That doesn't fully explain why, whenever and wherever I go in the U.S. these days and years, I'm struck by the innovation and optimism occurring on so many fronts, in so many places, as a nation begins to seriously retool and re-imagine itself from the grass roots up.
That certainly includes short line and regional railroads, including (but not limited to!) the winners we at Railway Age choose each year to honor for notable performance. In cataloging the nominees each year, it was hard for me to avoid feeling absolutely buoyant about the prospects not just for the individual railroads, and not for the Class II and Class III ranks, but for their customers, and their communities, and perhaps best of all for the employees that make their railroad work. And work well.
Others feel the same, it appears, at least within the railroad industry. Following our awards announcement March 7, notes of gracious congratulations and well-wishes for both Vermont Railway and Indiana Rail Road Co. have come in from other nominees, or from suppliers who advanced their own champions for consideration. "We look forward to reading about the winners," one executive said, even as he professed pride in his own company and its accomplishments.
I'll be doing the honors detailing Vermont Railway's story in the April issue of Railway Age, while my colleague Editor-in-Chief Bill Vantuono reports on Indiana Rail Road, so we two (in part) also will be part of the "read it and learn" process (as we proof each other's stories!).
But I know one thing already: The work drive survives, indeed thrives, among individual properties and as a whole, as encompassed by the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA). More than an honor to follow that as a journalist, it's personally uplifting. It's fun. It's a restorative.
You can rain on my optimism parade should you wish, reaching me at firstname.lastname@example.org. That's the spirit!