Quick Actions from a Conductor Prevent Derailment

NOVEMBER 2022 — Watco has a safety champion in Chad Shaffer, a conductor and engineer who works nights at the South Kansas & Oklahoma Railroad (SKOL) in Winfield, Kansas.

On one particular night, he noticed sparks coming from a rear railcar of the train he was pulling. His safety instincts prompted him to stop operations immediately. And upon inspection, Shaffer discovered a faulty bearing to be the cause. After the mechanical team arrived on-site, they estimated the railcar would not have made it another 20 miles without causing damage to the railcar or track.

Shaffer’s manager, Senior Trainmaster Robert Balzer, credits him for quickly taking action. Balzer said, “Had Chad not been alert and attentive, the bearing failure could have caused damage to the car and serious damage to the track or other structures if the car derailed.” 

This is just one recent example of how Shaffer steps up for safety. He also serves as vice president of the SKOL’s Team Safety & Improvement Committee (TSIC). Balzer credits Shaffer’s leadership for helping identify solutions to the team’s pain points. For instance, this summer he worked with SKOL General Manager Jerry Waun to provide cooling towels for team members to use. 

“Chad helps drive the TSIC in Winfield,” Balzer said. “He’s vocal about wanting to help team members and improve the railroad.” 

Conductor and Engineer Aaron Morris and Conductor Wyatt Daughhetee can attest to Balzer’s assessment of Shaffer.

“Chad is a true leader in Winfield,” Morris said. “He’s a great communicator. He stops work when it doesn’t feel right and makes sure it’s right before work continues.” 

Daughhetee said, “Chad gives us advice on how to handle situations safely and efficiently. I truly believe we owe much of our success to Chad’s industry knowledge and dedication to safety.”

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