Thune speaks at RCPE Railroad luncheon

PHOTOS BY BENJAMIN CHASE / PLAINSMAN Above: Sen. John Thune, top row, fourth from left, poses for a group photo with other invited guests and employees at a Rapid City Pierre Eastern Railroad luncheon Monday in Huron. Below: Sen. Thune addresses the crowd at the luncheon Monday in Huron. Behind him is the clock noting that the last reported injury at the Huron location was more than 10 years previous, a record of safety noted by Thune during his address.

HURON — Sen. John Thune (R-SD) was the featured speaker at the employee luncheon of the Huron location of the Rapid City, Pierre and Eastern Railroad (RCPE) roundhouse on Monday.

Employees prepared the cookout luncheon and then heard from Brad Ovitt, the Senior Vice President of Western Region Railroads for Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (G&W), the parent company for RCPE, to begin the presentation program. Ovitt praised the safety record of the Huron roundhouse, citing that the roundhouse had more than 4,000 days now without an injury on the job.

Ovitt then introduced Huron mayor Gary Harrington. Harrington spoke about the importance of the railroad to the city of Huron, noting that in 1880 the first spike was driven in Huron for the railroad, and he stated that the city has grown up around the railroad ever since.

G&W Chief Executive Officer Jack Hellmann spoke next. Hellmann talked about the importance of the history of railroad service across the country and locally to Huron. He also discussed how the G&W logo has arrows pointing to the rear and forward, acknowledging the past while always focusing into the future.

Hellmann noted that focus into the future as a significant reason why G&W, and specifically RCPE, has been able to withstand recent issues of COVID and inflation that have impacted the economy. He recalled that G&W kept working at full capacity during the pandemic, and it has benefitted coming out of the pandemic with a workforce that never had a downtime.

Sen. Thune closed out the speakers.

He related his family’s experience coming to South Dakota via the railroad from Norway. He discussed his father’s ability to travel to play basketball at the University of Minnesota by taking the railroad to Minneapolis and how the basketball team would travel by rail to play games at that time.

“I would have loved to have been around in that era,” Thune reminisced. “He was a big fan of railroads.”

He also related his experience working as the State Rail Director under former S.D. Governor George Mickelson to chairing the Commerce, Science, and Transportation committee in the United States Senate, which oversees the rail industry.

Thune discussed the history of the Huron rail and how pleased he is to have G&W working in Huron and investing in the entire RCPE line across the state.

“We need railroads,” Thune emphasized. “The most efficient way to move freight is rail. That’s why I’m glad you all are here.”

Thune joined the employees for a question and answer session, a group photo, and then a tour after the luncheon.


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