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Director-Car Hire Genesee & Wyoming Inc.
Elan Neal's job involves one of the rail industry's more complicated disciplines: car hire and accounting.
"There are a lot of things that go into car hire: You have the relationship with the equipment owners, the railroads, the customers — and the rates can be negotiated," she says.
After G&W acquired RailAmerica Inc. last year, Neal became responsible for car-hire-related activities for more than 110 short lines. Nowadays, much of her time is focused on transitioning RailAmerica's car-hire system to G&W's.
Neal entered the rail industry after earning a college degree in accounting. Soon after graduation, she saw an advertisement for a car accountant at G&W. The job ad intrigued her, so she applied and was hired. Eleven months later, the company promoted her to manager and, later, to director.
Well-respected in the industry, Neal represents G&W on the Association of American Railroads' (AAR) Equipment Assets Committee, says David Mears, AVP-equipment and service for the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association.
Neal's expertise resulted in her selection as an instructor for the committee's car-hire training class, presented in 2012 and 2013 at ASLRRA's annual convention, notes Mears, who nominated Neal for "Rising Star" status.
Neal thrives on the nature of her work: "I really do love the field and how unique it is," she says.
Her children: 7-year-old Derek, who underwent a heart transplant in 2011 and "always has such a bright outlook;" and 4-year-old Toby, "a fun-loving kid who can take on any type of situation."
An interesting fact?
Neal's first name comes from a bottle of French perfume, called Élan, which was her father's first gift to her mother.
A favorite off-hour activity?
Visiting railroads with Derek and Toby to watch trains. "They can name every rail car that goes by," says Neal.
Backup career choice?
Pediatric nurse or child-life specialist.