Staying on track - Illinois Tech Railroad Club

TechNews Writers
Mon Oct 29, 2018

The American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA) General Body Meeting earlier in October 2018 featured guest presenter Rebecca Wingate, a freight transportation analyst from Cambridge Systematics, Inc. She spoke about her railroad engineering background, her Fulbright experience with Swiss railways, the planning side of railroads, and the economics of the industry. Cambridge Systematics, Inc, focuses on the application of data and strong analysis to improve logistics in railroads and freight. Wingate’s journey to Cambridge Systematics comes from drive to do something new and innovative. At 16 years old, she was passionate about bridge design. As her studies continued, Wingate found herself a new direction in construction management. Her current work involves problem solving on a daily basis, and she values train because they hold a value to society.

In an interview with Illinois Tech Railroad Club (ITRC) President Daniel Rappoport, he painted the picture of an organization well on its way to success. Firstly, a relatable concern of any club chair, his requests for funding got approved, doing away with any dependence on outdated track parts and alumni donations. Secondly, new members and freshmen have been stepping up into leadership positions, helping the club to operate efficiently and autonomously while injecting fresh ideas and perspectives. He also gave a notable shoutout to the others on the club’s executive board for their great work. Thirdly, communication and club cohesion are coming together; Rappoport could not be reached for an opinion on integrating Slack.

However, the president described a set of hurdles in starting the year, in the form of vacant public relations (PR) chair and secretary positions. While strong recruitment is essential to every club, casting a large net for fresh clubs like the ITRC is essential - not having a PR chair to advertise events hurt this immensely. Further, not having a secretary for the administrative-level tasks slowed down exec productivity at the start of the year. While the club was successful, very successful, he added, in getting a crop of devoted new members and freshmen, what they have in devotion is undermined by a lack of depth and numbers. A case of the flu in the head of the electrical department, without a backup, could spell two weeks of lost productivity.

This given, Rappoport preached that ITRC would prioritize being an experience-oriented club rather than one exclusively based on results. The students already have enough to worry about, he figured, so this club ought to be something more about fun, not another obligation.

Further on the topic of time management, the club made an executive decision to frontload the club's major events - visits to major rail yards, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) repair stations, and locomotive museums - so that its members would not be stressed around finals. The last events will be coming in early November, as the members prep themselves for the November 10 model rail show in Milwaukee. Because all national rail-builders manage their rail sections in compatible and regulated gauges, the club looks forward to linking their platforms up with hundreds of others to form one gigantic track, a sort of convention-hall-sized locomotive euphoria. Further, the club is excited for the National Railroad Career fair in early November, where all of their railroad experience and networking can help its members land internships and professional connections. Though the club’s semester might be out before Thanksgiving break, they’re not tapering out the semester quietly.

For the far future, the president floated a few ideas out but couldn’t commit to anything. Long-term goals include a railroad showcase with their tracks in the MTCC and more campus outreach. Though transit and building greener cities are among his individual interests, Rappoport does not have his sights set on expanding the club into areas much different than conventional, heavy rail and freight.

There are no plans for a scooter-based spinoff club at the current moment. However, Daniel Rappoport is an avid fan of two-wheel Razor transport. He experimented with different boards and bikes his freshman year alongside some of his pledge-class friends and wound up backing scooters for i) their compatibility and portability on public transit, ii) their usefulness when only travelling one-quarter to one-half of a mile - great for getting from Stuart to the IIT Tower, but not for travelling into the Loop, and iii) their absolutely undeniable style.





Appears in
2018 - Fall - Issue 8