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The Evolution of the Railroad Manager

|Includes: BNI, CN-OLD, CSX, NSC, Union Pacific Corporation (UNP)

Think of the technology the railroads have today: Remote Control Locomotives, Distributed Power and Hybrid Locomotives to name a few. Some of the most advanced systems created to date; however, the advancement of the railroad screeches to a halt due to the stagnation of the railroad management. Everyone knows the reputation of Norfolk Southern’s hardcore management philosophy. Their corporate headquarters are situated on the Military Highway in Norfolk, VA, which is really appropriate due to their “drill sergeant” management mentality. CSX doesn’t have a stellar reputation either. Their Manage With Intimidation style causes resentment and lower productivity.

The Union Pacific Railroad does take the trophy with their management style. When they started hiring managers off the street and expected them to understand how trains move, that’s when the trouble ensued. I’ve heard instances of managers who would write-up a conductor because he was using a four-point stance on a boxcar. The manager’s excuse was: “The rule book said to use a three point stance”. How humiliating is it for a conductor to be chastised because after throwing a switch he didn’t point hard enough at the switch point? So, the UP’s Manage with Ignorance wins the award for Railroad Excellence.

My point is: You can have all the advancements in technology, but unless the management practices evolve into the twenty-first century the railroads will still be considered less than adequate. Railroads are re-living the 1800’s mentality when it comes to their employees. Again, the equipment has evolved, but the managers may as well ride a stagecoach to work.

The evolution of the railroad manager starts at the top. When the CEO’s of the railroads decide that they want to release their grip on the past, then things will change. I would like to see the entire management structure scrapped and replaced with a more competent style. I’m not saying all managers are bad, but when it comes to business practice the railroads must do better.