Railway Tie Association, 2023 Year In-Review, the Director’s Perspective

April 12, 2024
by NHLA
Association MembershipsAssociation PartnershipsMembership BenefitsNate IrbyRailway Tie AssociationSustainable WoodWood PreservationYear in Review

RTA is a membership association dedicated to serve the railroad crosstie and timber industry segment(s). We branch out into multiple associated supply chain providers, end-users, and collaborate with others in “like” spaces. Our membership is strong in tradition and sustainability, yet open for growth and copacetic with targeted forward thinking. How can we continue to best serve our constituency and the industry?

Our attempts through conducting three meetings we hold each year: Tie Grading Seminar (March), Field Trip (June), and Annual Meeting (October), provide in-person opportunities for networking and engagement. Furthermore, we play nice with others, as many allied associations in the railroad industries, forest products, and more, co-exist by virtue of our common causes. But, again, what else can we be doing, or doing something we already do, better, to facilitate the RTA’s mission to keep wood tie markets strong and sustainable?

• We started 2023 with honoring tradition, and respecting those that have contributed so much to the continuation and advancement of the science of wood preservation with holding a field trip at Mississippi State University to visit the RTA AWPRP study site and discuss its progress and potential for future modeling.

• RTA also ramped up its attempts to engage with the short line and regional railroad community in a big way: a booth at the ASLRRA convention in New Orleans plus revitalized marketing to capture tie usage data from those users to bolster a long-standing industry sought database.

• Collaboration was ongoingly afoot early in 2023 with big steps of partnership with the National Hardwood Lumber Association with a webinar in their highly respected series plus a half day tie grading lecture to their prestigious lumber inspector class. RTA also presented a tie update to the Southern Pressure Treaters Association Annual meeting and gave a similar update, with focus from the sponsors perspective, to Mississippi State University College of Forest Resources faculty and administration.

• RTA has significant and still growing presence in the hardwood community through membership and sponsorship of hardwood club functions with spring meetings in multiple states. Also coupling those efforts are invitations to present at state forestry association meeting to give updates on the tie markets and recruit new members: Kentucky Forest Industries Association and West Virginia Forest Association.

• Before the spring ended, RTA had successfully completed another Washington D.C. advocacy trip, annual trips to sawmills and major members’ facilities conducted, and started a new research project on nondestructive evaluation of crossties that may help grade ties beyond visual, and more full-spectrum from ties buyers to wood processing to on-track.

• Summer engagement included our annual Field Trip, plus a few new items, with one notable activity: teaching teachers about wood products through a Teacher’s Conservation Workshop to help educate the educators to in-turn educate our youth about the many benefits of wood and wood products for our environment and daily lives.

• The RTA leadership met in July at the Westin Buckhead to review the upcoming October Annual Conference site and conduct our Summer Executive Committee meetings. They also sculpted the annual meeting program itself, got an updated from RTA Team members on progress of association work, and reaffirmed direction and future initiatives you will see in the coming months/years.

• August and September brought on a host of membership events: from Railroad HQ visits, to sawmill and tie treatment facility stops, and a run-in with a former United States Vice President, to name a few. The RTA Team was also busy executing final prep for the Annual Conference, and were absolutely blown away by the swiftness in which our sponsorship program participants stepped up to the plate and filled ALL slots in record time!

• As fall came into fruition, RTA has been busy planning future events for 2024 (and beyond), bolstering our staff (Welcome, Kristen!), and honoring tradition and charting sustainable pathways for the RTA and the industry in so many wonderful ways. For those that were present, you know our Annual Conference was a great success and we are so very thankful for all the contributions in attendance, exhibits, sponsorships, and good times!

As you read through, and we close this piece, keep in mind we are very grateful to serve the RTA membership and industry in such a capacity. The RTA Team is dedicated to our collective causes, representing this industry and moving our Association forward. And, for me, personally and professionally, it is an honor and a privilege. Thanks for such a great 2023!!!

By Nate Irby, Railway Tie Association (RTA)

by NHLA

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