Jodie Brantley, TVRM
Scholarships Boost Employee Training and Railroads’ Bottom Line
ASLRRA’s industry scholarships allow railroad professionals to fund crucial training, an opportunity that eases the financial burden on small companies like ASLRRA member Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM) and allowing them to reallocate those funds elsewhere in the organization.
Jodie Brantley, manager of safety and operating rules at Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum/Tyner Terminal Railway Corporation, attended ASLRRA’s Part 219 Drug and Alcohol Training Seminar in late January 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. He received a Golden Scholarship that provided $1,200 to pay for registration fees and travel and lodging costs.
As Brantley describes, TVRM is a small non-profit railroad, but the size of the railroad does not lessen the importance of staying current with training and compliance.
“We don’t have a large budget for training expenses, but I feel that training is very necessary to develop as a professional railroader and help others in my company,” said Brantley via email.
Indeed, the seminar not only helped Brantley learn more about Part 219, it gave him the tools to be more proficient in his role as designated employer representative (DER), including helping him understand what questions to ask and where to find correct answers. As Brantley noted, the training has made him “better suited to help TVRM by being a more informed teammate for the company.”
For Brantley, the opportunity to network with fellow rail professionals at ASLRRA’s seminar was an added benefit. Overall, given the ease of the application process, the value of the scholarship and the quality of the training seminar, Brantley said he would recommend the program to anyone like him who is “looking to better themselves in the rail industry.”
Mike Poncil, Klamath Railway
Scholarships Help ASLRRA Members Stretch Their Training Budget
Short lines often have to balance competing interests when deciding how to allocate funding in a given fiscal period – but ASLRRA’s training scholarships, supported by a generous donation from the Douglas Golden-Mary Cullen Charitable Fund, can help small railroads meet their personnel needs without adding extra financial strain.
A Golden Scholarship helped Michael Poncil of ASLRRA member Klamath Northern Railway Company (KNOR) attend ASLRRA’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Part 219 Drug and Alcohol Training Seminar in late January 2023 in Phoenix, Arizona. As Poncil noted in an email interview, receiving scholarship funds will enable him to attend more than one training seminar. Such opportunities are important, because receiving more training enables Poncil to “be even more educated on some of [his] responsibilities at work to make sure that [the] railroad stays in compliance with all FRA rules.”
As is common among small-railroad employees, Poncil fills multiple roles within the organization that require him to keep up with many rules and regulations. Although Poncil’s official titles are that of KNOR’s designated supervisor of locomotive engineers (DSLE), designated employer representative (DER) and track inspector, he also takes on responsibilities as a locomotive engineer and conducts minor rail car repairs and inspections.
Poncil emphasized the importance of the scholarship program to small railroads like KNOR that have limited ability to set aside funds for training, but for which training is crucial to ensuring the railroad complies with FRA requirements. The ease of the application process was an additional benefit; Poncil learned about the scholarship for the first time while at ASLRRA’s training seminar and applied while still in Phoenix.