Sunday, October 11, 2015

Nice tribute to Rodney Kruenen, WI rail champion

Dave Zweifel at the Cap Times has a nice piece on the passing of Rodney Kruenen, a former state railroad commissioner who championed passenger rail along with freight services in the long-gone era of Tommy Thompson moderation:
No one was a bigger advocate for the railroad industry and passenger rail, in particular, than Rodney. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson recognized his self-acquired railroading expertise and passion and made him his railroad commissioner...Rodney jumped into [the job] with both feet and turned an under-the-radar state agency into one that proactively promoted crossing safety and raised the industry's profile around the state. 
He single-handedly convinced Thompson, who said this week that Rodney had more knowledge of railroads in his little finger than most people have in their heads, to push a pro-passenger rail agenda for Wisconsin and during one summer convinced Amtrak to extend the Chicago-to-Milwaukee Hiawatha service to Watertown to test if it would be welcomed by passengers. It was.
That test run took place when John Norquist was Mayor of Milwaukee, and we rode on the inaugural trip.

We also once made a visit to Kruenen's Madison office; I remember he had on his wall the most amazing map of all the rail lines in the state and that he reported to work wearing an engineer's cap.

Side note: Tommy late became President of the Amtrak board, and was such a supporter the agency named a locomotive after him, but Thompson later abandoned his long backing for the Madison-Milwaukee rail link when he was eyeing a US Senate seat and felt he had to line up with the Walker-led GOP position. 

Zweifel says that flip-flop had disappointed Kruenen; when personalities or promotions trump principles, lots of people are left disappointed.


Bill Sell said...

Kreunen brought the rail engine horn to his interviews on WPR. Great guest, forthcoming, unafraid of his own ideas.

Steve Hanson said...

That's very sad. I knew Rodney more as a customer at my computer store in Madison than anything else - but of course we did talk about trains when he was in the store, since we were both fans. He was a great fellow and a great supporter of sensible train service.

I'm very sad to hear of his passing.