I grew up in Vulcan, MI next to a Soo Line mainline, terrified of the freight trains that rolled by. I never would have imagined that years later I’d be standing just a few feet away from a high speed passenger train zooming along at 150 MPH nor that I’d enjoy making a career in the railroad industry. The summer of 2009 changed everything. On a whim, I talked to the BNSF recruiter at the Career Fair. I interned in Vancouver, WA with the Division Engineer and witnessed projects such as crossover installations, multi-track grade crossing renewal, and rail renewal programs. I worked with local Roadmasters to run the work gangs and got my first taste of track maintenance. Prior to the internship, my studies at Michigan Tech were focused towards structural design with a plan to pursue architecture post-grad. However, when I returned that fall, I elected the LS&I Railroad for my senior project and signed up for Dr. Lautala’s railroad engineering course. I graduated in May 2010 and accepted a position in Amtrak’s Management Associate Program.
My initial training took place in Philadelphia, PA where I was introduced to overhead catenary power and signaling systems, track inspection equipment, and train operations. My first assignment was on the New England Division where I helped run the daily maintenance activities on some of the fastest track segments in the country. I coordinated and scheduled track work, performed track and bridge inspections to ensure safe train operations and to provide smooth ride quality for passengers. In 2013, I served a short term on the Production side with the Track Laying System (TLS) consist, which replaces the entire track structure as it traverses it. I ran the gangs that operate ahead to skeletonize and manually remove severely damaged ties, oversaw the track laying machine (TLM) operation, ensured proper destressing and welding of rail, worked with ballast trains and the surfacing equipment, and handled inventory and tie supply to the TLM. That year I also assumed my current position as Engineer Special Trackwork within the Track Standards Department. I am responsible for reviewing vendor submitted plans for all special trackwork to ensure they are designed to Amtrak’s standards and specifications, and to also develop and maintain standard plans. Special locations or items, such as New York’s Penn Station or clothoid geometry turnouts, require site visits in order to gather specific information for me to use in new track designs or to create sketches for bid packages. With my territory spanning the country, every day there’s a new challenge to tackle.