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Author: AREMA

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The American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA) is the leading professional association for railway engineers working together to further the development and advancement of both technical and practical knowledge in the railway industry. Come “roll with AREMA” as we chat with Members from every aspect of the Association. Each episode will contain entertaining and informative stories from our members about their time in the Association and how it has advanced their careers. Hosted By: Walt Bleser, PE, President, ARE Corporation. Information on the railway industry is provided as a service to our members but does not represent an endorsement. Subscribe to your favorite listening service to get episode notifications.
24 Episodes
Chuck Baker

Chuck Baker


We are back after a brief hiatus with a question. What do you know about short lines and other regional railroads? There’s more to rail than the cross-country trek; short lines represent a crucial, somewhat unknown, part of North American infrastructure. This episode host Walt Bleser chats with American Short Line and Railroad Association (ASLRRA) President, Chuck Baker. Together they lift the veil on the regional railroads that represent nearly 30% of the American railroad network. They’ll also discuss the valuable and complementary roles that trade associations and associations like AREMA play in the rail industry. It’s an informative and pun-free episode we know you’ll enjoy. 
What exactly are the AREMA Functional Groups? What role do they play in shaping the content we see at the Annual Conference and in our Manuals? In this episode, Walt sets out to answer those questions and others with two of the newest Functional Group leaders. Mike Atzert (Burns & McDonnell) is a Director of the Engineering Services Functional Group and has over 20 years of experience as a consultant in the rail industry. David C. Clark (CSX Transportation) is the Track Functional Group Vice President and has nearly 20 years of experience working in construction at a Class 1 railroad. Together, the trio discusses their paths to the industry, their plans for AREMA, and how they see AREMA changing in the future. It’s an episode you won’t want to miss.
In this first episode of the new year, host Walt Bleser chats with Dava Kaitala and Mark Coleman, two active Committee 13 – Environmental committee members about sustainability in the railroad industry. Dava Kaitala is the National Class 1 Rail Vice President for Jacobs and holds a JD from Texas Tech University. Mark Coleman is the Director of Advanced Energy at TRC and holds an MS in Environmental Management and Policy from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Together the trio discusses the differences and nuances between sustainability and environmentalism. As well as the importance of taking a cross- functional view of sustainability. 
On this episode, Walt chats with AREMA members James Michel (Railway Safety and Risk Management Consultant) and Thomas Cornille (Independent Consultant and former Watford Fellow), two members of the US Watford Committee as they share their experiences with the Watford Conference, an international conference for railroad professionals and on other international educational opportunities in the rail industry.  In rail, your career is only bounded by your curiosity, so hope on board as we take a trip around the globe.
Are you a student looking to find your career path? While you may not have even considered railroading, let us put it on your radar.  Many of the engineering (yes, even civil), technical, and communications fields apply to the railroading industry and there are resources available to students to help them find their way. In this episode, Walt Bleser chats with Bryan Schlake an Assistant Teaching Professor at Penn State-Altoona, and recent Penn State-Altoona graduate Gary Babcoke now a Project Engineer with NICTD. Both are mechanical engineers who have extensive experience navigating the AREMA Student Program, from attending a Conference to applying for scholarships, to forming a Student Chapter, and now working in the railroad industry - they have tried it all. Their stories are a testament to making the most of your resources and taking advantage of every opportunity when starting your career in rail.
The AREMA 2022 Annual Conference & Expo has come and gone, but not without talking to the two major players in making sure the event goes off without a hitch.  On this episode, we talk to AREMA staff, Beth Caruso, IOM, CAE, Executive Director and CEO, and Desiree Knight, CAE, CMP, DES, Senior Director, Education and Meetings to hear the ins and outs of the Annual Conference. How long does it take to plan these things? Did they love the music as much as everyone else? What was it like to be back in person? You’ll learn the answer to these questions and other fun facts, including if they have a favorite Presentation of the Conference in this episode. For the record, no attendees were arrested while in Denver…we think.
The AREMA 2022 Annual Conference & Expo is almost here! On this episode, Walt chats with two members who play key roles in the success of the event. Mike Freeman, PE (Union Pacific) is President of the AREMA Board of Governors and Joe Bamert, PE (Norfolk Southern Corporation) serves as chair of the Conference Operating Committee which provides valuable volunteers for the Conference. The trio talk about some of the exciting changes planned for the first in-person Conference in two years and dish on some of the "behind the scenes" things they’ve learned from their years of involvement with the event. Gain an insider's perspective on Conference before the event in Denver!
On this episode, Walt chats with Frank Miller, PE (AECOM), and Kevin Hicks, PE (TranSystems) two outgoing members of the Functional Group Board of Directors, the group that manages the technical committee operations for AREMA. Between them, they have over 60 years of experience in committee work and committee leadership. They’ll discuss the ability to drive the industry through committee membership and the importance of having a voice. They’ll also discuss the role of a Functional Group Vice President in AREMA, the importance of what they do, and their path to leadership. There are many opportunities within AREMA for those who are willing. They’ll also answer the question “Is Committee leadership relevant?” Spoiler: the answer is yes and never underestimating the value of a good library.
Bill Riehl, Will Riehl

Bill Riehl, Will Riehl


It’s a family affair on this episode as host Walt Bleser chats with two generations of AREMA members about the different paths they took to a career in civil engineering. William “Bill” Riehl, III, Chief Engineer Structures, Genesee & Wyoming has over 35 years of experience in the rail industry, and his son William “Will” Riehl, IV, Territory Sales Engineer, Atlantic Track Turnout is days away from completing his first year. Father and son share more than a love of model trains, they both offer a unique perspective on the industry and finding a career in rail outside of the traditional path. They'll also discuss the importance of networking in a relationship-based industry like rail and discovering how much business happens outside of work hours. And we'll answer the question, what exactly is the sound of money? It’s an episode that is sure to bridge the generational gap.
Michele Malski

Michele Malski


Does the railroad industry have an identity issue? How do employers rebrand post “The Great Resignation”? How can railroads of all types draw the best talent when faced with fierce competition from tech and other areas of transportation? In this episode, Walt tackles these questions with Michele Malski, founder of Succession Planning for Railroads Investing in the Next Generation (SPRING LLC). As a recruiter for railroads and a second-generation railroader herself, Michele has firsthand insight into what the next generation of railroaders is looking for in an employer. One tip: they don’t want your grandfather’s railroad. It’s important to show that you are more than just a company and look beyond traditional related degrees for the best candidates.  The rail industry has endured many recessions before and has a strong future ahead. It’s an episode sure to generate some questions so it's important to stay open-minded.
Dr. William W. Hay was a railroader and educator who mentored generations of leaders in the rail industry and his influence is still felt today, over 20 years after his passing. But who was Dr. Hay? Why were those who knew him inspired to create the Dr. William W. Hay Award for Excellence in his honor? In this episode, host Walt Bleser sits down with Michael Franke, Chair of the Hay Award Selection Committee and a former student of Dr. Hay, Christopher P. Barkan, PhD a Professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who still uses the textbook written by Dr. Hay as part of his curriculum, and Mat Fletcher of Hanson Professional Services Inc.  In 2020, Hanson won the Hay Award for their project, “Norfolk Southern’s Grand River Bridge Emergency Repairs in Brunswick, Missouri.” They discuss what made Dr. Hay so important to them, what the Selection Committee is looking for in a Hay Award-winning project, and the greater role previous winning projects have played in education. These guests all come from different backgrounds, but they do have one thing in common, the notable Dr. William. W. Hay.
It's Women’s History Month and on this episode, Walt interviews Cassandra M. Gouger (Union Pacific) and Krista Keene (Amtrak) as they reflect on the different paths and opportunities that led them both to a career in rail and leadership positions within AREMA. The group will touch on the history of women in rail, and the unique challenges women in the industry have faced since the 1960s. They’ll also discuss the importance of including diverse perspectives in the recruiting, hiring, and promoting processes. The industry has come a long way but there is still more work to be done and everyone can be an ally for diversity. From early education outreach to improving work/life, it's important to highlight and share the variety of career options available in the industry. Be it in the boardroom or on the track, no job in the railroad industry is off-limits.
In this episode, Walt chats with Jaclyn Whelan (Conrail) and Skylar Leach (Amtrak) two young professionals who are eager to share their unique perspectives on joining the rail industry and AREMA. Along the way, they discuss their hopes for the future and the feeling of walking into a committee meeting alone for the first time. Yes, TikTok will be mentioned but don’t judge. These young professionals appreciate the railroad and are excited for what comes next. Meet the next generation of railroaders, these are two names you will surely hear in the future.
Think you need years of experience to join a committee or that you must be an engineer? Then this episode is for you. Host Walt Bleser sits down with Committee 24 Chair Ashley Pate, AVP Business Development Manager, TranSystems and Committee 15 Vice-Chair Ruth Brown, PE, Chief Engineer Bridges & Structures, Norfolk Southern Railway, two committee members and leaders, to debunk some of the myths surrounding Committee membership.  They each took a different path to AREMA and committee membership, but they have made the most of it and are happy to share their experiences. Don’t dwell on your fear of the unknown. If you try only one new thing this year, make it an AREMA committee. 
Brian Lindamood

Brian Lindamood


This episode, host Walt Bleser, PE, talks with Brian Lindamood, PE, SE, Vice President, Chief Engineer of Alaska Railroad.  A Past AREMA President and Committee Chair, Brian offers his unique perspective on the subject of winterization and what a railroad needs to do year-round to prepare.  Who best to discuss winterization with than a resident of Alaska? Permafrost, avalanches, lasers, and fewer snowblowers than you might think, this is an episode for those who love the ins and outs of engineering.
Have you ever wondered what it takes to present your project or idea at the AREMA Annual Conference? On this episode, host Walt Bleser sits down with two experts on the topic: Program Committee Chair and AREMA Senior Vice President, Trent Hudak, Director Engineering Services, BNSF Railway, and Program Committee Staff Liaison Stacy Spaulding, CAE, Senior Director, Executive and Board Operations for AREMA. The trio discusses what the Program Committee looks for in papers such as new technologies and groundbreaking solutions to old problems. They also consider what it takes to present during the General Session and the importance of inclusivity and the diversity of ideas.  If you want to know how best to position your paper for success, you won’t want to miss this episode.  The Call for Papers deadline for the AREMA 2022 Annual Conference & Expo is December 10, 2021.
The wait is over. On this episode, host Walt Bleser talks with Josh Giegel, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, and Sarah Quick, Director of Regulatory Affairs, both of Virgin Hyperloop, about the exciting future of hyperloop and the role AREMA could play in that future. Along the way, they’ll discuss the importance of safety and safety regulations in the development of hyperloop, the importance of sharing knowledge in the rail industry, and the similarities and differences between hyperloop and the railroad. Leave your thoughts of pneumatic bank tubes behind, this is a discussion of an innovative option for a safe, sustainable future in passenger transportation.  This is the opportunity for seamless movement at super-high speeds and yes, there will be bathrooms.
Vic Babin

Vic Babin


This episode, Walt sits down with AREMA President Vic Babin as they talk a little about the past and a lot about the promising future of the rail industry. Along the way, they’ll touch on the upcoming AREMA 2021 Virtual Conference, the silver tsunami, and Super Mario Brothers.
Join our host Walt Bleser as he sits down with Mike Weber, Signal Engineer at Modern Railway Systems, and Jerry Specht, Director of Signal Engineering at BNSF Railway.  The three discuss AREMA’s newest Committee 35 – Information Technology.  They take a dive into the future of AREMA, new technology in the industry, and the goals of Committee 35.  You won’t want to miss this episode.
Gio DiDomenico

Gio DiDomenico


On this episode of the podcast, Host Walt Bleser sits down with Gio DiDomenico, Track Engineer, Kiewit. They discuss Gio’s path from AREMA Student Chapter member to Young Professional supporter for AREMA. Along the way they debate the benefits of Colorado living and the importance of engaging young railway professionals early in their career. It’s a lively episode you won’t want to miss.
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