The Gravy Train - An Inside Look at the Long Island Rail Road

by Dan Ruppert



Book Details

Language : English
Publication Date : 1/19/2003

Format : E-Book
Dimensions : N/A
Page Count : 1
ISBN : 9781412251723
Format : Softcover
Dimensions : 6.5x9
Page Count : 126
ISBN : 9781553954842

About the Book

Growing up in the suburbs of New York City on Long Island, I took a keen interest in all forms of transportation, especially trains. Afer graduating college, I worked as an industrial engineer for private sector corporations progressing to a middle management position within a Fortune 25 Company. In 1983 I accepted a job opportunity with the Long Island Rail Road as an industrial engineer. The LIRR is a government-subsidized agency that is part of a larger regional organization called the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. The LIRR had embarked on a very ambitious improvement program to upgrade their physical plants. This plan included the construction of a new railcar maintenance facility. The new facility was to replace their one hundred year old maintenance shops. I was hired to develop facility layouts for the most advanced rail car maintenance facility in the country. Friends and professional colleagues advised me to decline the job offer. However, I was a railroad buff and the opportunity to work for a railroad overshadowed any tredpidations. For decades, the LIRR had bore the brunt of adverse publicity. I would often consider much of the critisism as being too harsh and misguided. Not long after commencing employment, my perspective of the LIRR would be completely transformed. The inefficient and workplace abuses I witnessed first hand could only flourish in publicly subsidized environment. My job required me to observe and analyze the maintenance and repair operations performed on commuter railcars. My next step was identifying more efficient methods. I would then implement these improvements into the design of the new railcar maintenance facilities. I was met with a wall of resistence and non-cooperation from the unionized workforce. The LIRR had languished in decades of inefficient work habits supplemented with managerial coplacency and rampant nepotism. I would operate in a very hostile environment that had no incentive to embrace improvements. It would be in the better interests of the unions to maintain low productivity and therefore justify the gross overstaffing that existed for decades.

Upon completion of developing the facility layouts, the next phase of my responsibilities involved coordination with design consultants hired by the LIRR. The consultants were responsible for the architectural and structural designs of the new maintenance facility. The consultans typically were selected based on political connections and not their level of expertise. The design phase was muddled with incompetence and waste. Inept project management would add tens of millions of dollars and lengthly delays to the construction phase of the project. Upon completion of construction, a new regime intent on maintaining the status quo within the LIRR assues control of the new maintenance facility. The new regime is not committed to capitalizing on the labor efficiencies offered by the new facility. Key positions are then filled with managers' intent in preserving the traditional inefficient ways of the LIRR. My story concludes with the agendas of the new regime and conflicts with those who were trying to transform the LIRR into a socially responsible institution. My trials and tribulations along with personal victories and setbacks are all the basis of my book.

About the Author

Dan Ruppert is an industrial-manufacturing engineering with over twenty-five years of experience. Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1950, his family would move to Nassua County not far from the Long Island Rail Road main line. Growing up in the suburbs, he would become an avid train watcher spending his spare time at the local train stations. After completing high school, he would do stints at various jobs inlcuding mailman, local beer delivery truck driver and long distance truck driver. These jobs would provide the impetus for higher education and college would be the next step. With finances being tight and the need to fund his education, he secured a job driving school and charter buses with a local bus company. This position offered a schedule that dovetailed with attending day and night classes at college.

After graduating college in 1976, he would enter the realm of corporate management with employers including aircraft manufacturer Fairchild-Republic Corporation. In 1978 he was recruited by the Sikorsky Helicopter Division of United Technologies Corporation in Strattford, Connecticut. His assignments included developing the assembly methology for newly commercial and military helicopter programs. These programs inlcuded Blackhawk and Super Stallion helicopters. He would be promoted to a supervisory position with in the industrial engineering department and responsibilities were expanded to include cost and labor performance. Additional assignments included the established of programs to completely refurbish helicopters with over twenty years service in the field.

In 1983 an opportunity with the Long Island Rail Road would change his career path. This position required the analysis and evaluation of railcar maintenance operations performed in facilities designed and constructed predominantly in the 19th century. He was responsible for developing the layouts and labor performance standards for a state of the art maintenance and repair facility for railcars constructed in Queens, New York. Promoted to Manager of Manufacturing Engineering he identified new methodologies and to improve the quality of the repairs, worker productivity and handling of parts and components. A management mindset within the LIRR that lacked the impetus and ability to operate an efficient operation would ultimately drive him back to the private sector.

He is currently the president of an equipment company providing material handling and storage systems for warehousing and manufacturing operations. He performs industrial engineering studies, develops facilities layouts and furnishes a full range of equipment to improve space utilization, labor efficiency and order picking accuracy. His projects typically include new facilities, consolidation of satellite facilities and reconfiguring existing operations. His clients are private sector companies looking to reduce costs and improve customer service levels.

He resides in Long Island with his wife and two children and is a member of several business and professional organizations.