There’s No Stopping this Small but Agile New York Team

May 2022 — The Ithaca Central Railroad (ITHR) is no stranger to natural disasters or inclement weather. Mudslides, rockslides, and frigid New York temperatures are just some of the conditions this railroad regularly faces.

Regardless of what Mother Nature may bring, the ITHR team always seeks new solutions to safely move freight to its next destination. General Manager Michael Cooper said, “My team constantly adapts to any challenging environment, even if that means moving boulders off the track.”

Cooper’s team is small but agile. Helping run the ITHR and maintaining nearly 50 miles of track are Operations Manager Thomas Nicholson, Conductor Patrick Michalski, Track Foreman Thomas Gould, and Locomotive Mechanic Jack Fisco. Russell Whitaker, a project supervisor at the Alabama Southern Railroad, has also traveled to assist the ITHR off-and-on for the last three years.

Job titles don’t come close to accurately describing what these team members do each day. They’re all cross-trained to perform various duties outside their scope of responsibilities. Rather than saying “it’s not my job,” Cooper says his teammates embrace learning new trades and expanding their skill sets.

It’s this work ethic that bonds these team members together, even on winter days with a wind chill temperature of minus 30 or four feet of snow on the ground.

“We face extremely harsh winter weather conditions. But because we look out for each other and make communication a priority, we’re able to safely do our jobs,” Nicholson said.

“In my 27 years of railroad experience, I’ve never been around a group quite like this. They are ready to jump in and help wherever it’s needed,” Cooper agreed.

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