The railroad industry has a handful of trade magazines that do a very thorough job of covering what is going on in the world of government regulations as well as technology and industry trends. One thing that these magazines do with regularity is to put out lists they bill as “Railroader of the Year” or “Rising Stars” in railroading.

The only problem with this practice is that there is a disconnect between their concept of “railroaders” and the reality we all live in on the ballast. We all are both entertained and sickened when CEOs are handed the title of Railroader of the Year, and those 40 people under 40 featured in Rising Star lists often collectively have thrown zero switches and have set out the same number of bad-ordered cars.

As an example, in October, with a stock photo across the top, Railway Age magazine published its announcement of its “2023 Women in Rail Honorees.” Looking at this collection of carrier departmental vice presidents and other executives, it made us think that maybe the SMART Transportation Division should help these magazines out going forward. We know they like to put these lists together and regularly overlook the accomplishments of very worthy and more authentic candidates. So we are asking for your help.

SMART-TD Wyoming State Legislative Director April Ford

SMART is going to put together our own list of candidates for “Women in Rail” honorees, and we will be more than happy to send them in a press release in the future to the trade magazines so that they can see what kind of women leaders this industry has — the ones who make the railroads run and work outside of the board rooms and air-conditioned offices.

For example, in Wyoming, SMART-TD’s own State Legislative Director April Ford is our top official there. She addresses our members’ safety issues as well as being rail labor’s eyes, ears and spokesperson in Wyoming. Sister Ford did not only come from the craft, but she is also still in the craft. The job of Wyoming SLD is not full time. Ford can be found pulling a coal train out of Wyoming’s Powder River Basin or in Cheyenne at the Capitol giving testimony to the transportation committee on any given day.

A second example of exemplary women in railroading and in SMART-TD, is Jessica Martin. Conductor Martin has been a member for 10 years out of Local 594 in Mineola, Texas.

Engineer Lisa Watson-Knuckols, left, and Jessica Martin, both of Local 594 in Mineola, Texas, pose together for a photo.

She currently serves 594 as their legislative representative (LR) and has been in leadership positions in her local since 2016, in addition to working for Union Pacific. When Sister Martin isn’t switching boxcars and hauling freight, she is looking out for the best interest of members. As an active LR, her head is on a swivel, looking to improve safety conditions for her crew base as well as keeping her eye on local, state and federal policy makers.

In 2022, Martin’s first year as LR for 594, she went above and beyond the call of duty as a local officer. While the corporate executives of UP (where she works) were in Washington D.C. formally pitching their ground-based expeditor/conductor plan in the Federal Railroad Administration’s two-person crew hearings, Martin was hauling freight and providing for her son in Texas while the UP executives were trying to sell the livelihoods of her SMART-TD brothers and sisters down the river.

Though she didn’t have the luxury of being there to defend her people in person, Martin testified remotely at the FRA hearing and provided a compelling demonstration of the value of having two certified professional railroaders in the cab of a locomotive. Her testimony was well received and went a long way to emphasizing the important job each and every conductor in this country performs.

SMART TD GO-953 General Chairperson Luke Edington, Nebraska State Legislative Director Andy Foust and Local 200 Chairperson Manda Snide have their picture taken at the Midwest Nebraska Central Labor Council's Solidarity Day.
From left, SMART TD GO-953 General Chairperson Luke Edington, Nebraska State Legislative Director Andy Foust and Local 200 Chairperson Manda Snide have their picture taken at the Midwest Nebraska Central Labor Council’s Solidarity Day.

Yet another example that comes straight out of SMART-TD’s recent news articles is Amanda Snide out of Local 200 in North Platte, Nebraska. Manda also is a full-time conductor running the rails for Union Pacific. She is not only local chairperson and legislative rep for a very large and active local out of UP’s largest yard, but she is also the assistant state legislative director for the state of Nebraska. Just recently, her ingenuity is being credited with preserving the railroad careers of dozens of Mechanical employees recently cut by UP.

These women are shining examples of who should be recognized as true Women in Rail honorees.

We are asking all of you to let us know whom you would nominate for this list. Please email with names of the women you would like to see nominated. We would like for you to include a short description of the SMART-TD sister you are nominating for this list. Let us know why she would be a good representative of SMART-TD and REAL railroaders in general.

SMART-TD is going to put together an in-house version of the trade publications’ list, publish it and then send it to all the trade magazines in a press release in time for next year’s nominations. It is very likely that our list of “Women Actually in Rail” honorees will only be published on our website and print publications, but we are tired of our members not getting the acknowledgement they deserve for the jobs they do.