Platform Chats

Platform Chats

The American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA) is the leading professional association for railway engineers working together to further the development and advancement of both technical and practical knowledge in the railway industry. Come “roll with AREMA” as we chat with Members from every aspect of the Association. Each episode will contain entertaining and informative stories from our members about their time in the Association and how it has advanced their careers. Hosted By: Walt Bleser, PE, President, ARE Corporation. Information on the railway industry is provided as a service to our members but does not represent an endorsement. Subscribe to your favorite listening service to get episode notifications.


May 4, 2023 48 mins

We are back after a brief hiatus with a question. What do you know about short lines and other regional railroads? There’s more to rail than the cross-country trek; short lines represent a crucial, somewhat unknown, part of North American infrastructure. This episode host Walt Bleser chats with American Short Line and Railroad Association (ASLRRA) President, Chuck Baker. Together they lift the veil on the regional railroads that re...

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What exactly are the AREMA Functional Groups? What role do they play in shaping the content we see at the Annual Conference and in our Manuals? In this episode, Walt sets out to answer those questions and others with two of the newest Functional Group leaders. Mike Atzert (Burns & McDonnell) is a Director of the Engineering Services Functional Group and has over 20 years of experience as a consultant in the rail industry. David...

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February 3, 2023 41 mins

In this first episode of the new year, host Walt Bleser chats with Dava Kaitala and Mark Coleman, two active Committee 13 – Environmental committee members about sustainability in the railroad industry. Dava Kaitala is the National Class 1 Rail Vice President for Jacobs and holds a JD from Texas Tech University. Mark Coleman is the Director of Advanced Energy at TRC and holds an MS in Environmental Management and Policy from Rensse...

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December 7, 2022 41 mins

On this episode, Walt chats with AREMA members James Michel (Railway Safety and Risk Management Consultant) and Thomas Cornille (Independent Consultant and former Watford Fellow), two members of the US Watford Committee as they share their experiences with the Watford Conference, an international conference for railroad professionals and on other international educational opportunities in the rail industry.  In rail, your career is...

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November 10, 2022 42 mins

Are you a student looking to find your career path? While you may not have even considered railroading, let us put it on your radar.  Many of the engineering (yes, even civil), technical, and communications fields apply to the railroading industry and there are resources available to students to help them find their way. In this episode, Walt Bleser chats with Bryan Schlake an Assistant Teaching Professor at Penn State-Altoona, and...

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September 27, 2022 41 mins

The AREMA 2022 Annual Conference & Expo has come and gone, but not without talking to the two major players in making sure the event goes off without a hitch.  On this episode, we talk to AREMA staff, Beth Caruso, IOM, CAE, Executive Director and CEO, and Desiree Knight, CAE, CMP, DES, Senior Director, Education and Meetings to hear the ins and outs of the Annual Conference. How long does it take to plan these things? Did they ...

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August 22, 2022 38 mins

The AREMA 2022 Annual Conference & Expo is almost here! On this episode, Walt chats with two members who play key roles in the success of the event. Mike Freeman, PE (Union Pacific) is President of the AREMA Board of Governors and Joe Bamert, PE (Norfolk Southern Corporation) serves as chair of the Conference Operating Committee which provides valuable volunteers for the Conference. The trio talk about some of the exciting chan...

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August 22, 2022 41 mins

On this episode, Walt chats with Frank Miller, PE (AECOM), and Kevin Hicks, PE (TranSystems) two outgoing members of the Functional Group Board of Directors, the group that manages the technical committee operations for AREMA. Between them, they have over 60 years of experience in committee work and committee leadership. They’ll discuss the ability to drive the industry through committee membership and the importance of having a vo...

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June 22, 2022 37 mins

It’s a family affair on this episode as host Walt Bleser chats with two generations of AREMA members about the different paths they took to a career in civil engineering. William “Bill” Riehl, III, Chief Engineer Structures, Genesee & Wyoming has over 35 years of experience in the rail industry, and his son William “Will” Riehl, IV, Territory Sales Engineer, Atlantic Track Turnout is days away from completing his first year. Fa...

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May 23, 2022 44 mins

Does the railroad industry have an identity issue? How do employers rebrand post “The Great Resignation”? How can railroads of all types draw the best talent when faced with fierce competition from tech and other areas of transportation? In this episode, Walt tackles these questions with Michele Malski, founder of Succession Planning for Railroads Investing in the Next Generation (SPRING LLC). As a recruiter for railroads and a sec...

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Dr. William W. Hay was a railroader and educator who mentored generations of leaders in the rail industry and his influence is still felt today, over 20 years after his passing. But who was Dr. Hay? Why were those who knew him inspired to create the Dr. William W. Hay Award for Excellence in his honor? In this episode, host Walt Bleser sits down with Michael Franke, Chair of the Hay Award Selection Committee and a former student of...

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March 20, 2022 44 mins

It's Women’s History Month and on this episode, Walt interviews Cassandra M. Gouger (Union Pacific) and Krista Keene (Amtrak) as they reflect on the different paths and opportunities that led them both to a career in rail and leadership positions within AREMA. The group will touch on the history of women in rail, and the unique challenges women in the industry have faced since the 1960s. They’ll also discuss the importance of ...

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February 17, 2022 43 mins

In this episode, Walt chats with Jaclyn Whelan (Conrail) and Skylar Leach (Amtrak) two young professionals who are eager to share their unique perspectives on joining the rail industry and AREMA. Along the way, they discuss their hopes for the future and the feeling of walking into a committee meeting alone for the first time. Yes, TikTok will be mentioned but don’t judge. These young professionals appreciate the railroad and are e...

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January 18, 2022 42 mins

Think you need years of experience to join a committee or that you must be an engineer? Then this episode is for you. Host Walt Bleser sits down with Committee 24 Chair Ashley Pate, AVP Business Development Manager, TranSystems and Committee 15 Vice-Chair Ruth Brown, PE, Chief Engineer Bridges & Structures, Norfolk Southern Railway, two committee members and leaders, to debunk some of the myths surrounding Committee membership....

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December 3, 2021 43 mins

This episode, host Walt Bleser, PE, talks with Brian Lindamood, PE, SE, Vice President, Chief Engineer of Alaska Railroad.  A Past AREMA President and Committee Chair, Brian offers his unique perspective on the subject of winterization and what a railroad needs to do year-round to prepare.  Who best to discuss winterization with than a resident of Alaska? Permafrost, avalanches, lasers, and fewer snowblowers than you might think, t...

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November 12, 2021 39 mins

Have you ever wondered what it takes to present your project or idea at the AREMA Annual Conference? On this episode, host Walt Bleser sits down with two experts on the topic: Program Committee Chair and AREMA Senior Vice President, Trent Hudak, Director Engineering Services, BNSF Railway, and Program Committee Staff Liaison Stacy Spaulding, CAE, Senior Director, Executive and Board Operations for AREMA. The trio discusses what the...

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October 18, 2021 54 mins

The wait is over. On this episode, host Walt Bleser talks with Josh Giegel, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder, and Sarah Quick, Director of Regulatory Affairs, both of Virgin Hyperloop, about the exciting future of hyperloop and the role AREMA could play in that future. Along the way, they’ll discuss the importance of safety and safety regulations in the development of hyperloop, the importance of sharing knowledge in the rail...

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September 7, 2021 37 mins

This episode, Walt sits down with AREMA President Vic Babin as they talk a little about the past and a lot about the promising future of the rail industry. Along the way, they’ll touch on the upcoming AREMA 2021 Virtual Conference, the silver tsunami, and Super Mario Brothers.

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August 2, 2021 51 mins

Join our host Walt Bleser as he sits down with Mike Weber, Signal Engineer at Modern Railway Systems, and Jerry Specht, Director of Signal Engineering at BNSF Railway.  The three discuss AREMA’s newest Committee 35 – Information Technology.  They take a dive into the future of AREMA, new technology in the industry, and the goals of Committee 35.  You won’t want to miss this episode.

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June 14, 2021 35 mins

On this episode of the podcast, Host Walt Bleser sits down with Gio DiDomenico, Track Engineer, Kiewit. They discuss Gio’s path from AREMA Student Chapter member to Young Professional supporter for AREMA. Along the way they debate the benefits of Colorado living and the importance of engaging young railway professionals early in their career. It’s a lively episode you won’t want to miss.

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