Percy Fields has assumed a new role with a new railroad.
He takes on the challenge of the newly created general manager role, which will see the heads of Engineering, Mechanical, Signal, and Transportation report to him.
“I’m highly motivated,” Fields said. “I want the team to succeed. Motivated people are unstoppable, and I’ve never given up on anything.”
Most recently the superintendent of Alton & Southern Railway Company in St. Louis, joining the Belt is a homecoming for Fields. He worked more than a decade in Chicago after starting his railroad career in 2000 as a passenger and freight conductor for Union Pacific. A self-described “people person,” he enjoyed interacting with the commuting public when he wasn’t busy moving coal trains.
While his career path turned decisively toward freight and busy Proviso Yard, he’s maintained a people-centered perspective on his profession. Fields’ goal is to meet as many of his new teammates as possible; he looks forward to a post-COVID-19 environment so he can begin engaging more employees.
“Railroading is the same wherever you go,” Fields said. “It’s the people who make it different. I’ve been a human being for 40 years and a railroader for 20, and I am much better at being a human being.”
He’s met enough employees to know the Belt has a strong culture.
“Everyone I talk to is all in,” Fields said. “The tight-knit nature of the Belt inspires an ownership attitude. The people have a genuine love and respect for this railroad — this is their railroad.”
Fields is impressed with the Belt’s response to COVID-19 and said the railroad’s ability to persevere through the challenge as seamlessly as it has is a testament to its people. But one of the Belt’s most endearing features to him is where it’s located.
He married his wife, Becky, just as his time in Chicago came to a close. His son Gabriel was born in Kansas City, Mo. It wouldn’t be the growing family’s last stop. To name a few of his roles, Fields led hump yards, service units and even Union Pacific’s network of automotive facilities, citing the latter opportunity with helping him hone his management style. He said his lack of experience in the automotive arena helped him rely more on experienced teammates instead of taking on tasks on his own. His career path has helped him gain multiple perspectives, but he particularly values his time in the craft.
“It’s been rewarding,” Fields said. “Starting from the ground up has given me a healthy respect for the men and women working day in and day out in the field.”
While he considers time away from Chicago a blessing that allowed his immediate family to form a special bond, he said they’re glad to return home and be near extended family for the first time in more than a decade, including his parents and five sisters.