A.R. "Rudy" Bilka wins Hammond Safety Award

BLE member takes first place; two other BLE members honored with Certificates of Commendation

WASHINGTON, May 2, 2001 -- A.R. "Rudy" Bilka, a locomotive engineer and member of BLE Division 730 (Altoona, Pa.), has been named the winner of this year's Harold F. Hammond rail safety award.

Two other locomotive engineers and BLE members were also honored for their commitment to safety. Brother Randy C. Caldwell of Division 636 (Silsbee, Texas) and David K. Roth of Division 232 (Laurel, Mont.) were two of five finalists presented with Certificates of Commendation for their work in enhancing safety.

Brother Bilka, who works in Norfolk Southern's Pittsburgh Division out of Altoona, Pa., has been employed for 31 injury-free years in the railroad industry.

BLE International President Edward Dubroski congratulated these Brothers for their hard work and dedication, which led to their recognition.

"All BLE members should be proud of the accomplishments of Brothers Bilka, Caldwell and Roth in enhancing safety," Dubroski said. "It is especially gratifying to see a friend, like Rudy Bilka, so honored. Rudy served the membership of Division 730 with distinction as a Local Chairman for many years, and I'm pleased to see him gain such high recognition for his devotion to the BLE and the cause of safety."

Numerous examples of Brother Bilka's commitment to safety were cited. As a member of the Altoona Safety Committee, he helped establish a simple goal for 2000: zero incidents and zero injuries. The Altoona District was the only operating district on the division to meet that goal. While chairing various subcommittees for the Allegheny Labor and Management Organization and with an eye toward enhancing safety, Brother Bilka also worked tirelessly to improve yard lighting, road paving, dismounting pads and locomotive design.

While operating a locomotive in 1974, Bilka saw a group of children crossing under trains. Alarmed at what he saw, Brother Bilka became "Engineer Rudy." Clad in bib overalls, a red bandana and a pin-striped engineers cap, "Engineer Rudy" took his lifesaving message directly to the schools. Since then he has consistently spread the word to driver education classes, firemen, Boy Scouts, truckers, ambulance operators, college students, senior citizens and law enforcement officers.

In nominating Brother Bilka for the Hammond Award, NS Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer David Goode, wrote, "Mr. Bilka's dedication to safety shines brightly. People recognize and respond to the genuine article. When Rudy Bilka talks about safety, people listen, connect and react positively. He is a dedicated individual with a clear purpose, a person who make a difference -- in short, a natural."

Five other railroad employees were honored with Certificates of Commendation for their work in enhancing safety. They are:

  • Bobby Atkinson, purchasing and materials storekeeper with CSX Transportation in Baltimore;
  • Randy C. Caldwell, a locomotive engineer with Burlington Northern Santa Fe in Conroe, Texas;
  • Richard Lara, a track supervisor with Union Pacific in Greeley, Colorado;
  • David K. Roth, a locomotive engineer with Montana Rail Link in Laurel, Montana; and
  • Michael A. Shannon, assistant train master with I&M Rail Link in Mason City, Iowa.

The Harold F. Hammond Award, established in 1986, is awarded to an individual railroad employee who has demonstrated outstanding safety achievement during the preceding year. It is named for Harold F. Hammond, former President of the Transportation Association of America, who had served many years as chairman of the Harriman Awards selection committee.


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May 3, 2001


2001 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers