Steven R Ditmeyer

Profile Updated: March 30, 2019
Steven R Ditmeyer
Class Year: 1959
Residing In: Alexandria, VA USA
Occupation: Railroader, Educator
Children: Anne, born 1981, lives in Paris, France, dual French-American citizen
David, born 1983, lives in More…Alexandria, VA
Military Service: Army, Transportation Corps  
Yes! Attending Reunion
Grade School:

Garfield

Comments:

My career in railroading:
In the early days of the railroad industry, anyone who moved and changed jobs every few years was called a “boomer.” I guess I could be called a boomer. I got my BS in Industrial Management from MIT (where I was in ROTC), and my MA in Economics from Yale. I had summer railroad jobs at St. Louis Union Station, then a scruffy depot, now a National Historic Landmark. I served my Army tour with the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon during the height of the Vietnam War. After mustering out, I joined the newly created Federal Railroad Administration where I worked on high-speed trains for the Northeast Corridor and on the creation of Amtrak. After six years at FRA, I spent three years at the World Bank working on railroad projects in Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria, Spain, and Portugal.

In 1977, the Carter Administration asked me back to FRA as a political appointee where I served, in succession, as head of the policy office (where we worked on deregulation of the freight railroad industry), General Manager of the Alaska Railroad (where we initiated its sale to the State of Alaska), and head of R&D. My wife Marty and I got married just before moving to Alaska, where we had an 8-month honeymoon and she got her introduction to railroading. When Reagan became president, it was suggested that I rejoin the private sector, so we moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where I joined Burlington Northern Railroad as director of R&D. After four years there, the company moved us to Kansas City, where we spent eight more years. At BN, our significant R&D projects were natural gas locomotives and satellite-and-data-communications-based positive train control systems. In 1993, instead of moving to Fort Worth with BN, we moved to Boise, Idaho, where I was vice president of marketing for the locomotive division of Morrison Knudsen Corporation. Following MK’s financial collapse in 1995, we moved back to the Washington, DC area where I rejoined the FRA in my old job as director of R&D.

My big career change came in 2003 when FRA detailed me to the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (one of the senior military schools) as the Department of Transportation Faculty Chair. I taught economics and transportation courses and took my students to Europe each spring. Following my retirement from the government in 2007, I continued in academia for eight years as an adjunct professor with Michigan State University’s Railway Management Program and as an adjunct lecturer with HEC Business School – Paris at its International Railway Strategic Management Institute.

It is worth noting that only after I retired (or is it because I retired?) did Congress pass laws requiring the implementation of positive train control systems (October 2008) and appropriating funds for high-speed rail projects (February 2009). The railroad industry dragged it feet on PTC for some years, buth they are now getting with the program.

Life was good for Marty and me. She was tolerant and supportive of my railroad career. We were too busy with our kids to have a mid-life crisis. Unfortunately, after a four-year battle with ovarian cancer, she passed away in September 2017.

School Story:

Normandy High School could not have done a better job preparing me for the rest of my life. It had a calm atmosphere, great teachers, intelligent students, and supportive parents. I think we all were very lucky.

I have special memories of my days as drum major of the marching band. Herb Duncan was a great director, and it was in the band that I learned something about management skills. The drum major makes no musical sounds but is responsible for the sound of the band. The drum major directs people where to go by waving a baton and blowing a whistle. The drum major has to make sure everyone has the right music and has practiced the music and formations so that the performance at the football game goes off without a hitch. That is what good management is all about.

My favorite classes were Lou Diehl’s physics class, John Masterson’s and Charlie Frees’ history classes, and Bill Christian’s math class. I did not really enjoy Esther Goff’s English class at the time, but in later years I came to realize what a very important role she played in helping me to rite good. I enjoyed watching trains (Wabash, Rock Island, and TRRA) through the windows of John Torres’ English classroom on the south side of East Hall.

I had a small part as assistant stage manager in Thornton Wilder’s play “Our Town,” directed by Colleen Wilkinson. It took me a few years to realize what that play was all about, and I now think about it often. I was student manager of the basketball and track teams, and I recall the outstanding coaching skills of Mike Riegert and Vern Bourner. I remember keeping score at the Christmas Basketball Tournament game where future-Senator Bill Bradley, playing for Crystal City High, set the single-player scoring record in the Big Gym.

I would be remiss if I did not mention my close friendship with Bruce Krewinghaus. He and I were in school together from first grade at Garfield School through our first year of graduate school at MIT – that’s 17 years! In later years we figured out that each of us had decided to go to MIT because we thought that the other was going there. And we each had decided to sign up for ROTC because we thought that the other had signed up for it. Both were life-changing decisions for each of us. Despite that, we remain good friends and continue to see each other regularly.