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NS women making a difference

Fall 2014

Ashlee Hurt with Mark Luttman
Ashlee Hurt, engineering associate, confers with Mark Luttman, senior project engineer, at a signals construction project in Roanoke.


Ashlee Hurt: A C&S engineer on the go

Before joining Norfolk Southern’s management trainee program in 2013, Ashlee Hurt’s only exposure to the railroad was the coal trains she encountered near Old Dominion University in Norfolk. 

“I had no knowledge of the railroad industry,” she said. “The only thing I knew about Norfolk Southern was that there were tracks near ODU, and sometimes I got stopped by the train on the way to school.”

A year after receiving her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, however, Hurt has become immersed in NS. She learned about the company at an ODU career fair and was impressed by the long line of students waiting to talk with NS recruiters.

“I knew I wanted to do something new and learn something new, and it’s different from any other industry I’ve worked in,” Hurt said. “It’s very fast-paced and is really
a 24/7 operation. You could be troubleshooting a problem at 3 in the morning.”

Working now in NS’ communications and signals group, Hurt has experienced late nights and early mornings. Based in Roanoke, she was promoted in August to engineering associate and now spends much of her time traveling across NS’ system to update micro hot box detectors – heat-sensing devices installed beside main line tracks to detect overheated axle journal bearings on railcars.

Ashlee Hurt
Ashlee Hurt is pictured inside a track signal “bungalow” in Roanoke. The bungalow houses electronics and computer systems that power signals.

“Once we finish one site, we figure out where we’re going the next day, the time we begin, and who we’re working with,” she said. “We always walk away knowing we fixed the problem and left the site better than when we started.”

The Virginia Beach, Va., native enjoys traveling and working with wayside systems engineers and other C&S employees. “It’s been a great opportunity to go around and meet people,” she said. “It surprised me how much there is to learn within the C&S department.”

She wasn’t surprised, however, to learn that she is one of the few women in the Engineering Department, noting that men far outnumbered women in her college engineering classes.

“I’m very used to working with men,” she said. “There were only one or two females in my engineering classes.”

Hurt said she would like to continue working in C&S, perhaps as a terminal, maintenance, or construction supervisor. She first became interested in engineering when she was 9 years old. Her uncle, who worked in a technology industry, noticed her interest in math and suggested that she become an engineer.

“From that moment,” she said, “I was hooked.”