RTP Students on the Job: Summer 2019 Internships!

A core facet of the Rail Transportation Program at Michigan Tech has been encouraging and supporting students in securing and completing internships and co-ops within the industry. Students and the industry mutually benefit from the time spent learning the trade, as resumes are built and organizations get to "try out" the up-and-coming generation of railway transportation professionals. 

In conjunction with the Railroad Engineering and Activities Club, RTP would like to highlight a number of our students who participated in industry internships and co-ops in 2019. Congratulations are in order to this talented group of students! 

Alex Christmas - 4th Year, Civil Engineering - Union Pacific

This summer, I returned to Union Pacific for the second consecutive year, this time in the bridge construction group. While in 2018 I spent most of my time working in the field on track maintenance tasks, this year gave me the opportunity to learn about bridge replacement and maintenance, as I joined up with several teams throughout the Western United States - visiting 9 states in all. The level of exposure to the actual field work is of course something which is not possible in the classroom, but was well-complimented to what I've been learning up in Houghton. 

My principle role in the various phases of construction was observation, although I was usually active in coordinating activities as a designated Form B subgroup coordinator. This allowed me to keep in the loop with both the rail traffic - which must be maintained on these projects most of the time - and the work going on, as it is important to plan activities such that everybody can get in the clear for trains on adjacent tracks, or everything out of the way entirely when we do not hold track and time. As with my first summer out on the railroad, I took the safety culture to heart, became an active participant during safety briefings, and always looking out for everybody, since there are certainly times when folks get into situations where they might be missing something as they go about their work. It is hugely important to me that production is safe - always! 

Looking forward, as a Senior, I am now on the hunt for a full-time position. I believe my internships with UP and a prior experience with Quandel Consultants give me a well-rounded understanding of the industry, and will accelerate my entrance into the industry. I'm hoping to get on board with one of the major railroads' management trainee programs, hopefully in the world of bridges and/or construction! 

Thomas Wall, Civil Engineering - LORAM Maintenance-of-Way

This summer I worked for LORAM Maintenance of Way on one of their shoulder ballast cleaners. Out machine was part of a larger sufacing gang on BNSF Railway. Working on the machine I became adept not only in operations, but in all things maintenance related to the machine's hydraulic and electrical systems. 

Working for LORAM gave me a great experience in the operations and maintenance of way side of the industry not often seen by students completing their first year of college. Working this summer gives me a great stepping stone into whatever other internships I'll puruse in the future. 

Kyle Dick, Computer Science - Norfolk Southern 

This summer, I worked my first internship in the railroad industry with Norfolk Southern in Geographical Information Systems department. Our department was focused on maintaining servers that kept track of Norfolk Southern's assets such as track, maintenance of way equipment, locomotives, etc. Working at Norfolk Southern allowed me to gain vital coding experience that would benefit me in my future career. They were extremely flexible with me and allowed me to take short, one day classes to fill any holes in my existing knowledge base. 
The main project that I worked on during my internship was a web application that allowed on-domain workers of Norfolk Southern to view a graphical map of all the assets they were allowed to view. I came into this project with no web development experience. However, I only had to take a few intro classes on my own time in the span of about a week and I was able to catch up on how the program worked. The big challenge was that the project had not been worked on in a couple years, since the original developer was not able to return to Norfolk Southern and left behind no documentation. Thus, no one had a lot of time to take a look at the project and figure out how to work on it. I was able to get the project running smoothly and work out some of the bugs caused by unfinished code, and was able to add new features to the program.
Even though this internship was in the spring and caused me to miss the spring semester, it was definitely worth it. I felt that I was able to get my foot in the door with the rail industry and I now feel confident that I can get a career full-time within the industry. Hopefully, I can get on board with one of the management trainee positions offered by many Class I railroads for the signals/PTC department and open myself to more technical work and to go out in the field and see my work in action.

Zoe Wahr, Civil Engineering - Hanson's Logistics

Over the summer of 2019, I took part in Hanson’s internship program in Kansas City, Missouri in the Railway group. With this group, I aided in the design and proposals for many projects; including, a sound wall, crane installation, and various yard reconfigurations. I had many responsibilities throughout the summer ranging from quantity and cost estimation to MicroStation drafting. I was able to see all aspects of the design process because they had projects at varying stages that I was able to actively participate in.

I was able to learn lots of valuable information from my coworkers as there were many engineers with decades of experience that I was able to access during my time there. I found this very helpful and that I gained knowledge and experience that I had not had before.

I’m in my final year as an undergraduate civil engineering student at Michigan Technological University, and I plan to join the consulting world following graduation. With my diverse background in highway, railroad, intermodal yard, and structural design I hope to be a valuable asset.


Walter Friesel, Mechanical Engineering Technology - RJ Corman

This summer, I had my second internship with RJ Corman Railroad Group in Lexington, KY. RJ Corman is a multi-function railroad corporation that provides many railroad services including but not limited to construction, derailment clean-up, and shortline railroad operations. In Lexington, I worked in the locomotive shop for the Central Kentucky Lines, one of 14 shortline railroads under RJ Corman. I performed FRA mandated inspections and general maintenance on 1970's era EMD 645 series locomotives and modern Railpower genset locomotives.

This being my second year, I was given more independence while working as well as the opportunity to work on a few larger projects including a locomotive rebuild. I worked with a very friendly and knowledgeable group of individuals who were more than happy to help me along the way. I enjoyed working for RJ Corman and would love to pursue a full-time position with them in the future.