Chicago - AREMA Confernece
This is my fourth time attending the AREMA conference, and this one went much the same as the previous ones, a rather enjoyable opportunity to renew all of my railway engineering contacts and keep up on the research going on and the new ideas being implemented in the railway engineering community. Just like the past three years, the first person I ran into at AREMA was my grad school advisor. It's kind of scary how that always happens but also cool as it gives me a chance to catch up, meet some of his students and ponder going back to get a PhD.
Monday was marked by some general sessions which were not overly interesting but informative. I really spent most of the morning talking to my contacts in the biz and savoring the Corner Bakery cinnamon roll I had for breakfast. Monday afternoon the exhibit halls were open. The quality of freebies was really down this year. However, Trains magazine was there and I had a chance to chat with the editor about the recent change of direction in the magazine's content from historic fluff pieces to more interesting and in-depth industry analysis (not that I don't like railroad history, I'd just rather have an in-depth historic piece than a photo essay with little or no informational value besides some interesting photos). After walking around for several hours, Ron and I grabbed dinner at the Elephant and Castle, yes a chain but conveniently located near the hotel.
Tuesday was a day packed solid with sessions. One of these featured a presentation on double tracking the BNSF transcontinental mainline through Abo Canyon in New Mexico. I'm proud to say that I played a small role in the design of this project which will relieve a major bottleneck on the BNSF mainline.
Amongst all the sessions I had a chance to catch up with kevin, with whom I shared a cubicle in grad school and went on several railfan adventures, including our crazed action filled train journey to and from Washington DC for the TRB conference in january 2001. Kevin is now a Bridge Supervisor for CN (Illinois Central) out of Chicago and looks after all of the bridges in northern and central Illinois. It's a pretty cool job as he actually keeps the railroad running with his staff of building and bridges crews. It would be interesting but I prefer the challenge of railroad design in the office as opposed to the equal yet different challenge of improvising to keep things in shape and running in the field.
Tuesday night was the fancy cleint dinner sponsored by my employer. I was seated at a table with engineers from CP so there was much talk of Iron Rings between courses of the fabulous meals. I still think that somehow I'm going to wind up working for CP someday. The closest I've come so far is helping the MInneapolis office with a design project were a CP yard lead had to be reconfigured where it crossed a freeway that was being expanded.
Wednesday was mostly dedicated to flying home. On time and uneventful. A good trip on the company dime.