Got Your Back

One thing that sets the railroad industry apart from a lot of other ones is the fact that most training is done in the field and not in the classroom. Yes, there are a lot of items that you learn and study out of a book, but you really learn how to railroad as you practice your craft. Because of that, mentoring is an essential part of every railroader’s career. We all hear about the old timers in a company, and while to a young guy they may be crusty and old fashioned, those people are the ones who will teach you how to railroad properly. Admittedly, it may be through showing you the wrong way to do something, but in most cases these people will be the ones who give you the right tools to do your job.I have had a number of mentors throughout my career, and they have come from all areas of the industry. It started with my supervisors and co-workers at the Morristown & Erie, and also my father, who I had pleasure of working with for a number of years. As my job responsibilities spread outside of the realm of the M&E, I met and took the teaching and advice of any number of industry leaders to heart, and all of that input helped me grow into who I am now. It is truly flattering now when someone comes to me for advice, and as a veteran in the industry, it is my responsibility to keep the “circle of life” going.Last week I was in Chicago for SDS helping a company start up two railroads. As part of what I do with SDS there is always some mentoring of the customer, because it always comes out in conversation that they do something one way, and I would always discuss how we would do things on our railroad. This time, things were a little bit different. The company actually chose SDS in part because of the mentoring that would be available to them. While I did get paid for the software, the advice is on me. I was also flattered to see that the will to mentor didn’t stop with me. I got to see a friend at another railroad in Chicago while I was there, and I told him about my client, and what they were doing. Almost immediately he told me that their offices were near where he lived, and offered if they needed any assistance, he would be happy to stop by and see them, and if his railroad could be of assistance they would be happy to help. Needless to say I thanked him for the offer, and put him in touch with my client, who was happy to have a local “big brother” in addition to what I could offer them.As we come to the end of another year, and we will look at who has left us and where we are going in the new year, we should all take the time to both absorb what we can from those who know, and try to pass our knowledge on to those who don’t.Have a safe and happy holidays, and a joyous New Year.---By Steve Friedland
steven-fb.jpgSteve Friedland is a well-known leader in the short line industry who has devoted more than two decades to railroading. At the Morristown & Erie Railway, a 42-mile New Jersey short line, he worked in all areas of the railroad, including track, mechanical, signals, and operations. 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.