The brand new year is now underway and in full swing. Already, some trends are beginning to show themselves.
Track material will be in short supply all year. Even the Wall Street gurus have noted that Class One Railroads have shorted their Capital Spending for several years, and will be making up for it this year with more and greater expenditures. We all know that delivery of rail is always delayed for a matter of months after receipt of order (ARO), and that has been going on for years now. Delivery of special trackwork has also been in a very similar situation, but maybe for not quite as long as rail. But now you can add ties, at least wood ties, to the list of "hard to get" material. I have heard from several track contractors who say that they simply cannot find available ties for their projects because of extensive railroad purchases. Other track material (OTM) is similar, depending on the specific product.
As an aside, a topic for another time is: The Class Ones have created a paradigm of fewer track material manufacturers and suppliers during the recent era of low spending; now that these same railroads are ramping up there is a shortage of material to be had.
Of course, 2007 will bring with it the usual opportunities for education and seminars.
The Transportation Research Board will hold its usual January Seminars beginning on the 21st in Washington, DC.
The TTCI Open House will be in March as usual at the Pueblo, Colorado Test Center, this year it will be March 13 and 14.
A Wheel/Rail Seminar is going to be held in Chicago on May 8th and 9th.
Once again, AREMA will be meeting in Spetember, this time it will be the 9th thru the 12th. This year is the now semi-annual stop at the Palmer House in Chicago. Hopefully, this year it will not interfere with the RPI Meeting!
And, two excellent sources of Seminars will be active again, both The Track Guy, John Zuspan, and the University of Wisconsin's Continuing Education Series. John selects sites across the entire nation, making attendance easy. You will have to travel to the Midwest to attend the U of W sessions.
I will not use such overused words as "promising" or "challenging" to describe my prediction for the upcoming twelve months. Rather, I will simply say that it will be a busy year, somewhere between crazy and frantic.