2022 Railroaders of the Year: Keith Creel and Pat Ottensmeyer, ‘Transnational Team’

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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RAILWAY AGE, JANUARY 2022 ISSUE: The Railroader of the Year Award, our 59th annual, goes to two exemplary and visionary North American rail industry leaders: Canadian Pacific President and Chief Executive Officer Keith Creel, and Kansas City Southern President and Chief Executive Officer Patrick J. Ottensmeyer. The two are reconfiguring the North American rail landscape by completing, if all goes as planned, what will be the first Class I merger in more than 20 years, and creating North America’s first transnational freight railroad, Canadian Pacific Kansas City, or CPKC.

CPKC is a landmark combination that will enable seamless, single-line freight rail service linking Canada, the United States and Mexico, opening up new opportunities for rail market share growth and vastly improved customer service. Merging these two iconic railroads, each with a unique history and legacy, required strategic planning, cooperation, enthusiasm and execution.

Railway Age previously named Ottensmeyer Railroader of the Year in 2020 and Creel Railroader of the Year in 2021.

Keith Creel became President and CEO of CP on Jan. 31, 2017. He is the 17th person to lead the company since 1881. Creel was appointed President and Chief Operating Officer in February 2013 and joined the CP Board of Directors in May 2015. Prior to joining CP, he was Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at CN. He held various positions at CN, including Executive Vice President Operations, Senior Vice President Eastern Region, Senior Vice President Western Region, and Vice President of the Prairie Division. Creel began his railroad career at Burlington Northern Railway in 1992 as an intermodal ramp manager in Birmingham, Ala. He also spent part of his career at Grand Trunk Western Railroad as a superintendent and general manager, and at Illinois Central Railroad as a trainmaster and director of corridor operations, prior to its merger with CN in 1999. Creel holds a Bachelor of Science in Marketing from Jacksonville State University. He also completed the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School. He has a military background as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army, during which time he served in the Persian Gulf War in Saudi Arabia.

Pat Ottensmeyer was elected as KCS President and CEO on July 1, 2016. From April 2015 to June 2016, he served as President of KCS. From October 2008 through March 2015, he served as KCS Executive Vice President Sales and Marketing. He joined KCS in May 2006 as Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer and served in that role until October 2008. Ottensmeyer has a broad range of railroad experience from the various senior executive positions he has held at KCS over the past 13 years, and also with BNSF. During his time as Executive Vice President Sales and Marketing, he developed a deep understanding of KCS’s strategy as well as its customers and growth opportunities. He has an extensive understanding of financial matters, which helped him lead KCS’s Finance department during his time as CFO. He came to KCS with substantial experience in financial matters from serving in various executive roles, including treasurer and chief financial officer positions. Ottensmeyer holds a Bachelor of Science in Finance from Indiana University.

Railway Age Editor-in-Chief William C. Vantuono in mid-November 2021 sat down in person with Creel and Ottensmeyer in New York City.

RAILWAY AGE: The reason why we have chosen you as our co-Railroaders of the Year, the first time in a long time, is because of the historic nature of the transaction in process now. The transaction that will form North America’s first transnational railway, Canadian Pacific Kansas City. My congratulations to you both. It’s great to see you in person. Big change from looking at you on a computer screen.

KEITH CREEL: I’m honored and I’m humbled for the recognition, but this isn’t about me, it’s about we, the CP family—12,000 railroaders, their collective body of work that really earned a seat at the table to be able to pursue this historic combination with the KCS. The second part of the we is actually the KCS franchise and the team that we’re going to get to partner with that we’re so excited about. So again, thank you for the recognition.

PAT OTTENSMEYER: Thank you for this recognition. And I know you appreciate, being a follower of the industry, the historic significance of this transaction. It truly is going to be a North American rail franchise unmatched by any other with just phenomenal opportunities. Given all of the factors that are taking place in the world of logistics and supply chain, this is coming together at exactly the right moment, and it’s truly going to be a formidable and unique North American rail franchise.

David Duffin photo.

RAILWAY AGE: Both of you can truly say unique. That’s a word we use carefully. How did this all come together? When you made your initial announcement in March of 2021, it was probably one of the best-kept secrets in the industry. What’s the backstory?

KEITH CREEL: Well, there’s quite a bit of backstory. A lot of ups and downs, but if I go back to the very beginning, certainly the idea of the concept was well before I came to CP. In fact, Pat could probably share the history; this was something that our predecessors years ago had actually explored. But CP, as I understood it, as I learned through that initial conversation I had with Pat because I was not aware of it at that time, did not have the balance sheet, the financial strength, or the ability to have a seat at the table. Go back to 2020 when I made a phone call to Pat. I said, “Pat, I’m coming to Kansas City. Do you have time to have lunch?” We obviously owned a joint agency yard in Kansas City so I had a reason to go there. Pat said, “Sure I do.” So we sat down, and at that lunch I presented an idea, a concept about the possibility of bringing these two great companies, iconic companies, together to create an even greater company. We had a very exhaustive discussion about hypothetically what that might look like, what competitive responses might be, what the regulatory landscape looked like, all of those things. Just an exploratory discussion that was the first of what became many discussions that finally came to a successful consummation of our merger agreement together the second time.

RAILWAY AGE: Pat, when you got that call from Keith, and he said, “I want to meet you in Kansas City,” did you have maybe even an inkling of what he might want to meet about?

PAT OTTENSMEYER: I did. Keith, the way I recall it, said, “I’m going to be in Kansas City, are you free for lunch?” And then we got together for lunch and I kind of explored a little bit what else Keith might be doing in Kansas City. Anyhow, the topic had come up. As you know and everybody knows, the Kansas City Southern has been rumored or in the crosshairs, I’ll say, for many times over the past 20, 25 years, however long you want to go back. So it wasn’t a surprise. It’s a very natural combination. As Keith mentioned, we share a joint agency yard in Kansas City, a 50-50 partnership. They go north; we go south. We don’t overlap by a single mile. We really never find ourselves competing with CP for business. We do a lot of things together, and have a great relationship. So from that standpoint, it’s a very natural fit. I wasn’t surprised when Keith kind of floated the idea. And just to kind of set the time frame, I think that lunch meeting we had was just a couple of months before the rumors started in July of 2020. It was reported and rumored that a group of private equity investors were interested in making an acquisition or an offer for Kansas City Southern. At that point when the rumor hit the media, we had not been approached, so we read about it at the same time everybody else did. And then a few weeks later, there was an approach from a private equity group to make an offer to buy KCS.

RAILWAY AGE: Keith, when you and your team saw that, did that spring you into action?

KEITH CREEL: Well, it certainly raised our attention. I’ll just be fully transparent. I’m thinking, “I wonder if there was something Pat knew that I didn’t.” But I’ve since learned that he didn’t. Pat’s a man of his word. And quite frankly, I believe these two companies came together because it’s the right answer for North America. It’s the right answer for our industry. But it is the right combination overall for both companies. You’ve got two like-minded companies: KCS, the smallest of the Class I’s; we were next to smallest. We had to provide great service. We’re very customer-centric, and we also have enjoyed, as of late, implementing the same operating strategies. To be able to have all of those things right, and in the regulatory environment we’re in today with the STB’s mandate, to be able to have a formula that you could present to the regulator that increases competition and creates an opportunity for growth and an opportunity to take trucks off the road in a unique way that no other combination would represent? To me, it was a fate issue. And it was something that we’re extremely proud to be a part of. I think about the we at CP. I think about the history of the company, a 140-year-old proud Canadian corporation that sort of lost its way, and we’ve restored our way to a point that we’ve had enough success, stabilizing our balance sheet again to get to a place where we could even have the discussion that Pat and I had in July of 2020. And it’s because of our CP family and their sacrifices that we have been able to do what we’re doing and why I’m sitting here today. 

RAILWAY AGE: I don’t want to dwell too much on the past few months, but it’s been kind of tumultuous with CN coming in with a counter-offer. Were you anticipating that?

PAT OTTENSMEYER: Not specifically. It didn’t surprise me or us that there might be other interest, but we were not anticipating that. I was sitting in my den at 5:30 in the morning and got a phone call from Montreal. I wasn’t expecting it necessarily, but nonetheless we weren’t terribly surprised. When we had our discussions in the boardroom over the course of August of 2020 to early 2021 after the point we announced the first transaction with CP, the question always came up: “Are there others who are interested?” So we considered that, and certainly the possibility that someone might come in with a different offer. Keith and CP were by far more aggressive in their pursuit, more engaged, more focused on the outcome of putting the two companies together. And our strategy with the Board was to work with, at that point, the two most interested, most aggressive, most engaged suitors: the private equity group and Keith and CP, but retain the right through the negotiation. Retain the right to change our mind and consider another offer if one developed. And obviously, you know how that played out, but it was always our belief that we pursue the transactions that were more eager, more aggressive, and then keep our options open if something else came along.

RAILWAY AGE: We at Railway Age certainly had a good time covering it. If someone said to me, “May you live in interesting times,” I would say, “Yes, we are living in interesting times.” But ultimately, as we know, the outcome went right back to the beginning, or back to the future. The timeline for STB approval seems to be pretty tight. You’re anticipating getting approval sometime by the end of 2022. It would seem to me one reason for that is because this combination is not as heavy a lift as any other combination, from a regulatory standpoint, from a competition standpoint.

KEITH CREEL: I’ll provide a bit of color here. It’s not that it’s going to be any less fulsome. The regulator, the STB, they’ll do a fulsome review of our merger application. But the thing that’s unique, again, and I say that word a lot, there’s not been another combination historically in this industry under the old merger rules, or even under the new rules, that’s so simple, that lacks complexity. There are no customers that are losing options. You’ve got complexities that just are not represented by our combination. When I say perfect, it’s new lanes, new opportunities, new options for customers, new competition, not less in any way. There’s just truly nothing else that fits that mantra. Although 12 months to me is a meaningful period of time with the procedural schedule the STB has set forth, I look at history, too. I do a lot of research. And to put it in perspective, think about the simplicity of combining our networks. Think about the complexity of combining a UP-SP or a BNSF. The time frames for those two transactions were actually less than what we’ve suggested or what the STB has come out with from a procedural standpoint. If the others achieved theirs with their complexity, then we certainly can achieve ours.

RAILWAY AGE: You even go back to the Norfolk Southern-CSX Conrail split, which was really complicated if you think about it, the way Conrail was divided and the establishment of the shared assets areas, that didn’t take very long if you think about it.

KEITH CREEL: The Conrail deal was just a little bit longer than what the STB procedural schedule has prescribed for us. Just a little bit.

RAILWAY AGE: What does the merger of these two iconic railroads mean for North America? Not only for our industry, but also for the economy in general, the North American economy, but also taking that forward to the global economy?

KEITH CREEL: From my perspective, what it means is growth, an opportunity to combine two of the smallest railroads into one very unique larger railroad, still the smallest but I believe the most relevant in North America. Connecting all three nations, connecting the commerce that moves today and that will move tomorrow. To Pat’s point about the perfect time, we think about if we go back to when we first explored this combination in 2020, the thought of commerce, the thought of de-risking supply chains, those were all topics that we thought about and talked about. But if they made sense then, they certainly made sense now as we fast forward toward the end of 2021. This railroad will create that backbone that connects all of those supply chain partners, connects our customers to new markets, and creates investment and the U.S. rail network that will harden the infrastructure and create capacity for today’s business as well as tomorrow’s growth in a unique way.

RAILWAY AGE: Pat, you and I have talked in the past about Mexico, Kansas City Southern de México, USMCA. We’ve talked about things like nearshoring. What are some of the opportunities for growth? There’s the port in Mexico, Lázaro Cárdenas. There are lots of opportunities there.

Left to right: Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, U.S. President Joe Biden.

PAT OTTENSMEYER: Today being Nov. 18, 2021, in Washington, D.C., President Biden, Prime Minister Trudeau and President López Obrador are headed over to the North American Leaders Summit. There are a lot of big expectations for this meeting about charting the course for better coordination within North America on things such as supply chain issues. They’ll talk about a lot of other things: security, migration, all of that. But if you think about this moment, USMCA is just over a year old, so we have trade certainty, a new trade agreement for at least another 15 years in North America. You have supply chain issues that are causing supply chain leaders, strategists, to rethink global extended supply chains, moving manufacturing and production closer to markets and other things that are really changing the landscape of how leaders think about where to position manufacturing, supply, all of that. We believe, and Keith definitely shares my view on this, that not only will CPKC benefit from those trends; we can help drive some of those decisions, because of the importance of rail. The best example is the automotive supply chain. You look at where the auto plants and the suppliers and the producers are, and you overlay that on our network. It’s a great match. We can actually drive some of those investment decisions because of the fact that we are going to be so critical in connecting those markets. I know that is going to be a big topic of discussion with the presidents. I met yesterday in Washington with the relatively new Finance Minister of Mexico. The Mexican Cabinet has done a study that concludes if they can relocate 10% of the manufacturing that currently takes place in China and other Asian low-cost countries to North America, it would have a positive impact in the GDP of the three countries ranging from about 0.5% to 2% in Mexico. So 10% of manufacturing relocating back to North America could increase Mexican GDP by almost 2%. The Mexican government is very interested in making sure that we can align priorities and policy objectives across the three countries to drive to that outcome. It’s a great opportunity for North America, and the timing of putting these two companies together could not be better.

RAILWAY AGE: Would you agree that our industry is at an inflection point or a turning point? Given all the events in the past two or three years with the pandemic changing a lot of things, how we work, how we shop for example, and all of, as you both have mentioned, the supply chain issues, problems, I would say that this industry has a real opportunity. We just have to grasp it. I’m sure you would agree on that?

KEITH CREEL: I would agree completely. It’s undeniable, the importance of real networks. It’s actually, to me, a success enabler. You think about some of the challenges the supply chains are facing today. Think about the highways. Think about the infrastructure bill in the U.S. that just got passed. We’re spending a ton of money to harden and improve infrastructure with public funds. This in combination with private funds takes trucks off the road. It’s great for the environment. It’s great for congestion. And that’s our transaction. But for the railroad industry overall, as we evolve and implement being more service reliable, get to a scheduled railroad so to speak, become more truck-like reliable, you’ll see more and more trucks come off the roads and create not only benefits for the railway, but also benefits for the public interest.

RAILWAY AGE: The other thing is resiliency. And here, I’m specifically referring to impacts from climate change. Almost all the railroads in North America have been affected in some way by climate change. There were terrible rainstorms in the Pacific Northwest and Vancouver that took their toll on the highways, but also on the rail lines. In terms of recovery from that and being prepared, railroads are much better equipped, much more resilient to respond and to rebuild.

KEITH CREEL: It’s an outdoor sport. We’ve said that a lot. Especially our railroad, right? We have some unique geography going through the mountains. We deal with snow, we deal with mudslides, we deal with rain, so it’s all part of what we do. It’s a core skill set, and obviously I’d like to do less of it, not more of it. But in a case like this, we’re challenged. Mother Nature rears her ugly head and she shows that she’s a force to be reckoned with. Having the right resources, expertise, the physical assets, the manpower and the know-how to be able to tackle those challenges and restore the railroad quickly is certainly something that we’ve had a lot of practice at, and we do quite well with it. Thinking about Mother Nature, global warming, the environment: It absolutely is real. I think about an ability to be able to help that, to take trucks off the road, to lower greenhouse gas emissions, because rail is so much more fuel efficient, 75% less greenhouse gas emissions for the tonnage that we move. To me, we’re a part of the solution for the future that will help the environment and hopefully help mitigate the impact on Mother Nature and some of the cycles and challenges in the environment we’ve all had to go through and been exposed to.

RAILWAY AGE: Let’s talk more about single-line service.

PAT OTTENSMEYER: People who are familiar with the industry understand what that means, but for a lot of people, I don’t know that they fully understand the importance of single-line service that we are going to be able to provide to so many new markets, huge freight markets, huge consumer markets. But single-line service really comes down to making sure that you have total alignment and coordination of operating practices and philosophies, which we actually do today with our implementation of PSR, coming obviously years behind what Keith and CP have done, but very similar in terms of an operating philosophy. And then the capital investment strategies. It takes an awful lot of trust between two independent companies to align and make the capital commitments that are going to be necessary and are described in our merger application to get the capacity where it needs to be to be able to take advantage of the growth opportunities we have described in the merger case, particularly intermodal, automotive, truck-to-rail conversion up and down the network. It’s normally not reasonable to think that two independent parties are going to trust each other that much to make those kinds of long-term capital investment decisions that will improve service consistency, reliability and resiliency to really get the momentum for particularly the truck-to-rail conversion opportunities that we know are there. If you look at our map—Mexico City, Monterrey, Texas, Kansas City, and then kind of fanning out between Minneapolis, Chicago, Detroit and Toronto, that is a huge freight market. And it’s a growing freight market dominated by truck. All of that will come together in a way, with the investments that we’re planning, to provide the kind of service consistency, and resiliency that will be necessary to drive that growth.

RAILWAY AGE: Independently, Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern have been making major investments in infrastructure for capacity and resiliency. One example is the big automotive distribution center being built in Mexico. On the CP side, there’s been a lot of investment in port facilities and other things. Can you give us an idea of some of the joint investments planned? That’s a big word these days, infrastructure. What are some of the plans?

KEITH CREEL: They’re pretty big and it’s hard to forget them. This is going to unlock an opportunity, a financial case, to invest an order magnitude of about $300 million in the infrastructure between Minneapolis, St. Paul, going down to the La Crosse, Wisconsin, our route that parallels the West side of the Mississippi River to Kansas City, and then of course Kansas City down to Laredo. If you break that down, it’s CTC, centralized traffic control, which obviously has a capacity and safety benefit for the communities we operate in and through. It’s also siding extensions and new-builds to the tune of about 30 miles over the first three years to prepare us for those synergies that we’re talking about to get us started. It’s a substantial amount of investment in an underutilized asset. And to Pat’s point, as a stand-alone, you could never justify doing that. But together it unlocks that opportunity with that investment to create this real backbone that we’re talking about, which will uniquely benefit so many stakeholders.

Port of Lázaro Cárdenas

RAILWAY AGE: Pat, on your side, especially the Mexican side, we’re talking about that port on the Pacific Coast, Lázaro Cárdenas, which has a lot of potential.

PAT OTTENSMEYER: It’s an amazing place. If you can’t go there physically, just spend a little bit of time on Google Earth and look at the ports up and down the West coast of North America. And what you’ll see for the most part is ports that are in very heavily congested, urban areas, L.A./Long Beach obviously the most, but that really don’t have a lot of room to grow. And then go to Lázaro Cárdenas and see how much growth space, how much extra land is ready for future development in addition to the terminals that are there today that have, I think theoretically, probably seven or eight million TEUs of capacity between the two ports. The port authority at Lázaro Cárdenas has a spent an enormous amount of money over the years building rail infrastructure, roads, bridges, everything else. It’s a unique piece of property, and I think there’s just a tremendous amount of potential. A lot of interest, particularly now given the congestion in Southern California and ports for shippers and ocean carriers and beneficial cargo owners, moving some of their freight to come into North America through Lázaro Cárdenas. Actually, our route to get from Lázaro to Houston is actually 300 miles shorter than the shortest route from L.A./Long Beach to Houston. So long-term, it’s got a lot of potential.

RAILWAY AGE: At the U.S./Mexico border itself, there is the busiest crossing at Laredo, Tex. Going back to the late ’90s with the privatization, that was the connection to the so-called crown jewel of the Mexican system, now KCSM. What else needs to be done at that border crossing to make it even more fluid than it is?

PAT OTTENSMEYER: Infrastructure processes, technology—we’re working on all of those things. On the infrastructure side, we have approval on the U.S. side to build a second span of the international bridge. We are planning to do that in probably 2023, and that will increase capacity substantially. The bridge we have today is a single-line bridge. In terms of working with the customs and security agencies on both sides of the border, we’re hoping to replicate at the Southern border the processes that have existed for a long time between the U.S. and Canada. The security concerns are different, so that’s going to be a challenge. But we’re also working with labor to improve the efficiency of how we move trains across the border. I heard a quote recently from a group that convened former ambassadors of Mexico and the U.S. to talk about issues, and some of these things to be talked about in the summit between the presidents. And the quote was, “We have a 21st century economy. We have 20th century infrastructure, and we have 19th century processes.” Not too much of an exaggeration. Over the years, we have located two inspection facilities on the North side of the border that are now shared by the Mexican and U.S. customs agencies. Where there were two separate inspections and other things taking place on both sides of the border for northbound and southbound freight, we have consolidated those working with the federal agencies to co-locate in the same facility on U.S. soil. That has really been helpful in streamlining the processes, but there’s a lot more work to be done.

KCS has approval on the U.S. side to build a second span of the international bridge at Laredo, Tex.

RAILWAY AGE: I wanted to ask you both about the people, the mood at both railroads. The uncertainty is mostly over. What’s it like now? It would seem to me that a lot of people from all across both railroads are probably excited about putting these two companies together, from the switchmen and brakemen right up to the C-suite.

KEITH CREEL: Well, you can imagine at CP we’ve been through a range of emotions. When we announced this historic transformational deal, the whole company was energized and excited because we’ve always been an origin-rich network. We’re not blessed with the destinations that we needed to optimize our network, so we were very excited. Through the battle with CN, we stayed focused and committed. And now that we’ve actually won the merger agreement again and we’re going to be the successful suitor, so to speak, and create a marriage for a lifetime between these two great companies, the pride that’s in our company matches the pride that’s in KCS. There are so many similarities. We turned 140 this year, so there’s 140 years of proud history, tons of excitement. We honor that every day, but are looking forward to the next 140. It’s our job, our mandate and objective to make those even better years. We’re super excited to get to work.

RAILWAY AGE: Pat, interviewing you two years ago, I used the term “fiercely independent.” That has changed for the better. Your thoughts?

PAT OTTENSMEYER: There’s a lot of excitement at KCS, and Keith has done a phenomenal job of the way he’s communicated with the KCS family, things he’s done to take off some of the edge. Anytime there’s a merger acquisition there’s going to be a certain amount of anxiety. But when we announced the second CP transaction and agreement, Keith and his executive team came to Kansas City. He wanted to be in Kansas City the day that we announced the merger agreement in September. And I think that was very impactful on the people in Kansas City. As you get further away from Kansas City, I think it’s all positive. There’s job growth. There’s a lot of excitement from the Mexican side employees and others who see this as validation that Mexico is an important part of the investment thesis in North America. In Kansas City, the fact that Keith has committed to relocating the U.S. headquarters in Kansas City has gone a long way in keeping people calm and focused on the opportunity and the upside more so than the risk and the potential consequences of the integration process. You’ve heard it a thousand times here: This is not about cost cutting and closing facilities and shrinking and all of that. This is about growth. The vast majority of people at KCS I think look at that and they see just how interesting and strategically significant this new combination is going to be, and they see that as a source of excitement as opposed to risk.

RAILWAY AGE: Pat, as you’ve said many times, and I think now both of you can say this with confidence, “Service begets growth.” Those three words I think are the most important here when we’re talking about this transaction. I think you’d agree.

PAT OTTENSMEYER: I agree with you. That’s what it’s all about. Rob Krebs coined the phrase, “You grow or you die.” This company, this network, this team under Keith’s leadership, just phenomenal opportunities. And right now, I think you look at this exact moment, you look at the service performance, the focus on customers that CP and KCS have, and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say we’re leading the industry right now. The growth opportunities are going to be there, and there’s no question that we’re going to be able to execute and deliver that promise.

KEITH CREEL: Number one, services are products. If we don’t have a service to sell in the marketplace, obviously it’s going to impede our growth. The commitment that our company has, and I know Pat’s team of railroaders has, to service and to customers comes from quite frankly, if we don’t have good service it’s hard for us to compete with the bigger players in this industry. I’ve said this: “Maintain our humility, maintain our hunger, and work to earn the right to move our customers’ freight.” If we take that approach and maintain that approach, and we will as CPKC, we’ll create value across all stakeholders that is truly something to be excited about, and unique in this industry.

RAILWAY AGE: Would you say that’s an important message for the STB to hear? Especially with Chairman Oberman, who has been an activist talking about service quality and seems to be deeply concerned about that. If he were here as part of this interview, what would you say to him?

PAT OTTENSMEYER: I’d say this is, without a doubt, a combination that creates new options for shippers. It is pro-competitive. As we said, we don’t overlap by a single mile and there is not a single shipper that is going to lose options. This is a new single-line service in probably the largest and fastest-growing freight corridor in North America. We’re talking to customers all the time, and they see this as a very attractive option to connect some of these big markets and give them more options than they have today. The other rail options will continue to be there, and obviously the highways, but I think shippers are genuinely excited about the possibility of new single-line service connecting some of the largest, fastest-growing and most important freight markets in North America.

KEITH CREEL: I would say to the Chairman that this is about competition that allows that growth. It’s about job creation. It’s about taking trucks off the road, 64,000, to start with, a year. Think about the environmental impact of those trucks being minimized and how much greenhouse gas is saved. Think about the infrastructure across the nation. And finally, it’s about investment. The U.S. rail network becomes stronger, not weaker, as a result of this combination. There are no redundant lines. It’s all about enhancing what we have and increasing capacity. It’s not about reducing anything. You put all of those facts together to the regulator. You have a stronger U.S. rail network as a result of this combination in so many unique ways. I would believe that, based on those facts, it’d be a positive response from the regulator.

RAILWAY AGE: This is for the enthusiasts out there and in all of us: Sometime in early 2023, if all goes as planned, the CP Empress Steam Locomotive, the 2816, will be fired up and rolling with a special train from Calgary all the way into Mexico. I think she’s been well kept and a lot of people really look forward to that. Pat, you’re going to have to get that locomotive across the Mexican border!

PAT OTTENSMEYER: We’ll do that! It will truly be a historic photo opportunity event across the continent that probably has never happened. That would be a terrific, terrific event.

KEITH CREEL: The work has begun. We’re getting prepared. You can imagine that’s a large undertaking, but it’s one we’re all honored and proud to be participating in. There’s a lot of excitement and energy around the 2816.

RAILWAY AGE: Keith Creel and Pat Ottensmeyer, once again congratulations to our co-Railroaders of the Year for 2022. We look forward to seeing you both in person in March at our Railroader of the Year dinner at the Union League Club of Chicago. Pat, you had your dinner in 2020. Keith, you didn’t get a dinner last year, so you finally get a dinner. And maybe we’ll serve plain vanilla ice cream for dessert!  

See the video of this interview, sponsored by Amsted Rail and TrinityRail.