Retired Norfolk Southern Operations Executive Stephen C. Tobias dies at 72

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Tobias
Stephen C. Tobias
Norfolk Southern
NORFOLK, Va. — Stephen C. Tobias, Norfolk Southern’s former vice chairman and chief operating officer, died Aug. 7. He was 72.

Under Tobias’ operations leadership, NS won an unprecedented 15 consecutive Harriman Gold Medal Awards for the best safety performance among U.S. Class I railroads.

“He was a great railroader and, I believe, the best operations man in the business,” former NS CEO David Goode says.

Tobias spent 40 years at NS. He joined Norfolk & Western Railway in 1969 as a junior engineer. He went on to serve in positions of increasing responsibility, including terminal trainmaster, superintendent, general manager, vice president of transportation, vice president of strategic planning, senior vice president operations, and executive vice president operations. In 1998, he was named vice chairman and chief operations officer, the position he held until his retirement in 2009.

Tobias was elected to the Canadian Pacific board of directors in May 2012 during the proxy battle that led to the resignations of several CP board members and CEO Fred Green. Tobias served as interim chief executive officer until E. Hunter Harrison became CEO in late June. Tobias remained on the CP board until 2015, serving on several committees, including its safety and operations panel.

At NS, Tobias had a reputation as a demanding and hard-nosed operations leader.

“Steve was a tough-minded, sharp operating person. And while he ascended to a high rank within the company, he always stayed true to his roots — the roots he drew from that shaped his career, including growing up on a farm outside of Roanoke, Va., his years at the Citadel, and his early experiences in field operations,” says Mark Manion, Norfolk Southern’s retired chief operating officer.

Deb Butler, NS’s former chief information officer, said Tobias could, “inspire both fear and loyalty with equal intensity.” She credits him with being “an advocate of the concept of what he called ‘scheduled railroading’ long before we heard a similar term elsewhere in the industry.”

In 2008, Railway Age magazine named Tobias “Railroader of the Year,” calling him “a true thoroughbred among operating officers.”

Information about funeral arrangements was not available.

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