Michigan Tech University and UW-Superior combine efforts to offer unique Rail and Intermodal Summer Youth Program
During the week of July 28th to August 1st 2014, Michigan Technological University's Rail Transportation Program led the 5th annual Rail and Intermodal Summer Youth Program in partnership with the University of Wisconsin-Superior's Transportation and Logistics Program. Twenty-four high school students from all over the United States came together to explore what Ispheming/Marquette and Duluth/Superior (The Twin Ports) has to offer for rail and intermodal transportation. The success of this program has continued to grow throughout the years because of the synergy between Michigan Tech and UW - Superior, along with the key support of the industry.
The students began the week at Michigan Tech, where they enjoyed campus amenities and informational seminars on the fundamentals of rail engineering, track design, and locomotives. In addition to classroom instruction, the students had the opportunity to visit operating rail yards and experience hands on work with rail equipment.
The Twin Ports is the name for the port at Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin. It is the fifteenth largest port in the United States. Both domestic and international ships call at the port. The Twin Ports includes a shipyard, and is the home port of the U.S. Coast Guard. Along with four Class 1 railroads that service the community with nine active rail yards, it is also the host to an international airport, a general aviation airport, a seaplane base and two aircraft manufactures. Several regional trucking firms are headquartered in the Twin Ports along with state DOT offices. Major pipelines service the only refinery in Wisconsin and support pipeline operations and repair companies. The combination of all modes of transportation in the Twin Ports provides a rich learning environment for transportation, logistics, and supply chain management.
On the second day of the program, the students along with four chaperones boarded a bus to the Twin Ports. The four hour journey ended at Curran-McNeill Hall, the dormitory at UW-Superior where the group would spend two nights.
The Twin Ports segment of the program was led by two Transportation and Logistics Management students, with the guidance of Dr. Amit Mokashi. After the first night in the UW-Superior dorm, the students began Wednesday, July 30th with a hearty buffet-style breakfast in the Yellowjacket Union provided by A'viands Catering.
After breakfast the students were taken to the regional office for the Burlington Northern - Santa Fe Railway. Safety gear was administered on the bus ride over to the 28th street terminal. The group gathered in BNSF's conference room to learn about occupations that the railway offers. From the conference room the group took a quick tour of the building, stopping at a simulator for train operators. They were then brought up to the Yard Master's tower to experience the technology rail workers utilize on a daily basis. From the tower the students walked out to the roof of the building in order to better see the rail yard. After their curiosity was satisfied, the students were brought back to the conference room in order to wrap up the tour of the offices. Next was a short ride over to the BNSF car shop. There the students got a tour, including an opportunity to see wheels taken off of a railcar.
The students made a visit to Barker's Island before lunch. Everyone enjoyed the quick break to admire the views of Lake Superior.
After a burger buffet lunch at Ace's, the students were brought to the UW-Superior campus for a learning session presented by Dr. Mokashi. The session was on logistics, intermodal operation, and supply chain management, focusing on the interconnectivity of transportation systems. The students learned that transportation systems seamlessly move cargo, people, and information around the globe. After learning about the complexity of supply chains, the students left to visit a vital part of all supply chains, a trucking company.
Grand Avenue in Superior, Wisconsin is home to the Halvor Lines headquarters. The company employs over 300 drivers, and their turnover rate is 24% as compared to the nation's average of 100%. In 2014 Halvor Lines ranked as one of the top ten trucking companies in the U.S. to drive for. Upon arrival the students were warmly welcomed and split into two groups. As one group toured the main offices, the other gathered in the conference room to listen to an overview of Halvor Lines and the trucking industry. All three of the presenters graduated from the UW-Superior Transportation and Logistics Management Program. Next, the groups rejoined and walked over to the driver facility across the Halvor Lines' parking lot. Here the students got to try the truck driving simulator and climb through the cab of a state-of-the-art Halvor Lines truck. They also learned about the efforts Halvor Lines has been making in improving driver health and quality of life.
That evening, the group traveled back to UW-Superior for an open gym and pizza night at the university's wellness center. They unwound by climbing the rock wall and playing sports in the field house. A chaperone from Michigan Tech took a group of students to get another look at BNSF's railway near the campus.
The next day students were treated to another breakfast in Yellowjacket Union provided by A'viands Catering. The bus took them over the Blatnik Bridge to Duluth, Minnesota where their first stop was the CN ore docks in West Duluth. The students walked up from the lower parking lot to see a Canadian ore boat, the Paul J. Martin, waiting to be loaded with taconite. The group went directly into CN's conference room to be given a safety briefing along with facts about the facility's operations by the Port Manager, Mark Erickson. Next, the group loaded into an elevator which brought them to the top of an ore dock, ninety feet above the water. Mr. Erickson told the group about the functions of the dock while the students got a beautiful view of the bay. They were brought up to the command center tower (115 feet above the water) where employees control the taconite pellets that are deposited into vessels. After the tour of the dock, the group thanked Mr. Erickson and headed to Enger Tower for a lunch of sandwiches and sightseeing.
From Enger tower, the bus brought the group to downtown Duluth to experience the Lake Superior Railroad Museum. Here the students joined tourists in exploring the grand display of artifacts that the museum has to offer. Housed in the Historic Duluth Union Depot, the Lake Superior Railroad Museum includes one of the finest collections of railroad equipment in the entire country, displaying interactive exhibits as well as history from the region. The students then boarded a private car, the DM&IR 42, on the North Shore Scenic Railroad train. This car was built in 1913 as an executive hunting car for the Duluth, Messabi & Iron Range railroad and was one of the rail cars used in the filming of Disney's Iron Will. The group greatly enjoyed the historic rail car, and the ride to Lester Creek. After the ride, the group had more time for exploration in the museum, before they headed back to Houghton, Michigan where they would wrap up their Rail and Intermodal Youth program experience.
This event would not have been possible without the support of Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp., Halvor Lines Inc., Canadian National Railroad Company, Lake Superior Railroad Museum, and the North Shore Scenic Railroad. A special thanks to The Intermodal Association of North America, who provides scholarships to support programs like this. STORY WRITTEN BY UW-SUPERIOR TRANSPORTATION AND LOGISTICS STUDENTS NATALIE BURGER AND ERICA HANSEN.