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July 2017



Rail News: People

Rising Stars: Robert Gordon, National Transportation Safety Board



Robert “Joe” Gordon, 39

Railroad investigator,
National Transportation Safety Board

Job description: Gordon has been involved in railroading since 2000. In 2014, he joined the NTSB, where he participates in or leads investigations into high-profile rail accidents, then presents the findings to the board. He also conducts outreach for the NTSB and provides training and guidance to the rail industry.

Education: Electrical apprenticeship, post high school; railroad industry training and education

Nominator’s quote: “During Mr. Gordon's years in the railroad industry, he continued to advance while keeping railroad safety as his core value. More importantly, Mr. Gordon shows tremendous character and ethics in every task or goal he is assigned.” — Georgetta Gregory, NTSB

How did you get into railroading?
After high school, I entered an electrical apprenticeship with the goal of becoming a licensed electrician. My father was a locomotive electrician in the diesel shops on the C&O Railroad. I saw how the railroad provided for my family and thought I would like to follow in his footsteps.

However, before completing the apprenticeship, I went to a hiring session for the CSX engineering department. After starting with CSX Transportation, I attended foreman training and track inspection training. I worked in the engineering department for five years and then transferred to the mechanical department where I went to carman school and became a qualified welder and rail-car inspector.

In 2007, I left the railroad and became a railroad safety inspector, first for the Commonwealth of Virginia and then the Federal Railroad Administration. I came to the NTSB from the FRA in 2014.

What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my first completed investigation as an NTSB investigator. I had been employed with the NTSB for about three months when I was assigned as the investigator in charge to lead the investigation into a smoke and fire accident that occurred in a rail tunnel in Washington, D.C. With the support of an excellent team of investigators and dedicated staff, the investigation was a success and many needed safety improvements were identified.

What inspires you?
My faith and my family inspire me. I have been blessed with a wonderful wife and two amazing children. I want to be sure that everything possible is done so that all railroad workers, rail transportation users and the public who encounter the railroad, go home to their families at the end of each day.

Tell us a little-known fact about you.
I enjoy cooking; it is my way to unwind after a long day. I have become so fond of cooking new things that I would like to open a small restaurant after my work in the industry is complete.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not at the office?
I’m an outdoor guy. I love to hike, fish, kayak on the beautiful James River and snow ski in the mountains of the Virginias. Working outdoors is one of the unsung perks of railroading.

What advice would you share with a first-year railroader?
Take it all in. The industry is experiencing a big turnover and a lot of knowledge is going out the door. Learn as much as you can from your seasoned co-workers. You are the future of the railroad, and the backbone of America.

What would you say to convince someone to consider railroading as a career?
There is a reason that generations of Americans have been enamored with the railroad; we keep the country moving and you can be a part of that unique opportunity.

Rising Stars 2017 Award Winners:


Winnie Chang
Winnie Chang

Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

Nick Chodorow
Nick Chodorow

Belt Railway Co. of Chicago


Robert Gordon
Robert Gordon

National Transportation Safety Board


Travis Kelly
Travis Kelly

Texas Central Partners LLC

Darrell Krueger
Darrell Krueger

BNSF Railway Co.


Michael Lefevre
Michael Lefevre

Brightline (All Aboard Florida)

Michele Malski
Michele Malski

Short Line Safety Institute

Julie Mink
Julie Mink

Tealinc Ltd.


Myat Ohn
Myat Ohn

HNTB

Annka Robinson
Annka Robinson

Dallas Area Rapid Transit/Trinity Railway Express

Danielle Ross
Danielle Ross

Spectrum Inc.


Mike Stickel
Mike Stickel

Lake State Railway Co.

Sarah Touey
Sarah Touey

Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon


Stu Towner
Stu Towner

Watco Cos. LLC

 



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