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Rail News Home Rail Industry Trends

February 2007

Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Context by Pat Foran (February 2007)


Chronicling the change @ work

Railroaders know a bit about industries and technologies that change the world; it’s in their genetic makeup. So they’re well aware that the Internet has had an enormous impact on the way we work and live — arguably, as much as the steam engine and transcontinental railroad did.

To gauge that impact, we talked in recent weeks with more than two dozen railroaders and other industry observers about how the Net has changed the way railroads do business — and how it’ll continue to do so in the years ahead.

How (and where) are railroads using the Net effectively? What have they learned about the technology, the industry and/or themselves along the way? To what extent has the Internet’s pervasiveness presented new challenges? From communication (within the railroad, with customers or other constituencies) to commerce (procurement, asset tracking et. al), railroads are leveraging the power of the Net in numerous and not-always-so-obvious ways, as we learned during the information gathering for this month’s cover story. Thanks to all of you who were willing to think out loud with us and jump-start the discussion.

Although we never figured we’d cover the waterfront in this one article, we would have loved to have more input and insight from field workers. How has the Net changed the way you do your job? Let us know at We’ll share the responses in subsequent issues and, of course, online at

A clean baton-passing at UP

Yet another Class I baton has been passed, and it’ll likely will be the last hand-off we’ll see for awhile. On Jan. 31, Union Pacific Corp. Chairman Dick Davidson retired, capping a 47-year railroad career. UP’s board elected UP President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Young to succeed Davidson.

Davidson’s storied rail career started in 1960, when he broke in as an 18-year-old brakeman/conductor with the Missouri Pacific Railroad. By 1966, he’d risen to assistant trainmaster. After holding several positions in the operating department, Davidson was named assistant to the vice president of operations in 1975. A year later, he was the Missouri Pacific’s VP of operations. Davidson joined UP in 1982 when it merged with the Missouri Pacific and Western Pacific railroads. He was promoted to VP of operations in 1986, executive VP in 1989, and president and CEO in 1991. He picked up the “chairman” title in 1997, a few months after the UP-Southern Pacific merger passed regulatory muster.

“Dick’s retirement marks the end of a long and successful career,” said Young in a prepared statement. “We all owe Dick a huge debt of gratitude for his leadership and vision in helping create today’s Union Pacific.”

Tomorrow’s is now the responsibility of Young, a 29-year UP veteran who’s served as president and CEO since January 2006. He joins Class I counterparts Matthew Rose, Michael Ward and Wick Moorman as his respective railroad’s chairman, president and CEO. Young also inherits their charge to keep the rail-as-growth-industry momentum going. Expect the baton-passing, which has been in the works for a while now, to be a smooth one.

For CN’s Harris, a precisely terrific run

Another renowned railroader also made it official on Jan. 31: Canadian National Railway Co. Executive Vice President of Operations Ed Harris has retired after 38 years of service with CN and the Illinois Central Railroad.

A CN executive since July 1999, when the Class I acquired Illinois Central Corp., Harris has served stints as senior VP of operations, chief transportation officer and VP of the Midwest Division. While at Illinois Central between 1968 and 1999, he held various positions, including VP of operations, general manager of the northern region, GM of the southern region and acting executive director of labor relations. Harris, who in a prepared statement said he’d miss “the 24/7 world of railroading,” will make himself available as a consultant to CN.

As of press time, CN had not yet decided whether a successor would be appointed. For the time being, officers who reported to Harris will report directly to President and Chief Executive Officer E. Hunter Harrison.

“Ed has played a key role in executing CN’s precision railroading practices and making the company the most efficient carrier in the rail industry,” said Harrison. “We wish him all the best in his well-deserved retirement.”

So do we. Thanks, Ed, for completing a precisely terrific run.



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