Ya Gotta Have Heart…

I’ve written about my love of baseball many times in the past, and for the first time in many years, the off season has been a lot shorter for my New York Mets than it has been in years past.  Of course the outcome last season was not as good as we would have liked, but like any Chicago Cubs fan knows, there is always next year…Like any baseball fan in the winter, you watch what moves the team has made to sign new players to the team, and what moves they make to retain any free agents.  Everyone wants their team to have the big name players, and hopes that they have the finances to pay the monstrous salaries that are in the game today, and there are a lot of players that try to chase the big bucks.  That being said, something happened more than once this year with the Mets that I was both a little surprised, and very impressed at what happened.  More than one player this year signed with the team for less than what they were offered by another team.  Why?  Because they liked the organization, liked where the team was going, and wanted to play for the team, even if it meant that they were going to get less money.  That says a lot about the organization and the people in it.Now how does that apply to railroads?  Surprisingly, there are a number of parallels, especially with short lines.  First of all, let’s start with the money.  Chances are, if you are working for a short line, you are probably making less than the equivalent job at a Class I or commuter railroad.  That being said, there are some definite advantages for working for a short line.  The biggest one is the fact that you do have something approaching a normal home life (yes, this is coming from the person that is living in Massachusetts five days a week, but ignore my personal situation for the moment).  You generally get to go home to your own bed every night, which may not happen if you work for a bigger company.  Also, your hours generally remain the same, and in many cases are in daylight, a big plus if you have a family.Finally, for the most part you are surrounded by people who also want to be there.  Some are long time veterans of the industry who have decided that the simpler life is better for them.  Others are young kids who have taken the short line path to work in an industry that they want to be in.  These younger people may be using the short line as a stepping stone to a position at a larger railroad, but a lot of them are now seeing a short line career as a long term prospect, because they can move their way up in the organization faster than they would at a Class I.When I started in the industry there were not a lot of people my age, and for the longest time I was concerned that the industry was going to age its way into retirement.  Now there seems to be a youth revolution in the industry, and while I can still say with some knowledge that it still isn’t the money that is drawing them in, I do think it is the one thing that has defined short lines all along:  it’s their heart.---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.