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25 Under 40: Part 1 of 4

Written by Railway Age Staff
Shutterstock/ Kikujiarm

Shutterstock/ Kikujiarm

RAILWAY AGE, FEBRUARY 2024 ISSUE: Railway Age is proud to recognize 25 ‘Fast Trackers’ Under 40 in 2024.

Railway Age is honoring 25 “Fast Trackers” for this year’s 25 Under 40 awards program.

Established in 2016, our annual awards are presented to top North American railroaders under the age of 40 for making an impact in their respective fields or within their companies in the United States, Canada and Mexico. They represent freight and passenger railroads, as well as the supply and consultant/contractor and government communities. Candidates, who had to be under the age of 40 as of  Jan. 1, 2024, were judged on criteria that included industry experience and education, leadership skills, industry contributions, and community service involvement.

Shutterstock/ Monton Tiemrak

“The field was strong, which bodes well for the future,” said Michigan State Center for Railway & Education Director Nick Little, program judge. “This year, there was a noticeable reduction in IT people as these skills clearly become assimilated into the more traditional roles. Many nominees talked about internal and external cooperation and cross-functional leadership qualities. I continue to be amazed by the contributions these young people have made in their careers alongside maintaining quality of life. Ten of the 25 are female, which says a lot about the quality of women in rail today. The range of backgrounds and skills range from locomotive engineer to civil engineer and from project leader to operations manager, and everything in between.”

Michigan State Center for Railway Research & Education Director Nick Little

While in high school in Britain, Nick Little started his career with clerical and operating internships at Plymouth on British Rail’s Western Region in the early 1970s. He won a scholarship program with the British Railways Board that gave him a supply management degree plus training in all aspects of BR’s organization. Little then spent 15 years with BR in many locations, including Derby and London. In 1995, Little came to Michigan State University, initially for one year on  loan to work on a research program, but he stayed to follow his passion of helping to develop future generations of railway industry expert managers and leaders with deep business knowledge and experience. He took charge of MSU’s Railway Management Certificate Program at the Broad College of Business in 2013.

Lindsay Anderson, Director Business Analytics & Resource Planning, CPKC

Since starting her railroad career 11 years ago, Anderson has striven for a data-driven culture. She transformed the way operational decisions were made at Kansas City Southern and now at CPKC, which was formed in April 2023 through the merger of CP and KCS. She was responsible for construction and adoption of 50-plus dashboards that leaders use to make decisions based on trends. Through 2022 and 2023, Anderson led an initiative to create a machine learning environment and KCS’s first predictive model for train ETAs. They have been successfully running for six months and provide train ETAs to crew change locations and destinations with a median error of 4.7 hours, vs. the planned schedule with a median error of 7.4 hours. This data will be used to inform decision-making on calling crews’ line of road, predicting when recrews will be required and decreasing crew call to departure times. Anderson and her team are responsible for creating and maintaining all STB-required metrics to monitor the operational performance of CP-KCS network. She works with executive leadership to identify negative trends in the metrics to minimize risk. 

Bryon Arita, Vice President-Sales, The Greenbrier Companies

Arita joined BNSF in 2006 as an asset utilization analyst. He spent 15 years at the Class I, rising through the ranks to Manager, Asset Utilization—first  for the Chemicals and Plastics Business Unit and later for the Automotive Business Unit. He moved on to become Manager Product Planning and Development for Intermodal in 2013 and Sales Manager, Full Truckload Intermodal in 2017, before taking on the role of Senior Marketing and Sales Manager for the Steel Business Unit. According to his nominator, among Arita’s accomplishments at BNSF was working with the automotive team, other railroads and TTX to develop new strategies to overcome network inefficiencies. In 2021, Arita joined The Greenbrier Companies, a freight railcar manufacturer that provides railcar management and maintenance, fleet management, and railcar leasing services. He is responsible for new railcar sales and leasing for the South Central region, works with the commercial team, and provides valuable insight to customers, his nominator said. Arita also strives to bring others into the transportation field through his roles as founding Board member of the Young Professionals in Transportation-Dallas-Fort Worth Chapter, as Secretary of the Transportation Club of Dallas-Fort Worth, and as a UT Dallas MBA Supply Chain mentor. Arita holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing and entrepreneurship from Baylor and an MBA from Texas Christian University. 

Abigail Barman, Assistant Project Director, Amtrak

Part of Amtrak’s Capital Delivery team, Barman is responsible for managing transportation facility capital improvements valued at more than $2 billion. She is overseeing redevelopment of the historic William H. Gray III 30th Street Station—from upgrading operational facilities, expanding passenger waiting areas, and providing new retail and dining options to offering a pedestrian-friendly plaza and an enlarged metropolitan lounge for Amtrak passengers. All these improvements will be made while maintaining uninterrupted rail operations, which Barman will manage through detailed work planning and cross-departmental coordination. Since joining Amtrak nearly three years ago, she has established a project team and stakeholder management strategy to deliver this complex, high-profile capital program that is being delivered through a Public Private Partnership—the first of its kind for Amtrak. Furthermore, Barman’s academic research at the University of Pennsylvania on alternative project delivery models has been instrumental in shaping Amtrak’s strategy under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Outside of work, Barman is dedicated to community service. She has worked to train and socialize small animals at the Upper Valley Humane Society and to maintain and build trails for the Upper Valley Trails Alliance; served as Chair of the Hartford Parks and Recreation Board; and helped organize and lead Young Professionals in Transportation events. 

Michael Cleveland, Director of Advanced Energy, Progress Rail, a Caterpillar Company

Cleveland leads strategic work around the world to implement sustainable locomotive solutions from Progress Rail, which sees an evolving market for its EMD® product line, including battery-electric (EMD®  Joule is testing in California, Brazil and Australia), hybrid and hydrogen propulsion, plus diesel-electrics fueled with bio and renewable diesel blends. He has more than a decade of rail industry experience, primarily spent leading alternative locomotive fuel projects. Cleveland has successfully implemented projects ranging from EPA engine certifications to battery-electric locomotive equipment. He got his start in 2010 as a mechanical management trainee at BNSF, where he also served as a natural gas locomotive tech expert, mechanical manager, and battery electrification program leader, before joining Progress Rail in 2021. While locomotive-focused, his passion for clean transportation and decarbonization has yielded projects that have advanced the industry’s understanding across equipment types. “Cleveland’s knowledge and deep experience with alternative fuels gives railroads a unique advantage as they tackle the challenges of decarbonization while maintaining existing operations,” his nominator said.

Lucas Conrad, Senior Manager of Rail Safety Training, Watco

Conrad leads the team that develops training and delivers content to prepare the next generation of railroaders. He joined Watco as a Freight Conductor, and progressed to Locomotive Engineer and Trainmaster, spending two years supervising and mentoring operations employees; supporting rail customers; and managing conductor and locomotive engineer certifications on one of the company’s largest railroads. In 2013, he helped start operations and train employees for Watco in Australia. Conrad later became an instructor on Watco’s Safety and Training team. In 2020, he assumed his current role at Watco’s Safe Performance Center, which trains upwards of 900 students per year. In 2023, 352 locomotive engineers and conductors were trained directly by Conrad or the instructors he leads. He has guided implementation of computer-based training, locomotive simulation training and testing, and remote electronic learning, resulting in improvements in student scores, long-term knowledge retention, and ultimately career development. He also spearheaded the SPC portion of Watco’s initiative to move from paper rulebooks, timetables, and other publications, to an electronic format.

Monica Coria, Senior Manager, Railroad & Real Estate Services, Southern California Regional Rail Authority/Metrolink

Coria is responsible for advising Metrolink’s CEO and Chief Strategy Officer on freight and tenant railroad relations and negotiations, which are critical to Metrolink’s network development and operations given that nearly 93% of its 545 route-mile network involves shared-use territory featuring operations by BNSF, Union Pacific and Amtrak in addition to commuter trains. She has more than 12 years’ experience managing railroad right-of-way assets, projects, and real property and shared use agreements for North County Transit District, San Diego Metropolitan Transit System, and Metrolink. She is currently researching shared-use agreement opportunities to increase Metrolink’s service footprint and provide efficient regional service for the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles and beyond. Just six months after joining Metrolink, Coria was able to finalize critical negotiations that had been pending for more than two years. She has broken down internal silos, improved communication with rail partners, and successfully implemented last-minute service requests. In her free time, she mentors underprivileged high school students.

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