Media Kit » Try RailPrime™ Today! »
Progressive Railroading
Newsletter Sign Up
Stay updated on news, articles and information for the rail industry

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

View Current Digital Issue »


Rail News Home Railroading People


Rail News: Railroading People

Rising Stars 2023: Manuel Salazar

Manuel Salazar
Photo –


Manuel Salazar, 35
Chief mechanical officer-East/South

Nominator’s quote: “In his more than 10 years in the railway industry, Manuel Salazar has distinguished himself by contributing greatly to programs that improve safety, reliability and availability. … Well-respected and consulted for his expertise, Manuel’s leadership style reflects a humble and people-oriented approach. He is a transparent safety leader with great communication skills who values his team and works tirelessly to build a workplace culture based on safety, innovation, continuous employee development, diversity and inclusion.” — Carole Michelucci, CN

Education: Indiana University Northwest, MBA. Purdue University in Hammond, Indiana, B.S. in mechanical engineering. Lean Six Sigma Black Belt.

Job responsibilities: Car and locomotive maintenance in CN’s eastern and southern regions, Transcona Back Shop and Prince George Wheel Shop.

Career path: I began my career as a management trainee with Norfolk Southern Railway in 2011. I started with CN as a frontline supervisor in May 2013 at our Woodcrest Locomotive Repair Center in Homewood, Illinois. I wanted to expand my knowledge base, so I applied for a lateral move to the car department in October 2014. I was able to gain valuable experience in a hump yard and at Chicago Intermodal Terminal.

In June 2016, I was fortunate to get an opportunity as manager-mechanical engineering. I spent much of my time on the road in this position, gaining a better understanding of our network, shops and overall capabilities. This position gave me an opportunity to help leaders with process improvements in their respective terminals/shops.

Next, I was afforded the opportunity to be the senior manager in Chicago, responsible for car and locomotive maintenance for the Central Division. After two years, I became senior manager for locomotive field technicians; then, I was promoted to director-mechanical reliability and engineering. Prior to my current role, the last position I held was senior director mechanical reliability and strategy.

How did you get into the rail industry? I began my career as a management trainee with NS in July 2011 after graduating with a bachelor’s degree. I am a first-generation railroader. Most of my family are second- and third-generation steel workers.

What is the best career advice you’ve received so far? There are going to be ups and downs throughout your career. Stay humble and always remember where you came from. Create your own path; your career is what you make it.

What advice would you give to a new railroader? Create your own path, do not let someone create it for you. Always continue to better yourself personally and professionally, challenge the status quo and don’t be afraid to distinguish yourself from your peers. Learn your business and be a leader. Most importantly, treat people with dignity and respect; stay humble.

What was your first job? Mowing lawns in my neighborhood as a teenager.

Share a fun fact about yourself I am a father of two and coach their soccer team.

If you could have dinner with anyone alive in the world, who would it be and why? My family. I am a family man, family comes first. They are the reason I’m here and why I go to work every day.

Who has had the biggest influence on your career and why? My parents and the various mentors I’ve had throughout my career. I’ve been fortunate to have people around me my entire life that have been transparent with me and coached me along the way. I am thankful to them for the sound advice and direct feedback I’ve received. This has allowed me to grow as a leader personally and professionally. I would not be where I am today without them.

Describe a major obstacle in your career and how you surmounted it. Going to school for my MBA while working full time. I was working 12-hour midnight shifts when I began. I transitioned to a role that required extensive travel during this period. Going to school full time while working midnights then traveling was challenging but forced me to be disciplined and solely focus during those 18 months. I was laser-focused on my career and walking across the stage.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 7/21/2023