Not quite the end of the line

Written by George S. Sokulski, associate publisher emeritus

To all my faithful readers, this will be the last monthly installment of “Chicago Perspective.” I thank you for giving me a platform for 13 years where my thoughts, opinions, theories and assessments of the industry have been allowed to flourish.  

This is not good-bye or even full retirement. This is just the next step in an evolving career. I reserve the option to write the occasional commentary on industry happenings and, while not as active in the month-to-month publication of this magazine, I will remain deeply involved in the industry.

In my new position as associate publisher emeritus, I will be working on special projects and will be in attendance at all the industry tradeshows, serving as an ambassador for Railway Age, Railway Track & Structures and International Railway Journal.
I will continue to fill a role that I truly enjoy as a member of the various industry boards including REMSA, NRC, Western Railway Club and the MARTS-Coordinated Mechanical Group. When my career does reach it’s terminus, it’s the people in this industry who I will miss most of all, especially those who volunteer and serve with the associations. There is something quite gratifying about being able to sit with people who have different points of view representing the various industry fields and all work toward one goal: strengthening the industry.

Say what you will about death and taxes, I am positive I could have continued on with my current load of professional responsibilities forever. But, as we all know, timing is everything. And that’s the funny thing about time, as one ages (gracefully), you realize you do want to spend more time with family and, from a professional standpoint, it is time for newer folks to come on board. Hopefully, they come with fresh ideas and fresh ways of approaching situations and the industry.

Maintenance-of-way served as my entrance into an accidental railroading career that has gone on for decades. I went from the Army to getting married then back to school to needing a job and having the extreme good fortune of landing at Tamper (now Harsco Track Technologies).

During my career, I’ve learned some valuable lessons. The first is an often-overlooked skill: listen and do this first before talking. I always had tremendous respect for the mechanics and anyone else responsible for keeping machines and equipment working day-in and day-out. If hydraulic fluid was involved, these guys knew how to fix every hose, pump and manifold. When I would be out on railroad property, observing one of our test machines and trying to figure out how to make this piece of equipment run better, I would find a mechanic on either side of me saying, “You really wanna know what’s wrong with that machine?” I was smart enough to listen.

Listening leads to respect and respect can develop into trust. And once someone has trust in you, always be reliable, do what you say you’re going to do and never invent a story, just tell it like it is.

I know the industry can be daunting for a newcomer, but there are plenty of people who will give you the benefit of the doubt, show you the ropes and guide you through situations. If you show an interest in learning, there are people willing to teach.
To summarize 40-plus years of learning, make sure you meet everyone you can, listen and learn from their experiences and be prepared for a wild ride because it’s worth it.

by George S. Sokulski,
Associate Publisher

Categories: Ballast, Ties, Rail, Bridge/Retaining Walls/Tunnels, C&S, Class 1, Commuter/Regional, Intercity, Intermodal, OFF Track Maintenance, ON Track Maintenance, Rapid Transit/Light Rail, Safety/Training, Shortline/Regional, Supplier News, Track Machinery, Yards & Terminals