Bailey Yard is handling 500 more cars a day than a year ago even though train volume as a whole is down across the Union Pacific system, said John Hall, director of Bailey Yard operations.
Hall spoke at a Sept. 23 meeting of LincUP — a monthly gathering of Bailey Yard and North Platte community leaders.
UP managers typically speak at the meetings. In addition, this time some top workers in the diesel shop talked about what they do.
Hall said Union Pacific strives to be the safest, most cost effective and most efficient organization possible. He said Bailey Yard was operating in September with car dwell (the time in terminal) that was on track to beat the record set in April.
He said the yard is handling 500 cars more each day than a year ago and locomotive dwell time (which does not include shop time) has also improved significantly.
He said locomotives are assigned more quickly to trains than before, which helps drive down car dwell time.
In terms of safety, the rate of personal injuries is headed toward another record low, he said. However, derailments caused by human factors are rising, so additional time is being spent to determine root causes.
Union Pacific train volume as a whole is down because less coal is being shipped, Hall said.
Josh Howe, senior manager of the mechanical department, provided an overview of the diesel shop.
How said one measure of productivity compares closed task hours with total hours in the shift. Using this metric, both the main shop and run-through shop in North Platte compare favorably with other Union Pacific shops, generally ranking in the top 10% or better of UP shops.
The goal is to consistently beat tie ups (locomotives that are tied up in repairs) with releases (locomotives ready to go back into service).
Currently, the diesel shop has 549 active employees (250 machinists, 195 electricians and 104 firemen/oilers,) Howe said.
Bill Holmstedt (Diesel Mechanic/Machinist) has worked for Union Pacific for 30 years.
Machinists repair and maintain locomotive engines that create enough energy to power a small town. Diesel locomotives are constantly being updated with new technology. This technology means more training and specialization for mechanics.
He emphasized the importance of educating and promoting skilled labor trades in our schools and communities and believes in apprenticeship programs which acquaint new employees with all aspects of diesel repair.
In his long tenure with the railroad, the most positive change he has seen has been in safety.
Early in his career, it was not uncommon for workers to lose a finger, an eye or their hearing. Now workers care more about each other and the job is much safer.
Mike Gage (Electrician) was a commercial industrial electrician before coming to work for UP 14 years ago.
Railroad electricians maintain, install and repair everything that is electrical in the units – from computer boards to safety mechanisms to the new positive train control systems.
It could take hours to find a defective part that may take minutes to change out.
Technical information and training for all the specialized onboard systems is increasingly provided online as technology changes rapidly.
David Moore (MSO – Mechanical Service Operator) has worked for Union Pacific for 12 years.
This craft is responsible for staging and moving locomotives through the shop.
Locomotives start in a staging area and then move to service pits where electricians and machinists work on them. They are fueled, sanded and cabs and bathrooms cleaned. Locomotives ready for departure are then sorted and moved out of the shop for testing before taking them to the departure area.
MSO’s also provide shop support including keeping the shop clean, operating forklifts to grab parts and shipping out old parts for recycling.
This position is more of an entry level job. Those with a good work ethic often move into apprenticeships for skilled labor positions.
Finally, Scott Selken of environmental field operations said he has transferred to a property sales position with Union Pacific in Omaha and introduced his replacement, Ryan Cochran.
Facilitator Lorri McKeon thanked Scott for his faithful involvement in the LincUP panel and wished him success in his new position.
The next LincUP meeting will be held at 5:15 p.m. Monday, Oct. 28 in the student lounge at the north campus at North Platte Community College.
The topic will be railroad basics with John Hall.
The contract to hold LincUP meetings will be renewed through 2020, McKeone said.