A lot has been written about the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, and one of the hardest hit transportation agencies was NJ Transit. For whatever reason, a large portion of the agency’s rail fleet was left in locations that flooded, and some pieces of equipment had one foot or more of water inside of them (look up the movie Risky Business, and the scene where the Porsche of Tom Cruise’s father is fished out of the water, and you’ll get the idea). The day after Sandy hit, I was on the national coordination call that the FRA put together to determine how severe the damage was, and what help each railroad needed. When NJT got on the call, they told the story of what happened, and that in addition to the equipment being under water, their shops were equally damaged. There was a lot of discussion of what the other railroads could do to help, and no one had an easy solution, since moving the damaged equipment at any sort of speed was not an option. Once a quiet spot opened in the conversation, I spoke up and offered NJT the option of using our shops at the Morristown & Erie, which are located about 15 miles from where the flooded equipment was located and directly connected to NJT’s system.
Over the next couple of days there were continuing discussions and offers of assistance from all of the railroads in the area, but in the end NJT decided that the best course of action was to take us up on our offer. Less than a week after the storm ended, and even before NJT had resumed service on their system, ten locomotives were sitting on our doorstep. Our shop forces, combined with four people from their shops, proceeded to do change outs on all of the combos (traction motors and axles) on each locomotive. In the end, the controlling part of the process was receiving the rebuilt combos (we only received two or three deliveries a week). Once the combos arrived, the crews functioned like a well-oiled machine. The locomotive was jacked up, the trucks were rolled out, cranes were used to lift the trucks and change the combos. Then the process was reversed to get the locomotive assembled and set out on the interchange track for its trip back to NJT. There was no “us and them”, we all just worked together safely. We all had a job to do and we got it done.
The project finished up last week, and our house guests from NJT left after nineteen locomotives were completed. The Morristown & Erie was the only outside shop that NJT sent equipment to for repair. We thank them for their business and their trust in us. It’s a good feeling to know that we are there for each other.
—By Steve Friedland
Steve 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.