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Ab Rees

My father was a MoPac Superintendent so I became a second generation MoPac employee.   After high school graduation, I started as a summer employee on the Section gang in Atchison, Kansas in 1964.  In those days of “Grain Rush” in the summer, the company hired lots of short term summer help in train service and track gangs, but we had to resign at the end of the summer and go back to college.  Also on the same gang was Mike Haverty(later in life President of Santa Fe Railway and then Kansas City Southern.) He hired me later on. During the following summers I worked on signal gangs, bridge gangs, welder helper, telegrapher, brakeman, in many places in Kansas, returning to college in winter. In 1966 I transferred to Little Rock, Arkansas as brakeman and took promotion to Conductor.  I  graduated  from college and accepted a position as Transportation Trainee with Missouri Pacific Railroad.  Because of my work experience I graduated from the training program in less than a year.  Jim Love, Henry Arms,  Art Shoener were there at the same time. I was sent to Lake Charles as Assistant Trainmaster for a year, then to Osawatomie as Trainmaster, then the Operation Control Center in St. Louis was formed and Art Shoener and I were brought in to start  “OpCon”. After a year, I was promoted to Superintendent OpCon.  Another year passed and I was promoted to Division Superintendent at Coffeyville, seven months later, transferred  to Chester, Ill as Superintendent.  To get my terminal experience, I was moved  to the hump yard at North Little Rock for 2 years as Superintendent,  then promoted to General Superintendent-Transportation at NLR. After 2 years, promoted to Asst. General Manager and soon departed for Harvard Business School for the 13 week Program for Management Program “PMD”.  After returning from Harvard another year passed and on November 15, 1982(just days before approval of UP-MP-WP merger) I was appointed General Manager of the Texas District. In June of 1985 I was transferred to Salt Lake City, Utah on the UP as General Manager of the South Central District. Two years later we merged the NorthWest district and the South Central District  into one and I became the Asst General Manager. In 1988, we restructured again and did away with districts and General Managers and I moved to Omaha to form Service Measurement and later to Service Design.  January 1, 1989 I was recruited by Mike Haverty to become General Manager at Topeka, KS on the Santa Fe Railway, five months later I was promoted to Vice President-Operations. 6 years later in 1995, when Haverty became President of KCS, he recruited me again to become Senior Vice President- International Operations.  In 2002 I was recruited to become Chairman and CEO of Railworks Inc, a railroad construction and services company, finally retiring in 2005.    I always laughed when I told my Dad…..I was the last C&EI Supt, last Missouri and Illinois Supt,  last General manager on T&P, last General Manager on the Western Pacific RR. As we merged them all out of existence.

The best job on the MoPac for me was General Manager-Texas District.  I was given freedom to make significant cost reductions by Dick Davidson and was far away from the politics of St. Louis and Omaha. I enjoyed this job , living in Texas, my management team, our accomplishments etc more than anytime in my career.

The best part of being on the Mopac during this period was the management team  of  D.B. Jenks and J. H. Lloyd, they formed the training program that became famous in the railroad industry.  It allowed for us young guys with a college education to enter into management at a young age(23 for me) work hard, be aggressive in an aggressive management, be in prominent positions at the time of merger at still a young age and succeed in the post merger culture. It was a great career in a changing time and they allowed it to happen by recruiting us.

MP was a very young, aggressive, success oriented culture that was very well situated because of the  emerging Gulf Coast Chemical  complex. Managing every nickel and dime allowed management to invest in the infrastructure over the years  and improve the property to where when the mergers started, we were the darling of the industry.

TCS was the most important and biggest change factor in my career, it took us from paper and #2 pencil lists to car scheduling and other great computer programs that led the Railroad industry for decades.

Working in MoPac management was stressful on families, I have moved my household forty times in my life, it created difficulties but also reaped benefits, the balancing and the management of the hours, moving, different states, changing of schools, loss of friends,  were  difficult to handle but yet the success, promotions, more money etc helped overcome. 

Mopac was tough, aggressive  in their relations with the unions, we were very discipline oriented, didn’t put up with any nonsense, if you violated the rules, then we disciplined you. We credited the improving safety and injury prevention success to this  behavior.

During the UP-MP-WP merger, egos reined, my way or the highway attitudes, blue and yellow teams, butting heads, decisions were made many times because of  the color of your shirt(blue or yellow) not because it was the best for the company.  Careers were ruined, turmoil was prevalent.  You had to dodge the bullets but sometimes you took a hit. Took a lot of years with many good people leaving before UP forgot about blue and yellow.  That’s why I left for the Santa Fe. 

What were my accomplishments?  I made it from the beginning to the end, I made some good decisions but also some bad decisions,  I rose from the bottom to the top, I developed good friendships still going today, I kept myself in control and hopefully didn’t make a fool of myself and now looking back, I enjoyed my life and career on Missouri Pacific, lived the history and participated in making it a success that it is today, if only for a brief time in history. While all that is not remembered by anyone, I feel  good about my life on MoPac.