Ken Lawson, 1928-2019

Written by William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief
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Kenneth Leslie Lawson, who enjoyed a distinguished career in railway engineering, planning and research and development, died at his home Bluemont, Va., June 19, 2019. He was 90.

Born in Chicago in 1928, Lawson graduated from Northwestern University in 1951 with a degree in electrical engineering. He served as a gunnery officer on the U.S.S. Healy during the Korean Conflict.

Following jobs with ALCOA, Anaconda Copper and Westinghouse, Lawson began a long association with Bechtel Corporation in 1962 as Chief Equipment Engineer on San Francisco’s BART rapid transit system.

Lawson moved to the Federal Railroad Administration as Senior Engineer of Rail Systems R&D in the Office of High-Speed Ground Transportation. He was instrumental in establishing the U.S. DOT Transportation Test Center at Pueblo, Colo.; overseeing, in the 1960s, development and testing of the original  electric multiple-unit Metroliner trains; lobbying before Congress and planning for NECIP (Northeast Corridor Improvement Program) in the 1970s; initiating track and dynamics research for high-speed rail; developing related safety standards; and providing technical support for the creation of Amtrak and Conrail.

Following his work at FRA, Lawson returned to work with Bechtel on a wide variety of rail transportation projects, including high-speed rail, heavy-haul freight railroads and light rail systems that spanned the nation, and the globe from London to Seoul to Brazil to Indonesia. Throughout, he served the industry in all phases of research, and planning, working from all perspectives, representing manufacturers, owner-operators and government entities.

In retirement, serving on Loudoun County’s Agricultural District Advisory Committee, Lawson also was a member of the Blue Ridge Mountain Civic Association and the Loudoun Hunt.

Lawson’s survivors include his wife of 68 years, Alice, three children, three grandchildren and two brothers. All will cherish the memory of his kindness, steadfastness and sense of adventure. He will be laid to rest in Illinois. Memorial contributions in his name can be made to Journey Through Hallowed Ground, www.hallowedground.org.

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