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— by Pat Foran, editor
Scott Brace, a longtime RailWorks Track Systems Inc. executive and a railroad contracting pioneer, recently retired after 43 years of service.
Like many in his railroading generation, Brace essentially was born into the business. As a teen, he spent his Lakeville, Minn., summers working at his father Harold’s contracting firm, Railroad Service Inc. He signed on full time in 1972. “I owe a lot to my father,” Brace says.
In 1976, his father gave him the chance to run a branch office in Fargo, N.D. For the next 16 years, Brace built the business. Along the way, he wondered if the Railroad Service portfolio would ever expand beyond the small-railroad realm and include Class I projects. Brace, who saw the bigger railroad-contracting picture, believed it would.
In 1992, he moved back to Lakeville to run the home office. There, he helped usher in a new contracting era.
In 1998, Railroad Service was one of 14 companies that combined to create RailWorks Corp. Brace helped drive the growth and expansion of RailWorks Track Systems. Under his watch, RailWorks’ project list included SunRail, the Tucson Modern Streetcar, the Hiawatha light-rail line and the Dallas Area Rapid Transit Blue Line. Brace also directed Class I projects, including work in the Bakken region. “It used to be we competed for a 500-foot [track] job,” Brace says. “Now, it’s for a 40,000-foot job.”
And compete Brace has. “He was always a great competitor — fair and trustworthy,” says Herzog Services Inc. President Rick Ebersold, who considers Brace a close friend. “As he became part of RailWorks, Scott carried on the same integrity and high moral standards.”
Whether he was swinging a spike maul or leading a project team, Brace exuded character, a RailWorks colleague told me, adding that the tributes Brace received from employees and competitors at his May retirement event supported the sentiment. Fellow contractors saw that character in action after Brace took on leadership positions with the National Railroad Construction & Maintenance Association, serving as chairman in 2000 and 2001.
“He’s just a good human being,” says Ebersold.
For now, Brace’s retirement plans include a few home-related projects. Longer term, his to-do list will be longer. “Next year at this time, I’ll be doing something — volunteering or dabbling back in the industry,” Brace says.
Congrats, Scott, on your 43 years of service. And kudos for your role in nurturing an integral industry segment.