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Director of Railway Asset Management Georgetown Rail Equipment Co.
Railroading as a career choice had never entered Walter Bleser's mind before he began studying civil engineering at Kansas State University. But that changed during a 2001 summer internship at HNTB Corp., where Bleser was assigned to work on a Union Pacific Railroad bridge project. "As opposed to most people in my field — who wanted to go into highway design — I became fascinated by the maintenance and rehabilitation side of extending the lives of these bridges that had been around for a hundred years," he says.
Bleser has dedicated the past 11 years of his career — most of it at HNTB — working on railroad bridge inspection, rating, design and construction management. This summer, he accepted an offer to become director of railway asset management at Georgetown Rail Equipment Co.
Since 2004, he's been an active member of AREMA, where he's vice chair of Committee 7 (Timber Structures), a member of Committee 10 (Structures, Maintenance and Construction), and chairs a subcommittee related to the bridge management practices manual.
Bleser's enthusiasm for railroad structures also has bubbled over to education. He has co-instructed two railroad bridge engineering courses at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and has recruited college students into railroad careers.
Bleser's role model?
John Unsworth, chief engineer of structures at Canadian Pacific and author of "Design of Modern Steel Railway Bridges," a book Bleser considers the bible of steel railway bridge design.
An interesting fact about him?
"I have a massive collection of railroad-specific belt buckles. It's the ultimate icebreaker."
His favorite pastime?
"Cycling, running, skiing, hiking, camping and craft beer. I'm an outdoors guy."
His backup career choice?
"I probably would own and operate a bike and ski shop."