View the current issue of our newsletter, A & M Express
From the ground up
After working with several Class 1 railroads, Rich Brown, Tenenbaum Recycling Group Yard Manager, was surprised by the service A&M promised.
“They are very customer oriented,” he said. “I have never worked with a railroad that helps its customers achieve success like they do. Their commitment is one reason we hit the ground running.”
In July, the Rogers, Ark., facility began stockpiling ferrous and nonferrous scrap metal. Processing began Aug. 11. Material is sent through an 80-by-104-inch shredder, then loaded into gondola cars.
Before leaving Tenenbaum, cars are weighed. With 52-foot cars and a 60-foot scale, accurate measurements would be impossible without A&M employees’ assistance. Transportation employees weigh cars individually, then roll back overloaded cars so material can be removed.
“Former railroads with which I worked would come in, take the cars and leave,” Brown said. “If we needed them to weigh anything or make changes, it wouldn’t happen.”
A&M was available to provide assistance from the moment Tenenbaum decided to construct the facility. Track Superintendant Larry Rouse and the Maintenance of Way team installed switches and track to enable early access to the facility.
Although new to the area, Tenenbaum quickly earned a reputation for great customer service of its own.
“We want our customers to come back because we treat them right,” Brown said. “Anyone can purchase scrap metal, but when people come here, they are going to see us smile.”
He said about 70 percent of their material is considered industrial, most of which arrives by semi. The remaining 30 percent arrives from scrap metal peddlers driving pickups and small trailers.
Partnership fuels interest in Springdale
Having a one-of-a-kind attraction down the street provides a unique opportunity for the Springdale Chamber of Commerce. However, according to Vice President Economic Development Lance Eads, that isn’t the only reason the organization appreciates A&M.
“They are very engaged in improving our downtown area and city as a whole,” he said.
The chamber partially funds events throughout the year attended by Manager of Passenger Trains
Brenda Rouse. Partial funding is supplied from the Springdale Advertisement and Promotion Commission, which collects funds from hotel taxes.
“Brenda does a great job promoting the railroad, but also the many attractions in Springdale and surrounding areas,” Eads said. “The more people who come visit us, the better.”
Although the railroad offers a unique attraction, it would be nothing without the great service A&M employees provide during its excursions.
“I know they do the little things to make a person feel special,” Eads said.
A&M partnered with the chamber for Morning Brews, informational meetings that unite company representatives to expand knowledge of local businesses. A&M hosted a meeting in 2011.
Leadership Springdale is a nine-month program dedicated to teaching local business leaders about various industries within their community. In 2012, participants were able to get an up-close view of the railroad’s operations.
Eads participated in the program prior to joining the chamber.
“It’s a great opportunity to learn about the different aspects of Springdale,” he said. “Part of their experience will be learning about A&M. Even if they have some prior knowledge of the railroad, I think they will be surprised at what they learn.”
Locomotive shop nearing completion
A&M’s most recent addition is quickly taking shape. As many components of the new locomotive shop are installed, anticipation mounts in Springdale.
As of Dec. 22, the structure, interior tracks, pits and crane have been installed.
Chief Mechanical Officer Casey Shepherd is pleased with the progress.
“It’s coming together,” he said. “Every day there is something new. It’s exciting to see it come to life.”
Tours of other locomotive shops throughout the U.S. and Canada provided Shepherd ideas for features he wanted in A&M’s new shop.
“I wanted to take the best things from those shops and bring them back home,” he said.
One such feature allows employees working on the 100-foot maintenance track to step from a platform directly onto the side of a locomotive. The platform, complete with guardrail, enhances safety and saves time by avoiding the need for employees to ascend and descend locomotives. A moving toolbox on the platform will allow quicker access to tools during repairs.
The largest timesaver will be the bright yellow overhead crane, capable of pulling the largest parts from a locomotive. In the past, a contractor pulled generators and traction motors. Auxiliary cranes will help lift other components.
A new fueling system will replace bob trucks previously used to fuel locomotives. With the new system, employees will operate two pumps to simultaneously fill locomotive tanks.
The shop ties into the warehouse, allowing employees to transfer tools and material by forklift and a walkway connects the buildings.
However, locomotive employees won’t be the only beneficiaries of the new shop. A new conference and meeting room will be used by all employees. Maintenance of Way employees will take over the old shop, providing equipment storage and a pit to work beneath equipment.
AM Railroad 26th Anniversary Celebration!
The A&M began operation in 1986 by an investor group. Spun off by the then Burlington Northern Railroad, the A&M has since invested millions of dollars to improve service to customers, enhance public and Company safety, and catalyze economic growth in the 139 mile Monnett, MO to Fort Smith, AR corridor. Most rail historians recognize the A&M’s tracks as part of the old St. Louis-San Francisco (Frisco) Railway system built in the 1880’s.
We will be celebrating this milestone anniversary throughout the year, keep watching this space for upcoming activities and specials!
Children's Christmas Train Donates $24,000 to local Charities
The Children's Bereavement Program at Circle of Life and The Children's Safety Center were the two beneficiaries from the 2011 Children's Christmas train. This was the 8th year for the event which is held the first Saturday in December. This community event is a joint effort between A&M and employees from J.B. Hunt, Inc. Transport Services. Smiling children singing Christmas carols filled A&M passenger cars once again in December. Enjoying trips from Springdale to Johnson or Lowell were 1,765 riders. All proceeds were given to the charity.
Children were entertained at the depot throughout the day. J.B. Hunt volunteers donated money through an internal fundraiser and helped with games and activities. The Children’s Safety Center entertained visitors with puppet shows and Christmas carols.
Conductors led songs and Santa made his way from car to car, visiting children and listening to wish lists.
A&M HELPS PREPARE RESPONDERS IN VAN BUREN
Practice. It’s what prepares successful teams before they take action. Although many teams yearn for the chance to take what they learn at practice into real situations, A&M employees, customers, and local and federal law enforcement hope it does not come to that.
The railroad partnered with customers, Transportation Security Administration officials and local law enforcement and emergency responders during a two-day emergency training exercise Sept. 7-8 in Van Buren.
“It is important for us to prepare for situations to which we may need to respond,” said A&M Chief of Police
Ron Sparks. “All parties involved learned a lot during this exercise.”
Participating in the exercise were A&M customers Consolidated Grain and Barge and Five Rivers Distribution. Each customer receives HazMat shipments by barge, which are then transferred to railcars.
On the first day of training, participants gathered in a conference room to familiarize with one another and discuss their operations. Sparks said the meeting allowed customers and first responders to develop bonds in case of emergency.
“In the heat of the moment, you don’t want to be exchanging business cards,” he said. “Communication is important when a situation needs to be addressed right away.”
The second day featured live exercises with TSA and first responders practicing the emergency response to attacks or chemical spills on barges and trains. A&M customers carefully described the chemicals they transport and the equipment needed to respond to a leak or explosion. Sparks also instructed teams on the process of stopping a hijacked train.
He thanked Superintendent of Transportation Randy Campbell, Trainmaster Mike Ford and Chief Mechanical Officer Casey Shepherd for arranging a train for the exercise.
Showing A&M to the world
Manager of Passenger Trains Brenda Rouse expanded worldwide awareness of A&M passenger services during the National Tour Association conference in Las Vegas.
More than 2,000 representatives of travel groups and tourist attractions from more than 30 countries attended the event at Mandalay Bay Convention Center.
“It was a very busy week, but we met with many groups and got our name out there,” Rouse said. “It was a great opportunity.”
She conducted individual meetings with travel groups from cities as near as Memphis, Tenn., and countries as far as China and Ireland. Rouse is excited to host more than 150 Irish visitors in 2012.
“An event like this gives us exposure to groups we wouldn’t have known about,” she said. “It gives us some unique opportunities.”
During the meetings, Rouse praised the many attractions in Northwest Arkansas. In addition to train rides, people can enjoy the Art Center of the Ozarks, Backyard Billionaire Tours, Crystal Bridges, Arkansas Naturals or Razorbacks games and other activities.
NTA is the leading association for professionals serving travelers to, from and within North America. Since its founding in 1951, the association has served a broad and diverse membership, helping its members expand market reach with innovative business tools, strategic relationships and collaboration within the industry. NTA membership represents more than 40 countries, 1,500 tour operators, 600 destinations and 1,500 tour suppliers.
CROSSING PROJECTS OFF THE LIST
A&M Maintenance of Way employees finished a busy 2011 on a safe, positive note.
Among their final accomplishments, 10 blacktop crossings were replaced with concrete panels, reusing old crossing material on new ones.
The public expressed appreciation during the project.
“People stopped by to tell us thank you,” said Track Superintendant Larry Rouse. “It shows we are committed to providing them with quality crossings so they can move safely over the tracks.”
MofW crews also replaced two switches in Springdale’s North Yard, and two in Fort Smith were converted to panelized switches. The new switches are easier to assemble and will allow Transportation employees more room to maneuver.
Earlier in the year, MofW employees completed bridge replacements and maintained tracks and waterways during heavy rainfall.
Employees worked throughout 2011 without a reportable injury.
“It was another good year,” Rouse said. “I’m proud of what we accomplished.”
2012 promises to be another busy year. Plans include six additional crossing replacements and the installation of tracks leading into the new Springdale locomotive facility.
Richards settles into new roles with A&M
As someone previously unfamiliar with the railroad, it should come as little surprise that Reservation Specialist Tiffany Richards’ learning curve has been a steep one. However, that hasn’t kept her from making an impact with A&M.
“I came to this job with no idea what to expect,” she said. “Everyone has helped me learn along the way. I’m enjoying it.”
She joined the railroad in September.
“I enjoy setting up trains and working with the different groups,” she said.
Richards moved from Longview, Texas, with her husband, Ryan, a University of Arkansas business major. The couple enjoys exploring the Boston Mountains, hiking and other outdoor activities.
Happenings on the Main Line
A&M Summer excursions continue through the Summer from Springdale to Ft. Smith departing at 8:00 am Wednesdays, Fridays & Sundays.
Injury-free 2011 creates pride amongst A&M employees
A&M and Allied employees in all crafts completed 2011 without a reportable injury. “It’s an amazing achievement,” said A&M Chief of Police Ron Sparks. “I arrived 14 years ago, and we have made great strides as a team since that time.”
He said the achievement is especially remarkable given changes through the years to what constitutes a reportable injury. The criteria to identifying a reportable injury has become more stringent, injuries have continued to decline.
“It shows our people are making daily efforts to work safely,” Sparks said. “We’ve worked very hard to achieve this goal.”
He praised the safety team, comprised of managers and craft employees, for discussing potential safety hazards and finding ways to enhance safety throughout the railroad.
For its accomplishment, the railroad earned the American Shortlines and Regional Railroads Association Jake Award with Distinction. A&M previously received awards for lowering reportable injuries, but this award represents its greatest achievement to date.
“We are very proud and want to replicate our record every year,” Sparks said.
Transmodal service picks up
New A&M customers have created new business for Ozark Transmodal Inc. These new customers are using the warehouse and transmodal facility to move their products.
“It’s great to be busy,” said OTI Manager Eddie Jones. “The increase in business shows we are doing things the right way.”
Our new customers conducted test runs in March 2011 and began receiving regular service in June. Since that time, the company already has increased shipments from the warehouse to their facility from five days a week during first shift to seven days a week during first and second shifts.
Scrap metal traffic increased to 20 railcars each day. Processed scrap metal is transported to Fort Smith to be unloaded and trucked to nearby Gerdau Macsteel Inc., a producer of steel bar stock.
Employees stepped up to the plate as business spiked.
“You can forecast an increase, but you never know how things will work until it happens,” Jones said. “Our team stepped up and answered the call.”
Warehouse Operator Kevin Bailey is a recent addition to the team, handling customer needs during second shift.
“Kevin has done a good job,” Jones said. “He works by himself, so we really count on him.”
OTI employees haven’t let a busier workday stop them from working safely.
“To have this big of a jump in such a short amount of time and have everyone working safely is all I could ask for,” Jones said.
BARBOSA honored with inaugural award
In December, Carman Jorge Barbosa joined an exclusive club as the first, and currently only, recipient of A&M’s Employee of the Year Award.
“Jorge is a great employee and very deserving of the award,” said A&M Chief of Police Ron Sparks. “He goes above and beyond and does anything we ask of him. He has a great attitude.”
Barbosa joined A&M March 22, 2004, after working as a contractor for a traveling gang from Mexico. After enjoying his time in Springdale, he immigrated to the U.S. to join the team.
“He’s created a great life for himself and his family,” Sparks said. “He cherishes every day and always has a smile on his face.”
In addition to presenting the award to Barbosa, other employees were honored for reaching reportable injury-free milestones of five, 10, 15 and 20 years.
Our Maintenance of Way (MOW) department has the responsibility for maintaining the track and the right of way of the railroad, including structures such as; bridges, trestles, crossings, replacement of ties, surfacing of the track, construction of new track and other repair issues.
New crossings have been installed at the following crossings:
* Highway 412 in Springdale, AR
* Old Wire Road
* Highway 264
* New Hope and Highway 94 in Rogers, AR
* Highway 127 near Garfield, AR