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— by Pat Foran, Editor
For the past several weeks — since Railway Interchange 2015 in October — we’ve been asking freight-rail leaders to share their thoughts about the year ahead, and their takes on the potential for business growth and any obstacles they’ll need to overcome. We’ve also asked passenger-rail execs to tell us what their chief challenges are as they prepare for 2016. Some of what they’ve told us is featured within the pages of this issue.
Class I CEOs expect traffic volumes that have been flatter than flat in 2015 to pick up in some segments (not energy-related ones), and they continue to count on intermodal to drive growth. They’re also hoping the economy cooperates. Meanwhile, they figure to set aside less for capex than they have the past several years, although that “less” should still represent healthy investment. Passenger-rail execs continue to talk about the things they’ve cited the past few years: funding (the need for it, the hope for it), serving customers better and implementing PTC.
Overall, the rail leaders exude half-full hopefulness, i.e., cautious optimism — a potentially nebulous forecast phrase if ever there was one. But they’re right to acknowledge the uncertainty. The optimism, however circumspect, suits them. It befits the vitality of rail, both now and in the years to come.
The rail industry lost a forward-thinking pioneer last month. And a good friend. Edward Lewis, former president of the Aberdeen & Rockfish Railroad Co., died Nov. 11. He was 73.
Lewis served as president of the short line from 1987 to 2007. His 45-year railroad career also included stints at MTA Long Island Rail Road, Arcade & Attica Railroad, Providence & Worcester Railroad, Strasburg Rail Road and Lamoille Valley Railroad.
A thoughtful, respected leader, Lewis authored several publications, including “The American Shortline Railway Guide” and “The Road of Personal Service: A Centennial History,” a history of the Aberdeen & Rockfish he co-authored with Trains Editor Jim Wrinn. Ed’s short-line guide might have been the first rail book I read after joining Progressive Railroading in 1996. He was always among the first shortliners others suggested I call if I were writing about small roads or seeking context for anything rail related.
“Ed Lewis ... was way ahead of his time when it came to understanding the how and the why of short-line railroads,” said American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association President Linda Bauer Darr in a prepared statement. “He will be sorely missed, but so well remembered.”
That he will. Our thoughts are with the Lewis family.