Views & News - December 20, 2023

Views & News


Happy Holidays!

We are grateful for the opportunity to represent the short line industry and look forward to serving you in 2024!

Please note, we will not publish Views & News on Dec. 27; our next installment will be Jan. 3.


Issue Highlights:

Regulatory – ASLRRA files supplemental comments on OSHA rulemaking, responds to comments on STB switching proposed rule

Legislative – Save the date for Railroad Day on Capitol Hill 2024

Announcements – North America Boxcar Pool helps improve supply chain efficiency

ASLRRA Annual Conference – Hotel rooms selling out quickly, book a room soon

Industry News – ASLRRA celebrates retirements, mourns passings



Early Bird Pricing for Annual Conference Ends in 11 Days

Early bird prices will disappear after Dec. 31 for all ASLRRA Annual Conference and Exhibition registration fees, including the golf tournament, club rentals, continuing legal education (CLE) credits and spouse registrations.

The number of registrations for the short line railroad industry’s premier event continues to climb, and soon those looking to join their colleagues for engaging education sessions, celebrations of industry legends and networking with railroad representatives, suppliers and stakeholders will pay more for the privilege.

Click here to register now for the conference, golf tournament at the Paradise Pointe Golf Complex and CLE credits before prices increase. The conference will take place March 24 to 26 in Kansas City, Missouri.


Irwin Car Paid Ad



ASLRRA Files Supplemental Comments to OSHA Heat Injury and Illness Prevention Rulemaking

ASLRRA filed supplementary comments to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Docket No. 2021-009, addressing heat-related injuries and illnesses. The comments focused on Small Business Advocacy Review (SBAR) Panel materials.

In the comments, ASLRRA restates its position that the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) regulates heat-related safety considerations of railroad operations and also comprehensively addresses various hot and cold-weather related infrastructure and equipment concerns that relate to the safety of railroad operations. Moreover, FRA safety data indicates that heat-related illnesses have not been an issue in the railroad industry.

The comments refer to ASLRRA member Farmrail’s testimony at the panel, stating that only two injuries in the past five years were heat related.  ASLRRA urges OSHA to exclude railroad operations from this ruling, as railroads are adequately regulated by the FRA.


ASLRRA Issues Response to Written Comments Submitted on STB Switching Rulemaking

ASLRRA has submitted a reply in response to written comments submitted regarding the Surface Transportation Board’s (STB) reciprocal switching for inadequate service notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM).

The Association’s reply restates its position that Class II and III railroads should be completely excluded from this rulemaking as was the STB’s intention, noting that nothing in shipper or shipper association comments argued that the STB was incorrect in determining that the NPRM is intended to apply only to Class I railroads.

To add clarity, ASLRRA said the board should also modify its definition of “affiliated companies” and also include a requirement that Short Lines be notified of switches impacting their traffic as proposed in ASLRRA’s Comments.


FAMES Safety Alert Offers Recommendations for Staying Safe While Using Gas-Cutting Torches

The Fatality Analysis of Maintenance-of-Way Employees and Signalmen (FAMES) Committee has issued a new safety alert concerning gas-cutting torches.

The FAMES database notes three fatalities that have occurred due to accidents involving gas-cutting torches, the most recent happening in November 2022 when sparks from a rail saw entered a truck compartment housing the cutting torch and hoses of the welding truck and ignited fuel gases in the compartment.

The alert directs railroads to the regulations issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) concerning storing, transporting and working with gas cylinders used with cutting torches. Also included in the alert are specific recommendations to help prevent these types of incidents, including that individuals perform a leak test away from any ignition source and that they ensure any sparks are properly shielded and not thrown toward any ignition source.




NTSB Issues Safety Recommendation in Response to 2021 Employee Fatality

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a safety recommendation at the conclusion of the investigation of an employee fatality on October 29, 2021, Railroad Investigation Report RIR-23-13. As part of issuing the safety recommendation, the NTSB has asked that ASLRRA share the following information.

On October 4, 2023, the following safety issue was identified:

  • The need to prohibit railroad employees from riding shoving movements through highway-railroad grade crossings equipped only with flashing lights or passive warning devices without ground protection.

ASLRRA asks that member railroads review their procedures related to shoving movements, and communicate them in an upcoming safety briefing. The NTSB recommends that railroads require ground protection at highway-railroad grade crossings equipped only with flashing lights or passive warning devices.

The details of this accident investigation and the resulting safety recommendations may be accessed at


New FRA Documents Discuss Agency Procedures and Processes

In an effort to provide information to the public about certain procedures and processes, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has published two documents, one concerning the investigation process for gathering information and the other concerning the standard operating procedure for real property acquisition.

A section of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) instructs the FRA to develop a standard process for investigators to include stakeholders in the information gathering and consultation process when the FRA conducts accident and incident investigations. The FRA’s new policy document outlines the steps of that process and explains how the agency will work with stakeholders during the response planning phase, investigation phase and analysis phase.

The second document answers frequently asked questions concerning real property acquisition standard operating procedures (SOP) for both the FRA and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The document notes that the SOP only applies to FRA and FTA’s multimodal-funded major capital projects.



Save the Date for Next Year’s Railroad Day on Capitol Hill Advocacy Event

Railroad Day on Capitol Hill will take place on May 8, 2024, with Class I railroads joining Class II and III representatives meeting with federal lawmakers to discuss issues important to the rail industry.

ASLRRA encourages its members and their employees to mark their calendars for next year’s event and consider participating. Railroad Day on Capitol Hill enables railroaders and other industry stakeholders to make connections with D.C. lawmakers responsible for formulating legislation that affects freight rail operations and business practices.

More details about the event will be available soon, including registration information.


Alaska Representative Peltola Cosponsors Short Line Relief Act

Representative Mary Peltola (D-Alaska) is the latest lawmaker to sign on in support of H.R. 3782, the Short Line Railroad Relief Act. She is also the first member of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure to cosponsor the bill.

The Short Line Railroad Relief Act, introduced earlier this year by Representative Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), would create a permanent program at the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to provide rapid emergency assistance to Class II and III railroads that are damaged by disasters. Today such authority exists at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for highways and transit, but not at FRA for small railroad networks.

A bipartisan group of 23 representatives currently cosponsor the bill. ASLRRA staff continues to work to encourage members of Congress to support the bill by becoming a cosponsor, which will help the bill move toward becoming law. The Association’s website includes a disaster relief advocacy page that communicates the importance of this bill for small railroads.


ASLRRA Industry Awards Nominations Ad



Seeking to Maximize Boxcar Efficiency on Your Railroad? Consider Joining the NABP!

After the first load is completed many boxcars have to return empty for the next turn of service. This reduces the asset utilization compared to being able to ship fully loaded cars each way. One way to change that dynamic is to consider participating in the North America Boxcar Pool (NABP).

When railroads share their railcars together in a combined pool, the boxcar received from another railroad can be put to work on the next railroad as if it was their own railcar. Railroads do not have to waste resources switching out and returning empty railcars, eliminating supply chain inefficiencies. Further, sharing railcars greatly reduces empty miles and time spent traveling back to the originating railroad, meaning that more loads can be handled with the same number of railcars. Reduced mileage and faster turn times create capacity that benefits shippers and allows for efficient operations for railroads.

Any common carrier railroad may participate in the NABP provided the railroad meets the requirements set forth in Article 8 of the Pooling Agreement.  Railroads can participate in three pool segments: 50-foot Standard/Plate-C boxcars; 50-foot High Capacity Plate-F boxcars and 60-foot High Capacity Plate-F boxcars.

The Interstate Commerce Commission (now the Surface Transportation Board) approved the Box Car Pooling Agreement in 1987. Today, the NABP is governed by an executive committee and all participating railroads have a seat at the table. Current railroad participants include BNSF Railway, Canadian National Railway, CPKC, CSX Transportation, Ferromex, Norfolk Southern Railway and Union Pacific Railroad. The pool operator is TTX Company.

TTX Company performs central distribution and day-to-day management of the pool. The pool operator maintains pool performance metrics, performs analytical studies and recommends areas of improvement and provides and supports technology necessary to manage the pool.

The pool operator notifies signatory railroads on a weekly basis regarding their deficit or excess capacity, based on contributed equipment. Equipment movement instructions are provided to all signatory railroads to facilitate the rebalancing of equipment across pool participants.

Want to find out more about the benefits provided by NABP participation, and how to join?  Click here for a detailed FAQ document. For further questions, please email TTX at


Association Continues to Accept Nominations for Open Board Seat

ASLRRA is seeking nominees to replace Bob Babcock on the Board of Directors. His election to vice president of the Association’s Eastern Region on the executive board leaves a vacancy in the group of Eastern Region board members.

Board member responsibilities include attending two in-person board meetings annually and several conference calls throughout the year. They are also expected to attend ASLRRA’s annual conference and fall regional meetings and encouraged to attend Railroad Day on Capitol Hill. 

Those wishing to suggest themselves or nominate a candidate should contact Bob Babcock at Nominees must be full railroad members to qualify. ASLRRA’s Legal and Office Administrator Kathi Birch will assist with the election process and can be contacted at or by calling 202-585-3445.


Members Receive Preferred Pricing on Drug and Alcohol Testing Services with Spark TS

Spark TS is the exclusive Preferred Provider of drug and alcohol testing services in the Association’s Member Discount Program.  Spark TS’s expert team has built a program to support railroads and contractors in finding the most effective strategies to manage their company, Part 219, and other DOT-regulated programs.

Spark’s drug and alcohol program services include clinic and mobile and onsite testing services; laboratory and medical review officer (MRO) services; electronic chain of custody forms; and third-party administrator (TPA) - random testing and consortium. 

Visit and click on the Spark TS logo to learn more.


A Donation to the Short Line Education Fund Supports Training and Scholarships

ASLRRA hopes those contemplating making donations through the end of December consider a tax-deductible contribution to the Association’s Short Line Education Fund, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

Since its start in 2017, the Short Line Education Fund has been used to pursue projects that provide critical support for high-priority industry education and training initiatives and award scholarships that enable employees of small railroads to attend industry training and access educational resources.

ASLRRA continues to welcome donations to the Short Line Education Fund. Click here to learn more about the scholarship fund, or send an email to get the donation process started.


ASLRRA Short Line Education Fund


ASLRRA Annual Conference

Hotel Rooms in ASLRRA’s Conference Room Block Selling Out Quickly

All the rooms in the ASLRRA conference room block at the Courtyard by Marriott Downtown Kansas City have sold out, leaving the Loews Kansas City and Hilton President Kansas City as lodging options for ASLRRA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition, taking place March 24 to 26 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Registered attendees can still reserve a room in the two remaining Kansas City hotels where ASLRRA has a room block. Every hotel is either connected to or a short walk from the convention center.

Please be careful to avoid hotel poachers when securing a room for the conference. Be sure to use the hotel phone numbers and links to hotel websites on the ASLRRA Hotel Information website when making hotel reservations.

ASLRRA does not authorize any individuals to book rooms on the Association’s behalf, and anyone who receives solicitations from vendors saying they are “official ASLRRA partners” or “housing representatives” should contact Vice President, Meetings Amy Westerman immediately at or (202) 585-3449. Do not provide any sensitive information via phone or email to these individuals.


Nominations Now Accepted for All ASLRRA Awards

The nomination period is now open through February 9, 2024 for all of ASLRRA’s annual awards. ASLRRA is welcoming nominations for the Veterans Engagement Award, Business Development AwardEnvironmental Award and the Safety Person of the Year and Safety Professional of the Year awards.

Follow each of the links to learn about the awards and access online nomination forms. Nomination forms for all awards are due Feb. 9. Award Winners will be recognized during the general session at ASLRRA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition


ASLRRA 2024 Conference

Register Now Agenda Book Your Room



On-Demand Webinars

Recorded Webinar Series Gives Overview of Railroad Retirement Eligibility and Benefits

Information from the Railroad Retirement Board (RRB) is important to ASLRRA members and webinars on the subject are popular. ASLRRA joined with the RRB to present a three-part series on railroad retirement eligibility and benefits and the recordings are available online. The following titles can be found in ASLRRA’s On-Demand Webinar Library:

  • RRB General Eligibility and Employee Benefits
  • RRB Spouse Benefits and Working After Retirement
  • RRB Survivor Benefits and General Information

Visit ASLRRA’s webinar homepage to view these on-demand offerings and many more in the Association’s webinar library.


Click here to learn more about our education offerings.


Industry News and Events

BRG President and Active ASLRRA Member Norma Torres Retires

BRG President Norma TorresASLRRA extends best wishes and an enthusiastic thank you to Norma Torres, who is retiring from her position as president and chief operating officer of Association member Brownsville & Rio Grande International Railway (BRG) after 34 years with the railroad, including 22 as its leader.

Torres, a pioneer in the short line industry, was the first female executive in the network of BRG parent company OmniTRAX. She served on the ASLRRA's board of directors, including in the group representing the Central Region. She is known to lend a hand at ASLRRA events, often volunteering at regional meetings and the annual conference.

Torres began her career in transportation at the Port of Brownsville in 1982. When she first joined the BRG in 1989, her first role was as a customer service agent. She was named vice president of administration in 1994 and executive vice president in 1998 before being named president and COO in 2001.

In addition to her work with ASLRRA, Torres has been active with the Southwest Association of Rail Shippers, Brownsville Economic Development Council and Brownsville Chamber of Commerce. She is a dedicated member of the Brownsville community and works to address local issues like education and food insecurity.

ASLRRA thanks Torres for her years of service with the Association and the short line community. She leaves behind a legacy that serves to inspire the next generation of railroaders.


ASLRRA Mourns Death of Middletown & Hummelstown Founder Dillinger

ASLRRA expresses its heartfelt sympathy to the family, friends and colleagues of Wendell Dillinger, founder and CEO of one of the Association’s smallest short line members, the Middletown & Hummelstown Railroad in Middletown, Pennsylvania. He passed away on Dec. 10 at the age of 93.

Dillinger was a lifelong railroader who started his career working for railroads in the Midwest. With his parents he bought a branch line in 1976, working with a friend to restore the line to independent-carrier status and moving freight for ten years. In 1986 Dillinger acquired some commuter trailer coaches and started M&H’s tourist excursions.

“Wendell was a great railroader and something of a legend in the Pennsylvania short line world. He will be missed,” said Alan Maples, president of ASLRRA member and Pennsylvania short line Everett Railroad Company.

The M&H is run by two full-time and three part-time employees, with help from 14 volunteers. The railroad has received ASLRRA’s Jake with Distinction Safety Award 20 times since the Association started bestowing the honor in 1999.

Dillinger is survived by his partner of 20 years, Frankie Wiseman. She handled bookkeeping for M&H and helped introduce special events to the excursion schedule. Services for Dillinger were held Monday in Enola, Pennsylvania.

Dillinger and Wiseman photoMiddletown & Hummelstown Railroad founder, president and CEO Wendell Dillinger (right), pictured here with his longtime partner Frankie Wiseman, passed away Dec. 10. He was 93.


Strasburg Rail Road’s Stephen Weaver to Retire Tomorrow

Stephen Weaver of the Strasburg Rail Road Company retires tomorrow.  Weaver spent 17 years working for the Strasburg Rail Road in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, America’s oldest short line railroad.

From its inception, Strasburg Rail Road served the surrounding farming community with affordable freight rail transport, but it is perhaps best known for its steam locomotive passenger service.  Under Weaver’s leadership, the railroad began a freight resurgence beginning in 2009, growing carloads from 10 cars a year to 500. Freight trains now run five days a week and represent 10 percent of the company’s revenue.

The Strasburg Rail Road won an ASLRRA Business Development Award in 2023 for the Edy’s Mill project in Paradise, Pennsylvania which will allow for tripled car loadings. Weaver also gave his time and talent to ASLRRA, serving on the Board of Directors as an Eastern Region Board Member, and on the small railroad, passenger, general counsel and technology committees. A qualified locomotive engineer, Weaver will be spending his last day on the job, fittingly, working train and engine service.   

Steve Weaver RetirementConductor Matt Hoover (left) and engineer Steve Weaver crew a Strasburg Rail Road train to deliver a string of loaded boxcars to the dock at Strasburg Rail Road's rail yard at Paradise, Pennsylvania.


Short Line and Regional Railroad Award Nominations Due Feb. 6

Railway Age magazine has opened the nomination period for its Short Line of the Year and Regional Railroad of the Year competition. Awards are given to the Class II and III railroads that best demonstrate outstanding achievement in one or more areas including innovation in operations or maintenance, customer service, community relations and more.

The deadline for entries is Feb. 6. View the nomination form here. Winners of the awards will be recognized at ASLRRA’s Annual Conference and Exhibition in Kansas City, Missouri. They will also be featured in articles in the magazine’s March 2024 issue.


SLSI Hazmat Safety Tip Offers List of Important Key Terms for Use in Training

The Short Line Safety Institute’s (SLSI) December hazardous materials (hazmat) safety tip focuses on key railroad terminology to use in hazmat response training for volunteer and remote emergency responders.

Incorporating this terminology into training can help first responders better understand railroad industry vocabulary and improve communication, which is crucial in emergency situations. Click here to find a downloadable .pdf version of the safety tip, or click here to view a Hazmat Minute Video. Both resources can be used by railroads for training or other informational purposes.

Also available at no cost to railroads are the SLSI’s video training programs, hazmat minute refresher training,  a library of Hazmat Safety Tips, and Hazmat Guides accessible directly from the SLSI website.


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.