Here We Go Again

Tomorrow Holly and I head off to Orlando to start the wind up to the ASLRRA 2015 Connections convention.  This will be (I think) the fifteenth time I have attended the convention, and in that time a lot has changed.  When I first attended in 1998, I was a 30-something railroader that really did not know much beyond the confines of the railroads in New Jersey, and was just starting to learn about how railroads relate to their Class 1 partners.  By 2002 (I didn’t attend the meeting in 2000, and the 2001 meeting didn’t happen due to 9/11), I had expanded my world to include SDS, and we moved from the purely railroad world to the supplier world and started exhibiting at the meeting.  Since then my world has included being both a railroader and a supplier, committee chair, Associate and Railroad member of the Board of Directors, speaker, meeting volunteer, Audio Visual Chair, and Chair of the meeting twice, in 2007 and 2012.This year’s meeting will include for me a couple of days of prep, including name badge printing, general session rehearsals, and graphics preparation, committee meetings and the Board meeting, and putting together our booth.  And then the meeting starts.  I will be bouncing between the General Sessions, appearances in the booth to talk to current and potential customers, helping with the massive machine that keeps the meeting running, and I’m also a speaker on a panel in one of the breakouts.  Following the meeting, we’ll take a couple of days to see the Mouse, sleep, and finally head for home.If it sounds like a full and busy ten days, it is.  Some of you are probably thinking I am crazy for doing this year after year, and wonder what the payoff is for me.Why do I do this to this level?  First of all, I need to support my customers, and hopefully find a couple of new ones too.  I am very fortunate that Holly is a great salesperson, and we have had help in the booth over the years from some great family friends.  Next, I believe in what the ASLRRA is here to do, and with a strong association, the small railroad industry will thrive.  Finally, these are my friends and my rail “family.”  You can’t put a better group of people together.  Whether we work for complementary or competitive companies, all gets put aside for the meeting, and we have a great time making the event happen.As with every change of the calendar, it is also a time for some to move on.  At this year’s meeting we will be saying au revoir to two of our friends who will be retiring.  Tom Streicher has been the guru of safety and operations for the Association for a long time, and my association with Tom predates his time at the ASLRRA, and I am honored to call him both an associate and friend.  Cheryl Huyck is one of my oldest friends in the industry, and I first spoke to her when I was still in college.  I worked with her when she was at the AAR and Railinc, and she was one of the first people to know that I had decided to build the program that eventually became ROCS.  When I heard that she had left Railinc, I immediately called Rich Timmons and suggested that she would be a good person to bring into the ASLRRA fold (as did a couple of other people).  She has been at the Association since 2006, and it has been my privilege to call her a friend for well over 20 years.So, if you run into me at the convention, I might be hurrying to put out a fire, or look a little tired, but please understand, I’ll be having a great time.---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.