first event of the week was the fun one.  Back in November, during one of my first chances to talk with her, new ASLRRA president Linda Darr mentioned that she wanted to have a dinner with the Eastern Region Board, since she had similar dinners with the other board members during their regional meetings, and couldn’t with the East since she was not on board with the Association yet.  So after a number of phone conversations and emails with Eastern Region VP Carl Belke, Morristown was nominated as a central meeting point for everyone to come to, and once that was agreed to and a date was set, Holly and I decided to host everyone for a reception prior to the dinner at our house.  Amazingly, even with all of our schedules and January weather, only one of the eight board members did not make it (that person has been informed that they will never live that absence down), and a really great evening ensued.  We all got to meet our new president, she got to know us better, and as will always happen when you get a bunch of railroaders around a table, lots of good ideas and stories flowed throughout the night.  The next morning Linda was able to make a quick visit to the M&E’s shops and we took her on a tour of the goings on, and almost as soon as everything got going everyone was gone.

The next day I was on my way to Massillon, Ohio to do some training and installation for a new railroad that is starting up, the RSL Railroad(for those of you playing at home, yes, once again I am going to a cold, snowy place in the middle of the winter).  I’ve been involved with a couple of startup facilities in my career, and it is always a lot of fun to work with those who are basically giving birth to a new child.  The RSL is being built on the property of an old steel mill, and they are fortunate because they already have a customer ready to start up with them.  Like the dinner, both making the sale and getting them ready was a multi week process (actually almost a year, as I first met the owner of the RSL last year in San Diego at the 2014 ASLRRA Connections), and actually being on site to finish the install and train the people was a necessary part of the birth.  It also helps to actually see the railroad, and I can tell you from what I saw these guys are doing it right.

So if I was going to sum up the week in one word, it would be exciting.  Why?  Beyond the thrill of hosting everyone, having heard what Linda has planned for the ASLRRA, and getting a chance to get to know her better really has me excited for the coming years of her presidency.  She really is the right person for the association, and it will be an exciting time.  As for the RSL, it is always exciting to be a part of the birth of anything new, and I think it is going to be fun to watch this company get things moving over the coming weeks and months.

—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.

Resolutions for a New Year

January 14th, 2015

So we are now into 2015, and I thought I would make a couple of resolutions, and lo and behold, I have already succeeded in keeping them for the first two weeks of the year!  But seriously, here are a couple of things that may sound like the traditional resolution, but stray off the beaten path a bit.

Resolution #1:  Meet new people

This one is pretty easy, since there has been so much change in our industry in the last couple of months.  We now have a new Acting Administrator of the FRA as of this week, our new President of the ASLRRA, and we also will be getting a new top Short Line person at CSXT, with the upcoming retirement of Len Kellermann.  A great place to see and meet these and other people in the industry is at the ASLRRA’s 2015 Connections in Orlando, FL March 28-31.

Resolution #2:  Lose weight

Now I could start a diet, keep it for a month or so, and watch that one go by the wayside.  What I have done instead is put my briefcase on a diet.  Right now, you are probably saying “so what,” but let me explain.  My briefcase, which is currently a backpack, has to carry my laptop, my iPad, chargers, a camera, batteries, and other assorted cables and electronic stuff.  I also have my travel necessities like my frequent flyer cards and other various membership materials in there, as well as probably $20 in coins that get tossed in when I am going through airport security.  All in all, it probably weighed over 25 pounds, and considering that I have one surgically repaired shoulder that the weight contributed to the original damage to already, it was time for a change.

What have I done?  First of all, I went through every pocket and compartment in my briefcase, got rid of cables and chargers that were both unneeded and obsolete, added to my kid’s savings accounts with the dumped coin, and also changed up my laptop for a windows tablet with a keyboard (sorry Microsoft, the tablet is nice, but the iPad stays).  The electronics change alone dropped almost three pounds from the bag, and my right shoulder is much happier with its lighter load.

Resolution #3: Exercise more

Sorry, none of this treadmill or walking the dog thing.  However, I can tell you that the travel schedule for the first quarter is much busier than it was last year.  I already have my first SDS trip next week, the CSXT Short Line Conference is in early March, and the aforementioned ASLRRA Connections takes up the end of March.  Toss on top of that the other SDS, committee and Class 1 meetings, RR Day on Capitol Hill in June, the ASLRRA Regional meetings in the fall and maybe a vacation or two thrown in for fun, I think I am going to get my walking in.

Resolution #4:  Keep writing

With this blog, I am starting year number seven of writing for RailResource, and this is blog #158.  When this first started back in 2009, I don’t think Kathy Keeney thought I had this much to say (I don’t think I did either), but I do enjoy writing this thing every two weeks (or so), and I haven’t been told to stop yet, so let’s see what 2015 brings.

—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.

Changes in D.C.

December 29th, 2014

The Transportation Research Board’s annual meeting and Railroad Day on Capitol Hill are two events in D.C. that many in the railroad industry look forward to during the first quarter of every year. Both have major changes for 2015.

For the first time in nearly 60 years, the TRB Annual Meeting will move to a new venue. The TRB 94th Annual Meeting will be held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., from January 11-15. It had been held for years at three Connecticut Avenue hotels —the Washington Marriott Wardman Park (formerly the Sheraton Park), the Omni Shoreham, and the Washington Hilton.

With approximately 12,000 attendees, 5,000 presentations in more than 800 sessions and workshops, 350 committee meetings, and 200 exhibits during its four-and- a-half days, the annual meeting had grown so much that previous venues were stretched. Space in the Convention Center and at the adjacent, new Marriott Marquis headquarters hotel is expected to meet the needs of the annual meeting, with room for future growth.

Meanwhile, you shouldn’t have to worry about bitter cold weather or snow in D.C. for Railroad Day on Capitol Hill in 2015. Organizers have moved the lobbying event from its traditional February/March timeframe to June because of a scheduling issue.

Mark your calendars: Railroad Day on Capitol Hill is Thursday, June 4. It is an important industry event that includes meetings with members of Congress throughout the day and a high-profile legislative reception and dinner, which draws a virtual Who’s Who in the railroad industry.  The host hotel is the Renaissance Washington D.C. Downtown. More event information is available here: http://www.aslrra.org/meetings___seminars/railroad_day_on_capitol_hill

Happy New Year to all my friends and colleagues. I wish you safe travels to D.C. and everywhere else on the rail meeting schedule in 2015.

—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 and for the Washington Chapter of WTS.

Challenges?

December 29th, 2014

Here we are, at the change of the year, and while I wouldn’t classify 2014 as a tough year by any measure, 2015 already has the makings for one that will tax (no pun intended) us a bit.  In the year past we have changed leadership at the ASLRRA (and the new president is already fast at work), got the 45G tax credit retroactively renewed, and have dealt with challenges like rulemaking on two-man crews, train securement, and crude by rail.  So what are the items that we will be facing in 2015?

New Congress

Starting in January, we will have a new Congress, with both houses being controlled by one party.  There will be a number of new members in Congress, and our challenge will be the same as it is every year with all of our politicians: educate, educate, educate.  The more knowledge they have about us, the less chance there is for “surprise” legislation (like the RSIA of 2008) that has an inverse cost benefit ratio.  There is also a bit of a time crunch with the next election in 2016 being a presidential one, and if past history holds, Congress will do even less than it does now once election season gets in full swing.

New FRA Chief

With FRA Administrator Joe Szabo’s departure, there is an opening at the top.  Hopefully, with the Republican Congress and a lame duck president we will see a slightly less controversial Administrator than Mr. Szabo, who had strong union ties, and at times did show some leaning towards their ideals.

PTC

As the law reads (now), on December 31, 2015, the railroads that need to deploy PTC must have the initial required deployment complete.  If you believe that it will happen, I have some nice oceanfront property in Colorado that I can sell you, and if that is not your taste, I do have an option on the Brooklyn Bridge.  That being said, do not think for a second that everyone is sitting on their butts waiting for the law to change.  Railroads and their suppliers are working as fast as physically possible to make PTC happen, and on a limited basis we are starting to see deployments take place.  Will we be ready?  No.  Will we make as good an attempt as we can, and might make the requirement 18-24 months down the road?  Most likely, and don’t expect Congress to do anything about this until the later part of the third quarter at the earliest, and maybe not until this time next year.

So as the old calendar gets tossed and the new one gets put up on the first page, do take the time to look back at what has happened over the previous twelve months. But don’t take too long, because the new year is going to get moving pretty quickly, and I don’t see it slowing down any time soon.

Have a Happy New Year!

—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.

Winding Down

December 15th, 2014

I kind of like this time of year.  I’m talking about the period from Thanksgiving to Christmas, roughly three weeks that really signal the end of the business year (truth be told, I’m also kind of partial to it because my birthday falls in it, but that’s beside the point).  Yes, it is a time for parties and celebrating, but it is also a time that careers come to a close, and three people that have had an effect on my career are in the process of calling time right now.  Two of them you have probably heard of.  One, probably not.

Let’s start with the one you probably have heard of the most:  ASLRRA President Rich Timmons.  A lot has been written about Rich over the last two years, and I can conclusively report that he has actually retired from the position of ASLRRA President after a two year retirement tour.  I have had the fortune of working with Rich over the last twelve years, and am honored to call him a friend.  While railroading was always a backdrop to our discussions, my interest in military history will probably be a central part of our talks in the coming years.  I wish Rich the best, and I hope that his wife Margo will get to enjoy having her soldier home for a long time.

Bob Bailey of the Port Jersey Railroad has been a mentor and friend of mine for almost as long as I have been in the industry.  Bob was very close with my father, working with him to form the NJ Short Line Railroad Association, and also served with him on the Board of Directors of the ASLRRA, where Bob eventually became the Eastern Region Vice President.  Following my father’s death, Bob was the one who got me involved in both associations, leading eventually to me being the Treasurer of the New Jersey association, and a director for the ASLRRA.  Bob was also the person who planted the idea with me of forming Short Line Data Systems, and even though his company never did sign up, he has been a staunch supporter of mine throughout the years.  Bob won’t be sitting still (if he did I think Bridget would kill him), as he is going to be consulting and spending a lot of time with his grandchildren.

Now the last guy I am sure that most of you have never heard of.  His name is Paul Yanosik, and due to the fact that he has a large proboscis and a slight build, it should be no surprise that he has been called “Bird” for a very long time.  I started working with Paul when I was in college and worked at the M&E part time on the track gang.  I learned most of what I know about how to build and maintain track from him, and also learned a lot about the history of the railroads in the area.  Paul was someone who always wanted to work for the railroad when he was growing up, and while he did work for a number of companies, most of his time was spent with us at the M&E.  In addition to his rail knowledge, he is also a talented musician and railroad modeler, and some of his scratch built locomotives put professional modelers to shame.  The youngest of this group of three, I have a feeling that Paul will be doing what he likes best now, chasing trains on gloomy days, volunteering for one of the museums in the area, and playing and restoring classic guitars.

Each of these three people has had a significant impact on me and my career, each in a different way.  In fact, without what I have learned from each of them, my personal library of railroad knowledge would be a lot more empty.  I wish each of them the best in their retirement.

—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.

Risk and Innovation

December 1st, 2014

Picture this:  following the accidents that took place last year on short lines, people start calling for the end of the short line industry because it just simply isn’t working.  The industry just can’t do the job, and no one can tolerate the damage and deaths.  Crazy you say?  Maybe for our industry, but it did take place a couple of weeks ago in another industry that has small companies starting to forge new paths for transportation.  What industry am I talking about?  Private space transportation.

You might have seen the first accident that took place on live television.  Orbital Sciences Corporation, which is one of two companies that have won contracts with NASA to transport cargo to the international space station, was launching their Antares launch vehicle for the fourth time from Wallops Island, VA.  Liftoff was scheduled for a little after 6pm Eastern time, and what happened was something straight out of the old films of rocket launches from the 50’s and 60’s:  the rocket lifted off, had a problem about 15 seconds into flight, crashed back down to the ground, and blew up.  Big time blew up.  Fortunately, damage was minimal to the launch site, and no one was injured.  Very quickly the focus was on the engines in the launcher’s first stage, which were reconditioned and modernized engines that were built over forty years ago for the Soviet N-1 moon rocket, which itself had a habit of doing the same thing the Antares did.  So what did Orbital do once the accident happened?  It has picked itself up, brushed itself off, and has come up with plans to resume its contracted business as soon as possible.  Initially, it will use other companies to haul their spaceship to orbit while they work on a re-engined version of the Antares.

The other accident that happened was almost as violent, and did result in a loss of life.  Spaceship Two, which is designed to haul tourists (who have paid $250,000 a ticket) on sub-orbital flights, was undergoing a flight test over the Mojave Desert in California.  Shortly after the vehicle ignited its rocket motor a violent breakup took place, which killed one pilot, and injured the other, who parachuted back to the ground.  Initially people speculated that the motor was the cause of the breakup, but as investigators started to look at the wreckage and evidence, a different story emerged:  one of the pilots (unfortunately the one that was killed) unlocked a braking system earlier than he should have, and it activated at the wrong time, which caused the breakup of the vehicle.  While there might have been a flaw in the braking system, it is starting to look like the early unlocking of the system may have led to the start of the accident.  While the investigations in an accident that had a loss of life take much longer than ones that don’t, Spaceship Two’s builders are pressing on with the construction of a new vehicle and say they will carry passengers when the vehicle is done, and the testing says it is ready to go.

Following both of these accidents, which took place within a couple of days of each other, there were those who started to publicly question whether it is appropriate and safe for private companies to be developing and operating space vehicles.  What makes these companies any different than a short line?  Other than the fact that they are financially much bigger than most of us and are operating in a high tech industry, not very much.  They have the vision to make transportation better, less expensive (a relative term), and more accessible, which is not unlike a short line railroad.  Both of these companies will bounce back from these unfortunate accidents, and pave a similar road to space that the short lines did less than a hundred years ago.

Anyone want to lend me $250k?

—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.