“We have employees constantly coming up with ideas,” said Bobby Carlow, general foreman at 38th Street. “Some work, and some don’t. Sometimes you come up with an idea to get your feet off the ground, and then you find through the process that there is a better way to do something.”
During the fall, employees were working on innovative tools to replace the use of jacks. The come-along jacks are used to move the coal cars’ end caps back and forth before and after tub installation. Trying to improve on that, carmen Scott Kuczynski and Jay Caris have developed two different prototype tools that could be options. Kuczynski crafted an adaptor tool for use in combination with an air ram, allowing employees to work outside the car rather than inside to push the end caps back into place. Caris’ device involves a spreader bar and straps that he dubbed the “hodag” – named after a woodlands creature of Wisconsin folklore.
“They encourage us that if we have an idea to bring it up,” Kuczynski said. “We’re looking for ways to save time and improve safety.”
In Portsmouth, shop employees designed boxes to hold water coolers and tools they need while working inside the cars.
“We can lift them in and out of the cars with a crane instead of handling all the tools separately,” said Dan Cremeans, a Portsmouth carman.
Portsmouth employees also crafted what they call “rail sliders,” pieces of finished metal that enable carmen to maneuver lift tables between tracks inside the car shop without using a crane.
“It’s faster, and you can make better use of the crane rather than tying it up moving tables,” said carman Gene Powell.
Craft employees at both shops said they appreciate the opportunity to contribute to NS’ success through the retub program.
“We take great pride in what we do,” said Jason Strange, a 38th Street carman. “We want to put out a quality product, and we know by doing this, it’s going to help the business.”