Here, There, and Everywhere

Just got back from a nine-day, 4,500-mile adventure that included two meetings in places that could not be as different as they were.  The calendar dictated the marathon trip, and as I will discuss below it was not without its issues, but there was a lot of good that came from the trip.My first stop was in Pueblo, Colorado for the AAR’s Wireless Communications Committee meeting.  TTCI in Pueblo is the railroad industry’s version of Disneyland.  They test new products for the industry in and on a collection of laboratories, tracks, test fixtures, and yes, a crash wall.  To say it is in the middle of nowhere is an understatement:  to get there, you have to travel miles past the Pueblo Chemical Depot (where the U.S. military stores and disposes of chemical weapons), and avoid the rattlesnakes and tarantulas that inhabit the desert out there.  One of the important jobs for the industry that is performed out at TTCI is radio frequency coordination and testing of new equipment to make sure it will integrate seamlessly with existing systems, so having a radio meeting out there could not have been a better choice.So what went on at the meeting?  Well, the radio group is one that is in a unique position:  we have just come off a very successful transition from wideband radios to narrowband ones, and we are now starting to seriously start what will be the eventual transition to very narrowband digital communications, which is a whole new world for both our industry and the radio manufacturers.  The good news is that these steps are being taken by both the railroads and the manufacturers together, and both are communicating on an open, non-competitive basis to work through both the perceived and actual issues that are starting to occur with these new technologies.My second (well really my third, after an extra one night “vacation” in Houston courtesy of United Airlines) stop on my adventure was the ASLRRA Southern Region meeting in Naples, Florida.  What was new there you ask?  New ASLRRA President-elect Linda Darr.  As Kathy Keeney mentioned in her latest blog, Linda is doing a lot of outreach to the membership to find out what their wants and needs are, and I have to say it was a pleasure meeting her and I look forward to working with her.  Other highlights?  Clarence Gooden of CSX had a lot of insight into what is going on in the industry at the moment (sorry folks, not even a flinch when asked about possible merger rumors), and Dan Elliott, chairman of the Surface Transportation Board, said as much as he could about the current goings on in the board.While this trip was a long one, as I look at the calendar next month I have a ten-day adventure to Texas coming up centered on the ASLRRA Central/Pacific Region meeting in Ft. Worth.  At least I am home now, and have a couple of weeks to recover before that trip.---By Steve Friedland
steven-fb.jpgSteve Friedland is a child of the railroad industry. Following summers and vacations working on the track gang for the family-owned Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, he started full-time in 1994. He has worked in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations, and currently is a member of the management team for the company as director of operations in Morristown, N.J. In 1999, he founded Short Line Data Systems, a provider of railroad EDI and dispatching software, AEI hardware, and management consulting to the short line industry. He currently serves as the ASLRRA representative to the AAR's Wireless Communications Committee and is chairman of the joint AAR-ASLRRA Short Line Information Improvement Committee. He also is a member of the ASLRRA's board of directors.