Monday, February 27, 2006

Where Are the Railroad Track Engineers Going?

Recently, I was discussing with a colleague of mine the fact that there will be a significant loss of Railroad Track Engineering talent from one specific Class One Railroad within the next two to three years. Where are they going? Retirement.

There are a few people coming up thru the ranks to fill these vacancies, but not nearly enough. This particular railroad is not alone. If you don't believe that, go to any AREMA (American Railway Engineering and Mainenance Association) Meeting and see how many young turks are in the group.

The problem is seen by others, too. Railway Track and Structures Magazine, in their February '06 issue, features a salient editorial from Mr. Tom Judge that asks simply, "Enough Engineers?" Answer: No! Mr. Judge says that railroads need to recognize the problem and get involved.

His three main points are, railroads, get involved with colleges and universities that support the needed training and support them, get promising people involved with AREMA by sending them to technical conferences and seminars, and get acclimated to the idea that the twenty-four/seven lifestyle now demanded won't cut it with today's people.

This is not the first time such a need for young engineers has been discussed. Even here at Rip Track it has been noted. I hope railroads will not fall into the trap that has tripped up other disciplines that now must rely on untrained and incapable people to do a job (consultants to Transit Agencies, are you reading?) The railroads may not, but it will take a major wake-up call to change their current paradigm. And that's too bad.


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