Batory picked to lead FRA

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Ron Batory joined Conrail in 1998, 15 months before the big railroad was split between CSX and Norfolk Southern, to oversee the Shared Assets operation.
Fred W. Frailey
WASHINGTON – The Trump White House Monday announced Ronald L. Batory of New Jersey to be the Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration, Department of Transportation. Batory has more than 45 years of diverse leadership in the railroad industry. In his last capacity with Consolidated Rail Corp., he served as president and chief operating officer, retiring at the end of March. Prior to that, he was president of the Belt Railway of Chicago. In a 2012 feature story about Conrail Shared Assets, author Fred W. Frailey wrote of Batory: "Those who know him best think Batory sprang from the womb clutching a switch key. All he’s ever wanted to do is work for railroads. The Detroit-raised son of a New York Central car checker and union leader, Batory took his degree from Michigan’s Adrian College straight to a job in train service. His dad was flabbergasted. 'Don’t waste a college education on a railroad,' he said. Those words fell on deaf ears. Penn Central wasn’t hiring, but the Detroit, Toledo & Ironton was, and Batory began switching freight cars. The job lasted only as long as it took him to save the down payment on a car before he was laid off. He then worked a series of progressively better clerical and managerial jobs at DT&I, ending as director of material procurement and planning.

When Grand Trunk Western bought DT&I in 1980, Batory’s star kept rising. Then in 1987 he jumped ship to become general manager of the bankrupt Chicago, Missouri & Western, formed from that part of Illinois Central Gulf connecting Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City. It was an ill-fated railroad, and Batory helped sell the pieces. The Chicago-St. Louis part went to Southern Pacific, and SP hired him to run it as general manager and assistant GM of its Central Region.

The Belt Railway of Chicago should commission a statue of Ron Batory. It was barely scraping by, switching a mere 200 cars a day, he maintains, when he brought it Southern Pacific’s traffic (including trains from Kansas City using Burlington Northern trackage rights). This saved newly arrived SP from having to buy its own Chicago terminal. The Belt did better than build a statue: It hired Batory as its president in 1994. By 1995, 40 miles of freight cars rolled down Clearing Yard’s twin humps every day. When CSX and NS came calling in 1997, asking if he’d become vice president of operations at Shared Assets, Batory briefly hesitated. 'I could stay at the Belt — I knew Chicago like the back of my hand,' he says. Yet the same itch to be part of something new and even untried that had lured him to CM&W also attracted him to Conrail. He started there in March 1998, more than a year prior to the split. 'There was no Welcome Wagon awaiting me,' he recalls. 'I was the first evidence to people that big change was coming to the company. What I did was listen and watch. I learned how people thought. I learned the culture.' But Batory (pronounced ba-TORY) didn’t know the half of it, as he later discovered."

Batory and his wife, Barbara, reside in Mount Laurel, N.J. Until the inauguration of President Trump on Jan. 20, Sarah Feinberg was the Administrator of the FRA.


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