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25 Under 40: Part 2 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.

Marcellous Grigsby, Prevention and Mitigation Specialist, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

Grigsby’s eight-year tenure at Metro has been marked by data-driven safety risk mitigation, performance enhancement, and leading in-depth investigations across multiple transit modes. His creation of the “Safety Re-inspection Process Work Instruction” has streamlined safety processes for better asset management and improved safety, and as Mission Assurance Coordinator for the Metro Integrated Communications & Command, he significantly improved incident data analysis and communication efficiency. Grigsby served as Project Manager for the Metro Master Location Repository project, which successfully centralized verified addresses for all Metrorail stations—crucial for emergency response. With an MBA in public administration and MS in criminal justice, Grigsby is a Pro-board Certified Volunteer Firefighter and EMT and NFPA 1031 Certified Fire Inspector, and completed USDOT’s Public Transportation Safety Certification Training Program for Bus & Rail. He also earned the Metro Rising Champion of Safety Award in 2019 and was member of APTA’s 2023 Emerging Leaders Program. 

Sarah Hagel, Senior Manager Service Design in Network Operations, CN

Over the past year, CN’s Service Design team has undergone a significant personnel transition, including a new Director. Hagel was elevated to Senior Manager, leading a team of six and mentoring another three temporary employees. She took a proactive role overseeing the development and maintenance of an optimized service plan. This involved extensive network-wide travel and conducting service reviews at key terminals. An accomplishment during winter 2022/23 was the successful implementation of a manifest package in the Edmonton to Winnipeg corridor. Also, in Intermodal Service Design reviews, Hagel adjusted plans to achieve a more balanced arrival and departure through Edmonton, leading to a more efficient inbound plan, with a 4% improvement in network train speed designed time between Edmonton and Winnipeg and a 5% improvement between Edmonton and Vancouver. Additionally, in an August 2023 analysis of the Scotford Service Plan, it was found that Hagel’s strategic decisions resulted in an 8% faster cycle for railcars to Rupert and that outsourcing the first-mile work contributed to a 27% reduction in online car days.

Adam L. Harris, Director of Locomotive Operations & Maintenance, R.J. Corman Railroad Company

Harris has a proven track record of improving the reliability of R.J. Corman’s locomotive fleet and is considered the “go-to” manager for all things electrical. He joined R.J. Corman in 2016 as a Locomotive Electrician Supervisor, independently troubleshooting and repairing locomotives. His expertise and proficiency earned him promotions to Mechanical Superintendent, Central Region in 2021, managing a team of about 20 employees, and to his current role last October. Harris has been a key player in redesigning the R.J. Corman locomotive fleet based on need and best fit for operation; this has meant that in the past 15 months, the company has secured 27 more units to optimize operations. His latest project, a comprehensive data collection initiative for all R.J. Corman locomotives, has showcased his organizational skills. Harris is also a mentor and advisor; at least three young managers have been elevated to positions of greater responsibility and are flourishing under his leadership. Outside of work, this certified firefighter has served the West Knox Fire Department in Corbin, Ky., for more than 16 years.

Jenny Kane, Director, Rail Contract Management & Special Projects, Metra

Kane is managing the transfer of commuter rail services from Union Pacific to Metra commuter railroad in Chicago; this includes a 30% increase in Metra’s headcount and operational responsibility for three additional rail lines in a transaction worth $200 million annually. What sets her apart is her willingness to “meet people where they are” regardless of job responsibility. She is completing a management and labor program overhaul, and has support from all sides, largely because of her willingness to listen. With more than a decade of commuter rail and transit experience, Kane authored Metra’s first-ever FRA-approved Part 270 System Safety Program Plan; served on the APTA Working Group that drafted a Recommend Practice document for Safety and Security Certification; and managed the safety and security oversight function of five rail system new starts during construction, testing, and pre-revenue operations (Honolulu rail transit, KC Streetcar, DC Streetcar, St. Louis Loop Trolley, and Detroit Streetcar). She is part of APTA’s Leadership 2024 class and was selected for Metra’s My Metra Honors program for Improving Efficiency.

Matthew McLaughlin, Vice President of Business Development-Rail, Cathcart Rail

McLaughlin provides commercial support for Cathcart’s Belpre Parkersburg Industrial (BIP) Railroad (an Honorable Mention in Railway Age’s 2021 Short Line and Regional of the Year program); Cornhusker Railroad (CNRR); Bucyrus Industrial Railroad; seven contract switching locations; transload operations; and railcar storage. He has secured $5 million in state funding and another $15 million from the FRA’s CRISI Program in 2023. Since joining Cathcart in 2022, McLaughlin has grown BIP by 60% (revenue); developed active Union Pacific/BNSF interchanges and brought in two new customers for CNRR; and developed a transloading business at Cathcart’s shop in Amarillo, Tex. He began his railroad career at CSX in 2008 as an Operations management trainee, and in his 13 years there, took on a variety of positions, including Terminal Trainmaster, Manager Total Service Integration, Manager Strategic Planning, and Manager Short Line Development. He rounded out his service as Senior Manager Regional Sales, responsible for a portfolio of $104 million in annual revenue that represented more than 250 accounts in the Southeastern U.S. 

Greg Mitchell, Assistant Chief Engineer-Engineering Services, Iowa Interstate Railroad

Over the past eight years, Mitchell has developed the bridge management program for Class II Iowa Interstate—from small scale repairs to successfully completing 26 full renewals and 39 major repairs. He leads all aspects of the program, beginning with inspection and continuing through need, design, permit, bid, contract and completion. Mitchell was instrumental in the design, construction and administration of the William J. “Bill” Duggan bridge near Booneville, Iowa, which was funded in part by a FRA CRISI grant and completed in record-setting time and under budget. He also managed bridge projects under another CRISI grant, which covered installation of 21 miles of continuous welded rail between Atlantic and Hancock, Iowa. These projects not only improved Iowa Interstate’s infrastructure, but also increased safety for customers, local communities, and the railroad. Additionally, Mitchell was a key player in bridge-washout recovery efforts in summer 2018. Two 60-foot-long spans washed out on a Sunday evening and the bridge was back in service by Thursday. Mitchell also gives back to his community as a volunteer ambulance driver.

Click here to read Part 1 of 4

Click here to read Part 3 of 4

Click here to read Part 4 of 4

For more on the Railway Age Fast Trackers 25 Under 40 program, read:

Railway Age’s 2023 “Fast Trackers” 25 Under 40 Honorees
Railway Age’s 2022 “Fast Trackers” 20 Under 40 Honorees
Railway Age’s 2021 “Fast Trackers” 20 Under 40 Honorees
Railway Age’s 2020 “Fast Trackers” 10 Under 40 Honorees
Railway Age’s 2019 “Fast Trackers” 10 Under 40 Honorees
Railway Age’s 2018 “Fast Trackers” 10 Under 40 Honorees
Railway Age’s 2017 “Fast Trackers” 10 Under 40 Honorees

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