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Rail News: Short Lines & Regionals

ASLRRA to induct Grossman, Jacobson, Webb into Short Line Hall of Fame

Left to right: Rick Webb, Robert Grossman and Jake Jacobson
Photo – ASLRRA


The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association today announced its selection of Robert Grossman, Jake Jacobson (posthumously) and Rick Webb as the 2024 inductees for the Short Line Railroad Industry Hall of Fame.

Each honoree has made an indelible mark on the short-line industry, from creating the industry role of advocate in government and regulatory affairs, to launching an industry-wide emphasis and recognition of safe operating performance, to growing a car repair shop with a single railroad into a multiservice entity operating in four countries by building a team focused on exceptional customer service, ASLRRA officials said in a press release.

The ASLRRA will induct the 2024 Class at its annual conference and exhibition on March 25.

Created in 2020, the Short Line Hall of Fame recognizes short line visionaries who through their dedication, commitment and achievement best exemplify the qualities of innovation, entrepreneurialism, perseverance and service that have advanced the short line industry, ASLRRA officials said.

"This year's inductees — Robert Grossman, Jake Jacobson and Rick Webb — represent attributes that continue today as part of the short line ethos: advocacy, safety and service," said ASLRRA President Chuck Baker.

Grossman made a name for himself in the railroad industry in 1971 as a founder of the short line holding company Emons Transportation Group. When Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (G&W) acquired Emons in 2002, Grossman joined G&W’s executive team. Grossman served as chairman, president and CEO of Emons Transportation Group. Later, upon joining G&W, company leadership created for him the new role of executive vice president, government and industry affairs. Grossman retired from G&W in 2008.

Jacobson, who died in 2021 at the age of 80, worked for Union Pacific Railroad for 29 years. He joined Copper Basin Railway in 1987 as general superintendent. He was promoted to general manager, then became chief operating officer. He served as the short line's president and COO for more than 30 years before retiring in 2020.

Jacobson was the originator of what is today’s ASLRRA Jake Safety Award program. When the Copper Basin Railway achieved a perfect safety record in 1993, Jacobson realized no award existed to recognize small railroads' safety records, so he started a program himself. In 1999, ASLRRA took over the safety-award program and named it after Jacobson.

Webb was working part time for Watco while going to college when Watco started in July 1983. Watco grew from one operation to 190 locations operating in four countries today. In 1987, Watco purchased its first short line, primarily to serve its own rail-car repair shop, and kept on growing.

In 1998, Webb became Watco’s CEO after taking the reins from his father, Dick Webb. Today, Watco operates and provides daily services to more than 3,500 customers in three business units. Rick Webb stepped down from his role as CEO in 2018 and is now the company’s executive chair.

Progressive Railroading honored Webb with the Railroad Innovator of the Year Award in 2022.

To learn more about each honoree, click here.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/9/2024