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Alaska Railroad names new COO

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief

The Alaska Railroad has named Chief Mechanical Officer Doug Engebretson as Chief Operating Officer, a position left vacant when former COO Bill O’Leary was promoted to President and CEO on Nov. 1. Engebretson’s promotion was effective November 8.

A third-generation railroader with more than three decades of railroading experience, Engebretson joined the Alaska Railroad in 1984, just as the federally owned railroad was preparing to be purchased by the State of Alaska. “Having been here since transfer to the state, I’ve seen the astounding strides ARRC has made in every area of operations and business commitments. I’m confident we will continue to overcome any adversity and capitalize on new opportunities,” said Engebretson. “In my capacity as COO, I look forward to working with colleagues and customers to enhance our relationships.”

“Doug has proven himself as a level-headed and well-rounded leader,” said O’Leary. “Having risen from the ranks, he is well-versed in the mechanics of railroading, and our operations. I know I can count on Doug’s extensive experience with regulatory compliance, safety, and personnel management.”

Engebretson has extensive expertise with the mechanical aspect of rail operations, beginning with his certification as a carman in 1980 following a three-year apprenticeship at the Burlington Northern in Montana. After five years with BN (1977-1982), Engebretson found himself bound for Fairbanks, Alaska, in 1983. The following year, he joined the Alaska Railroad as a Journeyman Carman. Engebretson’s leadership skills were rewarded with a series of promotions, including to Fairbanks Terminal Supervisor in 1986. In 1990, he transferred to Anchorage to become Car Operations Manager, a position he held until 2006. He also served as Mechanical Capital Project Manager 2001-2002. In 2006, Engebretson joined the senior management team as Director of Mechanical Maintenance, and at the beginning of 2010, he was named CMO.

Engebretson said he appreciates the historic significance that railroading has played in Alaska and in his own family. He was recently seated on the Board of Directors for the Engine 557 Restoration Company, a non-profit organization tasked with refurbishing a historic steam engine for an eventual return to service on the Alaska Railroad. Engebretson also follows in the footsteps of two previous generations in the Engebretson family who worked for railroads in Montana. His grandfather Carl worked for the Northern Pacific, and father Albert worked for NP and BN, and eventually retired from the Montana Rail Link.

Born and raised in Missoula, Montana, Engebretson is a military veteran who served as a track vehicle mechanic in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1974 to 1977. He and his wife of 35 years, Teresa, reside in Anchorage. They have two grown sons, Curtis and Ryan.

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