This year, ASLRRA will induct Pete Claussen, Bruce M. Flohr, Edward “Ed” Lewis and Richard Robey into the Short Line Railroad Industry Hall of Fame at the ASLRRA Annual Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans, Louisiana. Lewis, who passed away in 2015, will be honored posthumously.
These individuals are recognized for their decades of work advancing the short line railroad industry. Their vision, dedication, entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to service exemplify what have come to be hallmarks of the short line industry. Collectively, the honorees have worked with and around short lines for nearly two centuries, founding companies, managing multiple railroads, writing books and more.
“Our industry stands on the shoulders of individuals who took great risks and tackled great obstacles with grit and determination. These individuals have each added their own chapter to the all-American short line railroading story. We are grateful for the leadership of those that have come before us, and inspired by their achievements,” said ASLRRA President Chuck Baker.
Honorees Flohr, Lewis and Robey all got their start in rail within two years of each other, joining the Southern Pacific Railroad, Long Island Rail Road and Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad, respectively, in the mid 1960s. Flohr went on to found RailTex, which started as a rail leasing company but grew to be the largest short line holding company in North America by the time Flohr sold the company in 2000. Lewis became the first company outsider hired as president of the Aberdeen and Rockfish Railroad. He held that position for 20 years and was credited with bringing about much of the railroad’s recent successes. And Robey established the North Shore Railroad Company with only seven employees, growing rail traffic from a handful of cars to between 20,000 and 30,000 annually today.
Claussen entered the rail industry later, after an early career as a lawyer. He took advantage of the opportunities made possible by the Staggers Rail Act, founding Gulf & Ohio Railways in 1985. Today, G&O operates four short lines, a tourist excursion operation and a locomotive remanufacturing company.
Outside their roles as railroad leaders, each of this year’s honorees have also demonstrated a commitment to the industry and other important causes. Learn more about this year’s honorees at ASLRRA’s Short Line Railroad Industry Hall of Fame home page.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has issued a safety advisory notice concerning railroad emergency preparedness. The advisory is in response to the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern (NS) derailment and hazardous materials (hazmat) release in East Palestine, Ohio.
The notice reminds all rail hazmat shippers that they are obligated to appropriately plan for emergencies and share information about available emergency response resources. PHSMA also encourages shippers to ensure emergency responders are adequately equipped to respond to rail hazmat incidents.
ASLRRA members should consider using the AskRail app and speaking about it with emergency responders along their right of way.
In addition, ASLRRA has developed an Emergency Response Plan template that can be customized to meet the needs of a railroad. Download this resource, and other materials to assist in disaster preparedness.
For small railroads, the Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI) offers several hazardous materials training resources, available at no cost to railroads thanks to grant awards from PHMSA.
The Hazardous Materials Training Program complements training already taking place on railroads, ensuring that employees understand the hazmat regulations. The program also reviews emergency response procedures and provides function-specific training.
SLSI can also provide hazmat training directly to first responders through a new Assistance for Local Emergency Response Training (ALERT) Grant. Learn more about this training in our Announcements section below.
The Institute can also help railroads develop a Transportation Emergency Response Plan (TERP) specific to the railroad’s location and operations. The TERP is a training and response tool that railroads can share and use for joint training with local first responder agencies.
Finally, the SLSI has a number of resources easily accessible online for use in safety briefings and other training including Safety Tips in .pdf and video formats, and online hazmat education via Minute Videos or four-to-seven minute Fast Class Training Videos. All these resources are available at no cost to short line railroads.
Mark Your Calendar for a SLSI Webinar on Available Resources
The SLSI will host a webinar on March 29 at 2:30 p.m. Eastern to provide more details on the breadth of hazmat training programs and resources available to assist railroads and first responders.
To learn more about SLSI’s hazmat training resources, or to request a training, contact the institute at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) has issued a safety advisory notice concerning tank cars in response to the Feb. 3 Norfolk Southern (NS) derailment and hazardous materials (hazmat) release in East Palestine, Ohio.
The notice alerts hazmat tank car owners and offerors of the potential dangers associated with tank cars equipped with aluminum manway protective housing covers. Certain manway assemblies with aluminum covers can melt when exposed to extreme heat like that experienced in a pool fire situation. PHMSA encourages owners and offerors to survey their fleets for tank cars with aluminum protective housing and consider replacement of the aluminum with carbon steel housing.
PHMSA is concerned about the danger melting covers might present in a pool fire situation, and notes that additional action may be taken if investigations into the NS derailment reveal melted aluminum manway covers significantly contributed to improper functioning of pressure relief devices. The agency points out that, to its understanding, use of carbon steel covers is the current industry practice.
On March 1, a group of lawmakers led by Senators JD Vance (R-Ohio) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced a bill addressing railroad safety. The bill, S.576, includes a number of provisions. For example it establishes requirements for wayside defect detectors, creates new procedures for trains carrying hazardous materials and increases maximum fines for safety violations.
ASLRRA is concerned about the impact of the bill on short line freight rail operations and issued a statement addressing the specific sections the Association finds most troubling.
In the statement, ASLRRA President Chuck Baker said, “Small business short line freight railroads are open to solutions that make what is already an extraordinarily safe mode of freight transportation even safer, and we are also not averse to reasonable regulations that directly address an identified safety issue to be solved.
We appreciate the proposed legislation’s call for faster phase-out of older tank cars, and the call for an increase in funding to both the FRA and PHMSA for relevant research and development targeted at wayside defect detectors and stronger and safer tank cars. We would in fact support an even higher level of such investment, in addition to robust investment and an increased focus on freight rail in the various USDOT programs that can be used for short line infrastructure investment.
Most of this bill, however, misses the mark on safety. There are multiple proposed provisions regarding mandated notifications, equipment, personnel, and operating practices that are untested, fail to recognize the day-to-day realities of short line freight rail, and could lead to greater hazards on the national rail network. Moreover, much of the bill is unrelated to the recent derailment, redundant with regulatory action already underway, unresponsive to the preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report, and premature before the NTSB investigation concludes.
If a bill such as this were to advance into law, it would drive rail transportation costs up without an attendant safety benefit, thus causing the presumably unintended consequence of shifting a significant amount of hazardous material shipments from rail to the highway system, a less safe way to transport hazardous materials.
We will continue to work with Congress and regulating bodies to ensure that proposals to improve safety and performance on the U.S. freight rail system are realistically implementable by small business short line freight railroads.”
The Biden administration is expected to release its Fiscal Year 2024 federal budget proposal tomorrow. The proposed budget contains the policy proposals and funding levels that the administration would like to see implemented to govern federal programs starting October 1, 2023, when the next fiscal year begins. The proposal has implications for the short line freight rail industry, as lawmakers will use its recommendations to suggest appropriations and funding levels for rail-related agencies and programs as well as start the process for making their own requests for funding allocation.
ASLRRA staff will review the budget for its impact on Federal Railroad Administration efforts and short line priorities like funding for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program and supporting the Short Line Safety Institute. The Association will then also begin contacting congressional offices to encourage lawmakers to support robust appropriations for these priorities.
Two congressional committees will hold hearings this week on issues important to the railroad industry. On March 8 the House Transportation and Infrastructure’s (T&I) Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee will hold a pipeline safety hearing in preparation for reauthorization of the federal pipeline safety program. On March 9 the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) will hold a hearing on the East Palestine, Ohio train derailment and the environmental and public health effects of the accident.
While the T&I hearing is focused on pipelines, the conversation will likely delve into talks about the transportation of hazardous materials on other modes, such as rail. The EPW hearing will feature testimony from Norfolk Southern President and CEO Alan Shaw and representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and local Ohio environmental and emergency agencies.
Given increased scrutiny on rail operations, ASLRRA staff will be closely monitoring both hearings for comments relevant to the short line railroad industry.
Know a company that would benefit from joining and participating in ASLRRA? Please contact ASLRRA’s Senior Vice President of Membership and Business Development Kathy Keeney via email or on (202) 585-3439.
Driven Engineering, Inc., based in Semmes, Alabama, is a woman-owned civil engineering company with expertise in transportation and industrial site design. It has been designing track and associated infrastructure for short lines, Class I railroads, and industry since its inception. It has extensive experience generating flood studies for proposed bridges, facilitating environmental permit hurdles, and generating detailed plans for new track that include consideration for storm drainage. Our primary contact is President Avalisha Fisher, who can be reached on (251) 649-4011. Learn more: visit Booth # 325 in the Expo Hall during our annual conference next month in New Orleans.
Eurofins TestOil, Inc., based in Strongsville, Ohio, provides oil, coolant and diesel fuel analysis with the fastest turnaround times in the industry for locomotive engines, compressors and gearboxes. Business Development Manager – Transportation Stephanie Boardman is our primary contact and can be reached on (856) 718-4467. Learn more: visit them in Booth # 427 in the Expo Hall during our annual conference next month in New Orleans.
Innovative Operations Technology LLC, based in Port Clinton, Pennsylvania, provides railroad dispatching and office control system software. It also offers railroad customer and passenger ticketing platforms and can provide customized software development. VP Sales & Marketing Jonathan Barket is our primary contact and can be reached on (484) 662-7274. Learn more: visit Booth # 859 in the Expo Hall during our annual conference next month in New Orleans.
Metal Culverts Inc., based in Jefferson City, Missouri, is a full-line manufacturer of corrugated metal pipe and associated drainage products. In business since 1958, Metal Culverts services the entire United States from its 8 manufacturing facilities in the Midwest and Southeast U.S. The family-owned business offers a full line of corrugated metal pipe in all coatings, corrugations, construction types (riveted and helical), and diameters from 6" to 144". Our primary contact is Marketing Manager Justin Van Hall. Learn more: visit Booth #827 in the Expo Hall during our annual conference next month in New Orleans.
Individuals looking to book accommodations in official hotel room blocks for ASLRRA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition now have until March 10 to do so, although space in each of the three available hotels is still extremely limited. Room rates will increase on March 11, though the blocks may be sold out before then.
In addition to being an opportunity for education and networking, ASLRRA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition is a celebration of industry achievement. Register today to join fellow railroad industry professionals in honoring this year’s Short Line Railroad Industry Hall of Fame Inductees and winners of ASLRRA’s annual awards.
The Association will recognize the 2023 Hall of Fame class during Monday’s General Session. Pete Claussen, Bruce Flohr and Richard Robey will be in attendance, while Paul Barnes will accept the award on behalf of the late Edward Lewis.
During the General Session ASLRRA will also honor the Distinguished Service Award winner and the winners of the Business Development Awards, Environmental Award, Veterans Engagement Award and Safety Awards.
Although the Expo Hall at ASLRRA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition is a popular place for networking, many attendees also make connections through other conference activities, like golf.
Individuals can still sign up for golf and golf club rentals are available. This year’s tournament will take place on two courses: the Lakewood Golf Club and the English Turn Golf Club.
ASLRRA former Board Chair Doc Claussen has shared his annual golf challenge video. Follow the link to watch it online, then click here to register for the conference and be sure to add golf when completing the form.
The Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI) completed its first Assistance for Local Emergency Response Training (ALERT) program at the New Orleans and Gulf Coast Railway in Belle Chasse, Louisiana this past week. Members of local emergency response, including the Jefferson Parish HazMat Team, the Jefferson Parish Fire Department, and the Gretna Police Department, and railroad employees participated in training combining instruction, hands-on training, and interactive experience-based discussions tailored to meet first responders’ needs.
The Short Line Safety Institute’s expert instructors, who have more than 600 years of combined experience in hazardous materials transportation safety, covered baseline information, safety and scene size-up, scene isolation and product identification, incident management and rail industry collaboration.
“Ensuring that local first responders can rapidly and effectively respond to a hazardous materials incident in partnership with railroad personnel will provide the best opportunity for a safe well-coordinated incident response and community protection. In the more than 200 hazmat training classes that the SLSI has provided to short line railroads since the program began, the ability to train local first responders has been a consistent request shared by participants, and we are pleased to be able to meet that need with the ALERT program,” said Tom Murta, Executive Director, SLSI.
The program is provided at no cost to the participating entities with grant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) through the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHMSA).
For more information on the ALERT grant and other training programs offered at no cost to railroads, visit www.shortlinesafety.org.
The family of Short Line Safety Institute hazardous materials (hazmat) instructor and former general manager of the Central California Traction Company Dave Buccolo has announced plans for Buccolo’s memorial services.
A celebration of life will be held in Altadena, California on April 30 and will include speakers and refreshments comprising Buccolo’s favorite foods. Attendees are encouraged to bring their stories, photos and memories of Buccolo. For more information about the memorial service, please contact JR Gelnar.
Donations from retired former ASLRRA board member Douglas Golden and his wife Mary to ASLRRA’s Short Line Education Fund through their Douglas Golden-Mary Cullen Charitable Fund have made a total of $36,000 in scholarships in industry training available to railroaders over the past three years.
Employees at small railroads earning $10 million or less in annual revenues are eligible for scholarships of up to $1,200, which can be used to pay for registration fees, travel and lodging costs for certain types of industry training. Eligible training topics include track, bridge and signal inspection and maintenance; railroad safety and operations training; locomotive and freight car inspection and maintenance and more. Scholarship recipients can also use funds for ASLRRA training seminars, including upcoming events in Phoenix and Iowa.
Special consideration is given to employees at ASLRRA members in the southern region. This year the Association hopes to award eight to ten scholarships to small-railroad employees in the southern region. Follow this link to learn more about the scholarship program, or click here to apply. Applications are accepted and evaluated on a rolling basis.
The Coalition Heath Plan is specifically designed for ASLRRA members looking for a solution to reduce their medical premiums and simplify the healthcare experience for their employees. As the fifth largest broker in the world with over 500 locations in North America, HUB International is well equipped to provide ASLRRA members with a vast network of benefits experts and best-in-class resources no matter where the member company is located in the US.
Partnering with HUB puts ASLRRA members at the center of a vast network of experts who provide risk services, claims management, and compliance support. Visit ASLRRA’s Member Discount Program page and select Employee Health Insurance to start saving today.
ASLRRA staff traveled to Texas and Florida this week to work with industry partners on important railroad issues.
Association Vice President, Data and Technology Fred Oelsner was at BNSF headquarters in Fort Worth to participate in a meeting of the Positive Train Control (PTC) Systems Engineering Advisory Group hosted by MxV Rail. The group worked to prioritize PTC interoperability change requests made by railroads and other stakeholders.
Assistant Vice President, Legislative & Regulatory Crystal Gitchell attended the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA) Railroad Community of Interest meeting in Jacksonville to discuss grade crossings. Representatives from FHWA, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), many state departments of transportation and railroad stakeholders met to discuss best practices for communicating with each other on grade crossing projects.
On March 2, ASLRRA Senior Vice President, Law and General Counsel Sarah Yurasko participated in the League of Railway Women's (LRW) Inaugural Embracing Equity Symposium in Chicago, Illinois, to celebrate International Women's Day, which is today. Yurasko currently serves as LRW President.
The symposium was hosted in collaboration with Class I railroads, contractors, suppliers, and short line railroads. It featured sessions on resources that drive diversity and effective communication and a working session on establishing employee resource groups. ASLRRA member parent company Anacostia Rail Holding’s Kimia Khatami spoke on a panel addressing resources that drive diversity.
ASLRRA’s Sarah Yurasko, second from right, who also serves as president of the League of Railway Women (LRW), poses for a picture with LRW board members and committee chairs at the organization’s inaugural Embracing Equity Symposium.
Two articles, one in the February edition of Progressive Railroading magazine and the other in the March issue of Railway Age magazine, feature input from ASLRRA President Chuck Baker on legislative topics.
The Progressive Railroading cover article focuses on railroads’ plans for government advocacy in 2023. Baker shares insight into the Association’s aspirations, including advocating for robust funding for short line railroad programs; proposing funding in the upcoming Farm Bill for agricultural shippers to make rail upgrades; and supporting the creation of a federal program to provide disaster relief funding for short line railroads.
Data from ASLRRA and comments from Baker also informed the recent column by Railway Age magazine’s Financial Editor David Nahass on H.R. 25, the Fair Tax Act and the Railroad Track Maintenance Credit, known as 45G.
Nahass examines the 45G tax credit in light of the Fair Tax Act, which proposes to eliminate all federal tax credits, deductions and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Nahass cites ASLRRA and Baker when discussing 45G’s bipartisan popularity and its success in contributing to the improvement of short line infrastructure.
USDA Financing Options for Short Line and Regional Railroad– March 9, 2023
MapleMark Bank Senior Vice President and Director, Government Programs Matt Peeler and Executive Vice President, Business Development W. Mack Renner will explain what options small railroads have for procuring funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Click here to learn more about ASLRRA’s education offerings.
The University of Delaware is offering an in-person course titled “Introduction to Data Science for Railway,” held May 2-3 in Newark, Delaware.
This course offers an overview of data science techniques and their application to railway-specific data. It is a high-level introduction, with a focus on understanding what data science does and the various modern data science techniques. It is intended for managers and railway personnel who collect, analyze and utilize inspection and other data.
Real world case-studies will be presented and discussed, using actual data and techniques, to better understand practical implementation. Please use this link to register for the course.
Click here for a calendar of industry events.
Views & News is published by American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.
Please contact Amy Krouse, editor, with questions or comments.