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By Pat Foran, Editor
You couldn't miss the bounce in the collective step of the railroaders in attendance at the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association's (ASLRRA) 100th annual convention, held April 27-30 in Atlanta. The event's inherently celebratory nature provided footing for that bounce, and the spot-on breakout session topics helped keep the momentum going all event long. Ultimately, the gathering afforded an opportunity to reflect on the short-line evolution while it served as a showcase for the rail industry's present-day vitality, in all its uncertain glory. And this uncertain stretch is as opportunity-filled as any, Union Pacific Railroad President and CEO Jack Koraleski suggested in his April 29 general session keynote.
"The economy is headed in a nice, slow-growth direction," he said, citing population growth, energy demand, global trade and service quality among the growth drivers. "Do not hunker down. You need to be bold, looking for every opportunity."
The message seemed to resonate with short-liners — no surprise, given their entrepreneurial spirit and semi-permanent residency in Uncertaintyville. As ASLRRA President Richard Timmons characterized the lay of the land: "So here we are, in an era of transformation."
Count Timmons among those in the transformation zone. After helming ASLRRA for the past 11 years, he will retire this summer. During his ASLRRA tenure, Timmons — who served the U.S. Army for 32 years before retiring as a lieutenant general — has fostered trust and earned respect. "He's been a great leader," Koraleski said. "I wish [him] a long and happy retirement."
Best wishes from all of us here, Gen. Timmons. Thanks for more than holding up your end of the bargain, and for doing so with aplomb and grace.
Another inimitable railroader also attended his final ASLRRA show.
Progressive Railroading sales rep Ray Kosakowski, who spent the past 14 years with us and plenty more before that serving the industry, retired May 1.
Ray has always been good at what he does, so I'm sure he'll do the retirement thing right. He's someone I've counted on to tell it like it is — whether the topic was related to rail or the work that we do. And if the subject was culture (corporate or pop), family or Forbes Field, he was locked in.
Thanks for being there, Ray, and for seeing opportunity amid the uncertainty in our corner of the rail realm. To the joy in finding out what's next. Na zdorovie.