The Belt Railway is the largest intermediate switching terminal railroad in the United States, employing approximately 450 people. The Belt has 28 miles of mainline route with more than 300 miles of switching tracks, allowing it to interchange with every railroad serving the Chicago rail hub. The Belt’s Clearing Yards span a 5.5 mile distance among 786 acres, supporting more than 250 miles of track.
With Chicago being the largest hub of the railroad industry, very few rail cars travel transcontinentally without coming through Chicago. Owner lines, as well as several other railroads, bring trains to the Belt Railway to be efficiently separated, classified, and re-blocked for cross-country departure. The Belt Railway currently dispatches on a service-driven basis more than 8,400 rail cars per day. At Clearing Yards, employees are able to classify between 40 and 50 miles of train consists every 24 hours.
Mike Paras, general manager transportation, imparts wisdom after earning the Leadership Award during the annual AARS meeting.
The American Association of Railroad Superintendents recognized Mike Paras, general manager transportation, with the prestigious Leadership Award at the 117th annual meeting in Newark, N.J.
The award, honoring leadership excellence in the rail industry, is one of four Lantern Awards for Excellence distributed each year. The awards were created to recognize outstanding individuals and organizations and share best practices in the rail industry.
By having the opportunity to work for good leaders, Paras’ leadership style evolved into what it is today: leading by example, earning respect every day and taking an active role in recruiting future leaders.
“The title ‘leader’ is a descriptor based on daily actions and must be earned,” he said. “The primary role of a manager is to develop those who work for him or her.”
For Paras, there is no bigger satisfaction than mentoring those around him and giving back. With every conversation, he strives to have a positive influence and provide employees with the tools needed to move forward and make a difference.
“We can teach employees to switch and hump cars, but getting that person to be a leader and a positive force of influence to make things happen is a completely different matter,” he said. “Excellence is not an act; it’s a habit. We must perform and set examples and never settle for mediocrity.”