Honors Summer Snapshots: Ewan

Ever wonder what Honors students do during the summer? Honors Ambassadors and students will be taking you into their 2017 summer routines via photos. Ewan is spending his second summer with BNSF, and can’t decide what is a better sight: the Argentine yard, or a plate of Venezuelan food:

Hello, my name is Ewan Shortess and I am a senior studying Supply Chain Management and minoring in Sustainability. For the past 7ish weeks, I have been in Kansas City, KS with BNSF Railway as a Transportation Intern. This is my second summer with BNSF and I am incredibly glad that I came back!

Since railroading is completely different than any industry, I have spent a lot of time learning during my internship. Every yard operates differently, so I had to learn how Argentine Yard in Kansas City operates. This includes things like the track layout and numbering system in the yard, but also saying “Here We Go” instead of “bye” when hanging up the phone. Argentine is a “hump” yard, which means we push cars over a hill and they switch into different tracks automatically, rather than pushing them into tracks. This yard is also the largest on BNSF’s system and is along the “Transcon,” which is BNSF’s premier route from Southern California to Chicago.

Unfortunately, I am limited with the photos I can post, as the railroad takes the security of its operations very seriously. I definitely have taken some other cool railroad photos, I just cannot post them online for public viewing.

I have also been keeping busy outside of work. I live with two other BNSF interns, and know several people in the Kansas City area. I am doing my best to enjoy my remaining three weeks in Kansas City, but am also looking forward to being back with everyone in Ames.

Kansas City is an incredibly beautiful and cool city. This is looking north toward Union Station, the crossroad district, and downtown taken from the World War I memorial.


One of the coolest things I get to do is ride trains! However, taking pictures while trains are operating is illegal, so this will have to suffice. This is inside BNSF’s 10th Street Yard Office in North Kansas City, Missouri looking out the window toward our locomotive. I spent the day riding with Job 142, which services industries on the southern end of North Kansas City.


In addition to riding with jobs, I also shadow and work with the trainmaster team. Trainmasters are the front-line supervisors for my department, who directly supervise crews, create switch lists, and ensure the operation runs smoothly. At Argentine, we have 5 trainmasters on duty at any given time. Trainmasters work 12-hour shifts, one on days and one on nights. Here I am working the Transfer Trainmaster position, which supervises trains and crews that go to other railroads in Kansas City such as Kansas City Southern, Canadian Pacific, Norfolk Southern, Kansas City Terminal, Kaw River Railroad, and Union Pacific. It is just after 0030 (Midnight 30) at night and I have 4.5 hours until I get off work at 0500 in the morning.


This is my workstation, which is up in the terminal tower at Argentine yard. I can pretty much see the entire yard from the tower, which is awesome, but not always conducive to being productive.


My radio is by far my favorite piece of equipment at BNSF. Of course, mine is complete with speaker and reflective speaker cover.


The railroad pretty much hauls everything that you use every day, from soybean oil to iPhones, but we also haul some unusual cargo. Every Boeing 737 has travelled from the fuselage assembly plant in Wichita, KS to Renton, WA for final assembly on BNSF. It is really cool to see a full-size airplane fuselage riding the rails! The crazy thing is that the airline buying this plane has already started selling the seats for the plane’s first flight, so ensuring this plane keeps to schedule is essential.


Outside of work I have been hanging out a lot with other Iowa State people in Kansas City. This is during Riverfest, which is a big 4th of July festival down by the river complete with fireworks of course. Pictured from left is: (me), fellow Honors student Logan Heitz, former Honors student and Iowa State Alumni Nick Seymour, and Iowa State Alumni Alex Williams. We are eagerly awaiting fireworks!


This is actually the best food that I have had in Kansas City (do not get me wrong, the BBQ is also very good). The restaurant is called Empanada Madness and serves South American food. It is on Southwest Boulevard just outside the Crossroads District. While the meal looks simple, the plantains (on top) were cooked perfectly to sweetness, the shredded beef was perfectly seasoned, and the beans tasted like the fresh authentic ones my dad makes at home. It was absolutely incredible!


Working high up in the tower yields some pretty good sunset views over the yard (as well as I-635 in the foreground). This is looking west over the bowl towards the hump. Argentine may be a 24-hour operation, but my day has come to a close.


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