Former FRA official Ken Lawson passes at 90

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BLUEMONT, Va. — Well-known Federal Railroad official Ken Lawson passed away at home in Bluemont on June 19, 2019. He was 90.

Born in Chicago in 1928, Ken graduated from Northwestern University in 1951 with a degree in electrical engineering. He served as a gunnery officer on the U.S.S. Healy during the Korean Conflict.

Following jobs with ALCOA, Anaconda Copper, and Westinghouse, Ken began his long association with Bechtel Corp., in 1962 as chief equipment engineer on San Francisco’s transit system, BART. He then moved to U.S. DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration as senior engineer of rail systems R&D in the Office of High-Speed Ground Transportation. He was instrumental in establishing U.S. DOT’s test center at Pueblo, Colo.; overseeing improvements to the new Metroliner trains; lobbying before Congress and planning for the Northeast Corridor Improvement Program; initiating track and dynamics research for high-speed rail; developing related safety standards; and providing technical support for the creation of Amtrak and Conrail.

Following his work at FRA, Ken returned to work with Bechtel on a wide variety of rail transportation projects—including high-speed rail, heavy-haul railroads, and light-rail systems—that spanned the nation, and the globe from London to Seoul, from Brazil to Indonesia. Throughout, he served the industry in all phases—research, planning, and worked from all perspectives, representing manufacturers, owner-operators, and government entities.

In retirement, serving on Loudoun County’s Agricultural District Advisory Committee, Ken also was a member of the Blue Ridge Mountain Civic Association and the Loudoun Hunt.

Survivors include Ken’s loving wife of 68 years, Alice, three children, three grandchildren, and two brothers. All will cherish the memory of his kindness, steadfastness, and sense of adventure. He will be laid to rest in Illinois. Memorial contributions to Journey Through Hallowed Ground
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