Associate Member Profile | Dominion Railway Services
When Shawn I. Smith says he is a railroader, he does so with pride in his voice and nearly four decades of experience under his belt.
Shawn has worked in rail since his teens. He still marvels at the work ethic and grit of frontline workers who toil nights, weekends, and through weather extremes – from the summer heat to winter deep freezes.
“Most recently, I saw guys work through two weeks of extreme cold – shoveling snow, switching cars, riding on the side of box cars,” he says from his native Alberta. “They keep us moving in all conditions. They are true heroes.”
Shawn says challenges like weather and geography have required Canadian railroaders to be resilient since the beginning, a legacy that continues today with challenges emerging from the COVID pandemic.
“We’ve got to get out of this damn thing,” he says bluntly. “Folks we’re working with are approaching the coming year somewhat carefully. There’s some hesitancy, but also some optimism. The biggest challenge is attracting and retaining the qualified people you need to serve customers and deliver.”
Shawn’s remarkable, 38-year rail journey began at CN (and roles with progressive responsibilities there) before moving to senior leadership roles in short line rail companies. In 2006, class ones beckoned again (this time as CP’s general manager of network development).
His involvement with the Railway Association of Canada (RAC) has included time on RAC’s board of directors, committee leadership, and work with the Railway Hall of Fame. Dominion Railway Services, the company he founded in 2013 is an associate member of the RAC. Several companies he advises and serves are also RAC-active. (These include member railway Boundary Trail Rail Company Ltd.)
He says last summer’s Prairie droughts, global supply chain disruptions, and increasing oil and gas shipments are keeping his clients busy as 2022 dawns.
He also believes Canadian rail has a renewed opportunity for nation-building.
“People support rail as environmental, economically important, and safe. We need to capitalize on that and be proactive in pushing for public investments in private infrastructure partnerships. Policy-wise, we need to re-engage and plan for the reactivation of freight rail corridors,” he says about big-picture, sectoral priorities.
Increasingly, Shawn is also involved guiding the next generation of frontline railroaders.
“I’ve always loved the business – personally and professionally, it’s been great to me. There are tremendous people in the industry, and I’m making the most of opportunities now to mentor newer, younger folks so they can make the most of the incredible opportunities and benefits that rail can provide them.”
Those learning from Shawn are learning from experience. They and others will carry rail’s legacy forward and continue its track record of resilience.