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— by Pat Foran, Editor
Milestones afford opportunities to look back — and ahead. Managing Editor Jeff Stagl focused on the latter while developing this month's cover story. The milestone being referenced: On July 1, Union Pacific Railroad will mark its 150th anniversary. There's a lot of history nestled within the tracks and trestles that connect North America's largest railroad, and while UP's leaders embrace the Class I's rich past, they're focused on what it'll take to get to the railroad to the next level. "The good thing about reaching this point is that we're at top performance," Acting President and Chief Executive Officer Jack Koraleski told Stagl. "We're more efficient than we were. [But] we're always looking to the future."
Accordingly, UP execs vow to continue developing new routes to revenue growth. They'll also continue to tap technology to drive efficiencies and nurture a culture that encourages employees to help UP stay the continuous-improvement course — which is key if refining a customer-first focus is a priority, and it is. In the first quarter, UP's customer satisfaction rating of 94 percent (based on a survey the Class I conducts each quarter) represented an all-time high. And for the second straight year, UP was selected as "the top performing railroad by leading U.S. agricultural shippers" in the third annual Soy Transportation Coalition Railroad Report Card, according to a May 31 press release.
Report cards, satisfaction ratings and quarterly financials are temporal; incremental improvement, and paving the way for same, is an ongoing gig. So is creating "good value" for customers — "the single most important lesson we've learned," Koraleski told Stagl. And UP execs feel good about the prospects of applying that knowledge in the years ahead.
In the meantime, we acknowledge the milestone: Congratulations to all those who have built the railroad that is UP, and laid the foundation for the one it'll become.
The people at St. Louis-based Norman Lumber Co. recently lost a longtime colleague and dear friend, and a shining example of someone to whom "live" truly was an active verb. Orvie E. Linsin, a singular personality who served the rail industry for 50 years, died May 14 of complications following heart surgery. He was 73.
Named after a grandfather who had been involved in the tank-car business, Linsin began his rail career with Midland Reclamation Co. (MRC). Founded by his uncle, the St. Louis company bought, sold and reclaimed second-hand rail-car parts, and operated a tank-car repair and cleaning facility. Linsin started working there in the repair shop, eventually becoming a full-time sales rep. After 30 years with MRC, he added other repair shops to his sales-rep portfolio. Then in 1996, he joined Norman Lumber, a forest products manufacturer and distributor. There, he sold yellow pine and oak wood products (including decking and fractional cut lumber) to the rail industry.
Linsin's work didn't define him — the vigor with which he lived his life did, says Elaine Andree, a Norman Lumber colleague for the past 20 years.
"Orvie lived out loud," she says. "He was passionate about so many things."
Among them: his family, his dogs, his St. Louis Rams, his health. A workout warrior, Linsin ran four miles a day, three days a week up until about a year ago.
"If we ever had a fitness contest in the office, he would have won, and he had a couple of decades on most of us," Andree says, citing a line in the Linsin obituary published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "Orvie lived life at a hundred miles an hour."
Linsin also was an avid golfer and outdoorsman, taking "drop-in flights into Canada," where he'd hunt bear, moose and turkey, Andree says. "He hunted with a traditional bow, not a compound bow," she adds. "There was a picture at his funeral service: a bow by his side, a quiver across his back. That was a big part of his life."
So was helping friends and colleagues focus on what's really important. Linsin loved to make his co-workers laugh.
"Orvie was just funny," says Andree. "He loved to tell stories about things that happened to him, things he did, things he'd seen. He could make you laugh harder than most anyone else. It was just the way he told those stories."
Linsin is survived by his wife of 51 years, Diane; two children; two grandchildren; a great grandchild; and a great many friends, including the tight-knit group at Norman Lumber.
"We're pretty small — we're not a 'titles' company," says Andree, who does a little bit of everything at Norman Lumber, including accounting, bookkeeping and I.T. work. "Orvie just had a fun perspective on life. We'll miss him."