Picture report by Russ Jackson Photos by the writer unless otherwise indicated.
The rail advocacy community was disappointed to learn that Gene Skoropowski would be retiring from parent organization BART and his position as Managing Director of the Capitol Corridor JPB the end of November, 2009, and that he would be leaving the Golden state for the Sunshine state of Florida.
This report brings back some of the photos of Gene that have appeared in the Western Rail Passenger Review in the past and/or posted on this railpac.org site. The gentleman is very photogenic and is instantly recognized wherever he appears, whether reporting to his Board, riding one of the trains, or attending events.
November, 1995. Gene (right) with RailPAC’s then-President, the late Alan Wimmergren, rode the newly refurbished Coast Starlight to a NARP meeting, before Gene was employed in California. For 30 some years Gene was a board member of NARP. Notice the gleaming side of the then new Pacific Parlor Car.
September, 1999. There were 6 round-trip Capitols that day. Gene has arrived at the Suisun City Hall for his first Capitol Corridor JPB board meeting. On the right is Gene’s predecessor, the first Capitol Corridor Managing Director Bill Fleischer who was retiring. We all know the face in the middle, RailPAC VP North (then a Director) and Amtrak retiree Art Lloyd, who had known Gene for many years through his NARP connections, his employment in Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, and Florida, and his activity with the American Public Transportation Association.
Groundbreaking in the Sierra Nevada foothills, March, 2003. Gene attends one of many events on the Corridor, this one for the new Auburn train station. Holding the shovel is Auburn Mayor Kathy Sands, who also chaired the CCJPB at the time, and to the right is Robert Conheim, the “Lord Mayor” of the CC Riders, a group which rides the train into Sacramento and beyond daily and socializes together on and off the trains. This group has been Gene’s “sounding board” to his “customers.” A few years later this station would be named for the late Mr. Conheim, who had also been introduced to national rail advocacy by Gene when Bob joined the NARP Board of Directors.
September, 2003. Gene participates in the dedication of the long-awaited return of double tracks to the Yolo Causeway, just east of Davis. Gene (right) and the group are at the west end of the causeway, with (l-r) Kathy Sands, State Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, then Caltrans Director Jeff Morales, Wayne Horiuchi from the Union Pacific, and Amtrak’s Gregg Baxter. This was one of the highest priority capital items which have made travel on the Capitol Corridor speedier and more reliable. Notice a train is approaching the scene. Another project soon underway will put a badly needed crossover at this same site. (This photo for RailPAC by Caltrans’ Bill Bronte.)
Discussion Saturday in June, 2005. Gene, left, joined a small RailPAC discussion group at an Oakland sandwich shop in Jack London Square. Gene was a regular, attending RailPAC formal and informal meetings whenever he could to discuss current issues not only in California but nationally. Second from left was RailPAC’s Executive Director Richard Silver, Arizona RPA President Bill Lindley, NARP Director Jim Salvador, CC Riders’ Bob Conheim, and RailPAC Director from Sacramento Marcia Johnston.
Executives are also known by their associates. May, 2006, CCJPB Deputy Director David Kutrosky is at the dedication of the Dixon train station, being photographed by RailPAC’s Marcia Johnston. This is one of several station stops that will eventually be added to the Capitol Corridor, and Gene was enthusiastic about growing the corridor. Gene and David as a team developed the financial plan that allowed expansion of the number of trains to its present 16 roundtrips daily without needing any extra dollars from the state; something that has solidified support for the system statewide, and given it national recognition.
November, 2007. After a CCJPB meeting Gene and Tom Mulligan from the Union Pacific are at the Suisun-Fairfield station boarding a Capitol train bound for Sacramento. Gene spent many hours working with the UP, the “host railroad” for the Capitol Corridor, and developed a good relationship with them as well as with Amtrak, Caltrans, and most important to him the passengers. Gene received hundreds of e-mails from passengers and answered as many as he could, which passengers appreciated knowing that the top was hearing what they had to say.
April, 2008, Gene and Caltrans Rail Program Chief Bill Bronte are doing the “Gene and Bill” show at the RailPAC Annual Meeting at the California State Rail Museum. Gene calls Bill his “banker,” as all state support funds for the CCJPB come through Caltrans. This team has worked well together during the tenure of these dedicated rail officials, to the benefit of the state as well as the public, and have made themselves available for meetings such as this which all of us greatly appreciate.
It’s October, 2009 and Gene receives the RailPAC Outstanding Achieve-ment Award from President Paul Dyson and VP North Art Lloyd at the San Carlos meeting. (RailPAC photo by Bill Kerby) This is only the second time the group has given such an award; the first being to Amtrak’s Brian Rosenwald for his work in upgrading the Coast Starlight. We wish Gene and his family best wishes in their new location, and in Gene’s “retirement job” with HNTB’s passenger rail services and its projects. It’s been a great ten years for California Rail!