Track Laborer Anticipates What Needs to Happen

NOVEMBER 2022 – Because Austin Sullivan anticipates what’s going to be asked of him and sees ways that he can help, he takes action without being told. 

That seems to be the general operating mode for the Vicksburg Southern Railroad (VSOR) track laborer.

“If he sees the opportunity to teach and explain procedures with a team member, he does that without someone telling him to,” says VSOR Trainmaster Bryant Scallorn. “He’s been here six or eight months, but he’s got like four years of prior experience of being around track and working on track. So with some of the younger guys that have no experience, if he sees them doing something wrong around the track, he’ll stop and explain how to do it better and explain the safety side of it so they won’t get hurt.”

Scallorn says that if Sullivan notices that his boss, Roadmaster Steve Kimball, has picked up a tool, he’ll step in to take over for Kimball so that Kimball can watch over the crew and their safety. Kimball says Sullivan is “an outstanding employee” who is “willing to do anything to get the job done and go anywhere to help out.”

One place Sullivan went to help recently was in the aftermath of a storm. 

“It knocked down 33 trees within one mile,” said Scallorn of the March event in Vicksburg. “He had the truck loaded in case a storm hit, and when it got here, he was ready to go.” A crew of five spent from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. cutting up trees that were downed on the track and removing them from the trains’ path. “The whole crew showed up, but (Austin) got everything organized and made sure they were gassed up so Steve just had to have a meeting and leave.”

It was much the same in early June when the Arkansas Southern Railroad (ARS) experienced a derailment. Jeff Buck is the general manager for both the VSOR and ARS, so whenever the ARS needs help, VSOR team members load up to go help in Arkansas. You didn’t have to ask him,” said Scallorn. “Austin just gets everything he needs and leaves.” 

“He is the first in and then out of the truck to start a job,” said Buck, adding, “Austin has for sure bought into the Watco way of life, and I’m proud to have him at the VSOR.”

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