Former Canadian Pacific employees hired by Norfolk Southern to help operate the D&H South Line territory are bullish about the line’s future under NS ownership.
“I don’t have the adjectives to say how great it is and what a wonderful change I’ve seen,” said Joe Mesiti, a former CP track supervisor. Based at Taylor, Pa., Mesiti now oversees a track maintenance crew for NS made up of mostly former CP people. “I can see a difference in how the customers are serviced – it’s faster, and there are more locomotives and crews to move the freight. It’s what we needed to keep the line going, and the help and support we’re getting from NS is well more than I would have imagined.”
For Ken Kertesz, a locomotive engineer based at Taylor, the move to NS brought a well-received boost in engine power. Kertesz had been moving yard and local trains using a single, four-axle engine, but NS provided two six-axle locomotives for the task.
“I personally think that it was a salvation for NS to come in. I know that their infrastructure is top notch, and I know that they’re serious about growing the business, which is good for us.”
— Ken Kertesz,
“On the first day of operation, they gave us the equivalent of 6,000 horsepower to move freight in and out of Taylor,” said Kertesz. “Instead of struggling and having to make double moves, Norfolk Southern saw fit to give us sufficient power, so it’s been good. I personally think that it was a salvation for NS to come in. I know that their infrastructure is top notch, and I know that they’re serious about growing the business, which is good for us.”
NS’ positive management culture has impressed Mike Simonds, a yardmaster at East Binghamton Yard who held a similar job with CP.
“It’s been phenomenal,” he said. “From what I’ve seen so far, management is willing to work with you and listen if you have anything that needs to be addressed. They make it feel like a real team atmosphere.”
As part of the D&H South Line transaction, NS hired about 150 craft employees and around 10 management employees from CP and its D&H subsidiary for transportation, engineering, and mechanical operations. NS labor relations and human resources staffers had to hustle, respectively, to secure labor agreements and then interview, hire, and onboard the new employees.
“It’s always challenging to work under time constraints, but this allowed us to do a lot of productive work with our labor organizations,” said Robin Pearson, assistant director labor relations. The labor agreements addressed things such as employee seniority and efficient transfer of operations, she said.
“I think people are excited to be here,” said Sharona Stimpson, manager human resources planning, who oversaw hiring efforts. “The CP folks we’ve hired are an excellent addition to the NS team.”
NS launched an intensive training effort in the days before cutover to ensure the new employees understood the railroad’s operating rules and focus on safety, including the “i am Coming Home” safety message. “It was just a great effort by all of the NS employees to get the D&H people welcomed in and on board,” said Greg Carlyle, division engineer, Harrisburg Division. “I can’t say enough good things about our training coordinators.”
The former CP employees said business began to pick up almost immediately after NS took ownership of the South Line.
“We’re seeing some older business that we haven’t had for about three years come back on line,” Kertesz said.
“It seems to me,” Simonds said, “that NS is looking to expand not only as far as rail lines are concerned, but also as far as servicing customers and trying to benefit everybody.”