BART team wins top prize at international competition


BART team wins top prize at international competition

The International Rail Rodeo is a special opportunity for transit agencies to show off their top talent and BART rose to the occasion.  In the latest edition of our podcast series “Hidden Tracks: Stories from BART” you’ll meet the BART team that won the overall title at this year’s competition.  This is the first time that BART has taken home the top overall prize.  The participants say it was a once in a lifetime experience that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives.  They also say the competition highlights the skill and determination that BART’s train operators and mechanics bring to their jobs every day.

bart rodeo

Pictured from left to right: John O'Connor Jr., Tenikia Jackson, James Moon, Michael Gross and Gary Crandell.

Transcript below:

HOST: “The Bay Area is known for its championship teams.  In June, more than a half million people rode BART to enjoy the victory parade in Oakland for the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors.  But most of those parade goers did not know that around that same time BART was earning a championship of its own.

Welcome to “Hidden Tracks: Stories from BART.”  On this episode we’re going to meet the BART team of train operators and shop maintainers that took home first place for Overall Team Achievement at the American Public Transportation Association’s International Rail Rodeo in Baltimore, Maryland.  This is the first time that BART has ever taken home the overall title and it’s definitely an accomplishment worth celebrating.

So with that, let’s meet our champions.

Our Shop Maintainers are Michael Gross, James Moon and Gary Crandell.  And our Train Operators are Tenikia Jackson and John O’Connor Jr.  Welcome to all of you and congratulations on your big win!”

GROUP: “Thank you!”

BART rodeo

HOST: “You bet!  I think a lot of our listeners may not be familiar with rail rodeos.  No doubt some have images of steers, cowboy hats and lassos.  But of course this is very different.  Gary Crandell, let’s start with you.  You’ve been involved in this competition for the last five years.   Can you describe for us what is a rail rodeo?”

GARY CRANDELL: “A rail rodeo is a chance for us to test our skills against all the other transit agencies that come.  Mostly on the equipment, a lot of the equipment we don’t use but on different types of things like wheels, motors, measuring, just all kinds of stuff.  It’s really fun.”

HOST: “James Moon, let me bring you into this discussion.  You guys really need to know the technical ins and outs of our trains.  But for a competition like this, you’re not working on BART trains.  How big of a challenge is that?”

JAMES MOON: “It’s definitely a challenge.  It’s more, I guess, focused on general kind of trouble shooting skills and your approach to problem solving.  Being able to have a strategy for dealing with problems quickly.”

HOST: “I think a theme that comes up a lot in a competition like this is team work.  Michael Gross, it sounds like you guys each bring a certain skill set to the table and that really pays off for something like this.  How important is it for you guys to work together and rely on each other’s expertise?”

MICHAEL GROSS: “Very important.  I bring a lot of mechanical skill to the table and James and Gary both have electrical backgrounds so it all kind of ties in together to evaluate problems and be quick witted and quick with your hands to figure out what to do, especially given a 15-minute time frame.”

HOST: “Definitely.  As I understand BART has a history of doing well when it comes to the shop maintainers but the train operators don’t have a history of competing.  Let’s hear from our train operators….Tenikia Jackson, what motivated you to want to compete this time around?”

TENIKIA JACKSON: “I don’t know, I just signed up.  I just signed up out of the blue and I’m glad I actually did because it was an experience I wouldn’t imagine that would’ve happened like this.  It was, I honestly could say I had a ball in Baltimore.”

HOST: “Oh, wow it has to be so memorable.  John O’Connor, I saw a promotional video from APTA that included you among train operators from the various agencies lining up in a hotel ballroom at 5 in the morning as part of a uniform inspection.  It’s incredible how detailed the competition is.  What was that experience like?”

BART rodeo

JOHN O’CONNOR JR.: “The overall competition was like something I’ve never experienced before because obviously I hadn’t.  This was my first time attending the rodeo and it was a great overall experience.  It was definitely, everything was fine tuned and very particular in every kind of way.”

HOST: “Now as I understand first there’s a regional competition, and anybody can answer this by the way, and then there’s the international event.  How does that all come together, how does that work?”

CRANDELL: “Well the regional competition is modeled on the national competition.  People who win the regional competition are given the option to go to the national competition.”

HOST: “For a competition like this where you have teams coming from across the country and even one from Japan, you can’t just show up unprepared and expect to have any sort of success at all, right?  What kind of preparation did you guys do to get ready for this?”

JACKSON: “We got a packet.  You know everybody gets the packet, they mail it to you maybe about a month before and you study.  And you study and you study and you study and when you go there to show off you show off on test day.”

O’CONNOR JR.: “Along with those packets were videos included for us on proper procedures that the people in Baltimore do so those were also helpful tools.  But when we got there we learned that there were some changes and some things that you had to adapt to.  It was learning on the fly when we got there and trying to make sure that you’re able to incorporate what you learned from the packets and the videos but also pay attention and watch what you learn from them when you’re actually out there working with them directly.”

HOST: “So they’re not afraid to throw curveballs at you at all?”

O’CONNOR JR.: “No they definitely had some curveballs.”

HOST: “Tell me about that, give me an example.”

O’CONNOR JR.: “There were some things that were missing and changed up on the interior and exterior inspection of the train, which is one of the competitions that I actually took first place in.  There was that one and the customer service one was completely different, well it had the steps but it didn’t necessarily have a scenario.  But overall it was still great.  We all learned together and it was changes for everybody together.  It wasn’t just like we were handicapped it was nothing like that.  Everybody had to learn on the fly and everybody had to make adjustments when we got there.”

HOST: “For the mechanical guys, what kinds of things did they do to try to trip you up?”

MOON: “We in general got a lot less preparation I think in terms of materials in advance.  I mean we got a handbook that said sort of this is what the rodeo is but it’s all very general kind of the rules and regulations.  Nothing specific about the competition other than a list of, the schedule of what the events were but not detail, no manuals to study or anything like that.”

HOST: “Now am I correct in thinking, Gary, you’re the only one who has competed at the international event before this year?

CRANDELL: “That’s correct.”

HOST: “So tell me about how important it is to learn from those past experiences and were you able to share lessons from those past years with your teammates?”

CRANDELL: “Yes, basically you memorize everything you can from the previous ones and share those experiences and hopefully using our quick wits and our skills that we have come out with a decent score and it seems we’ve done pretty well this time.”

HOST: “I’m speaking with BART’s team that won the overall prize at the International Rail Rodeo.  Anyone can answer this one:  What’s the pressure like at one of these events?”BART rodeo

O’CONNOR JR.: “The pressure is insurmountable because you have pressure from your home team because they want you to do good and you want to represents your area properly.   You have pressure from your family because they want you to do good and then also you have the pressure of the other competitors.  You get there and you’re surrounded by, like Tenikia and I, 17 transit agencies.  Tenikia and I and also for James and Mike it’s our first time, we’ve never done this we didn’t know what necessarily to expect and then we get there and we’re around people who are much older than us who have competed in this multiple times so they know a general basis.  For us, I know on our end it was intense.  It’s one of the most intense things I’ve gone through in a while.”

JACKSON: “Just the operating course itself I mean every light rail system has a different operating stick, whether it’s on the left or the right and their master controller, the controller they operate with, is different so you have to pick that up in a matter of a couple hours.  You really don’t have stick time the way you want it you have to pick this up.  You may only operate that train for about 10 minutes and you have a 25-minute course.  So can you adapt to that and it’s man…. (laughter).”

O’CONNOR JR.: “It was memorization for us.  I understand they said they didn’t get very much information.  We pretty much got a layout of what each event was going to be and memorizing was hugely intense.  So we had to watch those videos almost a million times and we sat there making flashcards.  We went over the videos step by step literally with checklists, it was really intense.”

JACKSON: “This is my little brother and I’m his big sister and this is how we rolled it.”

HOST: “How about for the maintainers, what was the pressure like?”

MOON: “The pressure was pretty high.  I think one of the key things, coming back to something you were talking about a little earlier, is the difference between the local competition and the international competition is the local competition is individuals competing so you’re working on something, you’re solving those problems by yourself.  The international is very team based and if you don’t work together as a team you can’t possibly score well because you need to be doing multiple things at once.  So I think for us it helped with the pressure that we’d take in Gary’s experience and talked about that and been able to strategize about how we would attack some of the different problems and that helped I think.”

HOST: “I would think one of the dynamics for you guys is you work at BART every day on the oldest fleet in the country and that has to present its own challenges.  But for a competition like this is it almost helpful to go through that?”

GROSS: “I think to a point but there’s also the unfamiliar stuff and completely different components to the cars that we don’t see around here.  But I think having Gary being there a few times has helped a lot and he kind of tells us what to expect and we do what we can in our free time to see what we can find online but there’s not much out there.”

CRANDELL: “I can give you an example.  One of the events is air brakes.  BART does not run air brakes it uses hydraulic brakes so we have to adapt and be real creative when it comes to the air brakes test.”

HOST: “I bet.  Now I was watching this video on the competition and it looked like that you had to assemble this miniature train and then it was run through like a series of hay bales.  What was that?  I’m almost envisioning like a Lego set, what was that like?”

CRANDELL: “That was the fun event.  We built, the maintainers built the train and the operators remote controlled them through a course.”

O’CONNOR JR.: “That one was a lot of fun because it was the first time we got to work together as a combined team.  Maintainers and train operators, that was a lot of fun.”

JACKSON: “Japan though.”

HOST: “Were they tough?”

O’CONNOR JR.: “They killed it.  Those guys were funny, those guys were really funny.”

HOST: “But as train operators you had to operate the real deal out there and that has to be so different because you’re talking about a light rail vehicle.  BART’s a closed system, it’s not like you have to worry about cars getting in your way.  But for light rail in Maryland it’s a whole different ballgame isn’t it?”

JACKSON: “It was, it was, it was.  You really have to pay attention.  You have to be confident.  You have to know that any type of nervousness is not going to make your train run.  Initially, testing my train wasn’t moving I’m like ‘okay, start the test, hold on, got it.’  So what it was was that I didn’t put it in forward, it was already in neutral.  So at the end of the competition my little brother was like ‘good recovery, good recovery’ because that could have shook me throughout the whole test going up four stations and coming back but it didn’t.  It was part of the process.  We moved the train and you have to watch out for people, watch out for the arms of that gates not coming down, you have to watch out for cars running the gate and you have to follow the signals.  It is not based on an automatic it’s based on the operator itself and if any error happens it’s all operator based.”

O’CONNOR JR.: “The procedures are far different from what we’re used to.  So like you said we operate our trains every day and we’re really used to ours.  Then going to somebody else’s for the very first time and not having really operated, and like Tenikia said earlier, only being able to operate it for I think she got maybe 20 minutes of seat time.  Then the next time was, ‘alright a competition now.’  And so it was definitely, again like the procedures she had already pointed out you like you had to wait and watch for cars coming through the gates.  It was just intense so I definitely commend her for that and I was very happy that she wanted to go ahead and take care of that (laughter).”

HOST: “Now we’ve described a lot with this competition.  We’ve talked an early morning uniform inspection, we’ve talked about operating a train on a weird unfamiliar system, we’ve talked about curveballs, all the technical challenges but on top of all that there’s a written segment too isn’t there?  Tell me about that.”

O’CONNOR JR.: “So there’s a written test for, I don’t know if you guys had a written test as well?”

GROSS: “Yeah, we had two of them.”

O’CONNOR JR.: “Okay, oh well so we ended up having a written test for ourselves that was based on pretty much everything.  So they included the curveballs, in which when we got there, there was a lot of slideshows, information that was being taught to us that wasn’t also included in the material we got before.  Like the head judge from Texas said, ‘either you adapt and you figure it out and go with it, it’s a competition or you get left behind and this is a competition of who can figure it out and who can make things work the best.’  So we did the written test, the written test, that was my portion.  I did alright, I could have done better I got a 92 but….”

HOST: “That sounds like an A to me.”

O’CONNOR JR.: “It was, it was an A but in everything we do, Tenikia and I are fierce competitors, we like to win so for us all we wanted was victory.”

JACKSON: “I feel like we could have, I feel like I could have done better on the operating course like he feels he could have done better on the test but everybody congratulates us.  It’s our own personal thing now that we have amongst ourselves that we are like ‘it’s okay, we’ll do it next year.”

HOST: “What was the written test like on your end?”

MOON: “The first one was everything from air brakes like Gary was saying to electrical stuff to several different sections of components and then the second test was about 50 questions of safety, public utility commissions, hazmat, all kinds of curveballs in there.  I think we nailed that one pretty good.”

HOST: “They like to keep it interesting don’t they? (laughter) I’m speaking with the BART team that won the International Rail Rodeo competition the first time that BART has won the overall prize.  Here’s a question I’d like everybody to answer, we’ll just go around the table.   What was the most challenging part of the competition? John, we’ll start with you.”

O’CONNOR JR.: “The most challenging part for me competition-wise was definitely the customer service.  You had no idea on necessarily what scenario was going to be thrown at you and then on top of that there were things going on with the trains that you weren’t necessarily sure if they were part of the competition or if they were a separate thing.  Like when you onboarded you had the doors open but there were people coming on and off the trains the entire time so you weren’t sure if you necessarily, ‘hey do I need to make sure those are closed right now because of the people who need to come on and off or is this my scenario and I’m running with it and I need to close those doors and what’s going on there?’ But that was one of the hardest things for me was definitely the customer service part.  Actually, also choosing to go.  My son’s graduation was that day, it’s pre-K but it was still important for me and that’s my best friend, pride, and joy.  I didn’t necessarily want to miss out on that but when I told him, ‘dad’s going to come home with some trophies for you’ he was definitely enthusiastic about that and said go ahead and go.’ When we got called up for our first place and all our other achievements and trophies it definitely was satisfying for me because I was able to fulfill that promise to him.”

HOST: “Tenikia.”

JACKSON: “The operating course.  I’m sorry I have to say that.  You basically, I can’t let the train stop they have mechanisms on the controller that if you stay too long in one position it will stop the train, it will give you alert or stop the train that was you had to adapt really quick.  Going too fast it will stop your train, if you go too slow you’re on a time limit so you’re either going to stay up to speed or you’re going to lose.  Adaptation is the key thing that we had to do in this whole competition.  We had to learn the material, come there, okay these curveballs…”

O’CONNOR JR.: “They also had issues going on mainline with their speed codes so learning how to deal with that was also something I noticed not only for her but for all the operators because the codes would drop out and if those drop out then your train’s going to come to an emergency stop because it’s thinking that you’re either too close to another one or you’re over speed.  That was something that I watched and was like wow that’s not fun.”

HOST: “James, how about you?”

MOON: “It was a couple of things for me.  One was some of the sort of purely mechanical problems like we had a gear box that we had to work on and that was totally out of my realm coming from an electrical engineering background.  The other challenge for me was troubleshooting electrical kind of problems as a team because that’s something I usually do by myself and so trying to open that out to be a team activity was a bit of a challenge for me.”

HOST: “I bet.  How about you Michael?”

GROSS: “Two things as well.  I would say the door competition is a little tough because there’s a lot of electrical involved and that was the main problems with it, the mechanical parts of it seemed to work pretty good so it was kind of waiting on these guys trying to figure out some of the wiring.  The other thing was leaving my family, my wife and two kids at home.  It was a little tough, haven’t been away from them for a week at one time.”

HOST: “Young kids?”

GROSS: “Fifteen-year-old and a 15-month-old.  Big range there.”

HOST: “How about you Gary?”

CRANDELL: “My biggest challenge was keeping the nerves in check.  Beyond that is making sure we had an effective and functional team. That was a big concern because if we don’t have a good team we’re not going to win.”

HOST: “Now that’s interesting because you’re the most experienced here when it comes to the competition but you still feel the nerves?

CRANDELL: “Oh you bet.  There’s a lot of pressure.”

HOST: “And a couple of you mentioned it directly, the importance of family support for something like this.  Talk about that and how important it is to have that backing at home to commit yourself not just to the trip but all the extra effort you have to put in to learn the material.”

GROSS: “Have to think how I’m going to elaborate on that (laughter).  It’s tough because you have to study for the competition and I have a baby at home who is my shadow and it’s hard to get stuff done with him around.  My daughter is a teenager so she stays in her room most of the time anyways, like most teenagers do.  My wife is really supportive and she was going to have a little bit of a rough time with the baby and me being gone that long but we make it work out.”

O’CONNOR JR.: “For me my family, the same thing.  They understood that this was pretty much a once-in-a-lifetime experience possibly.  So they saw that I wanted it and supported me going.  They definitely help out.  My son is five so he was like ‘where are you going and I want to go.’  But he got his graduation and his things but my family they helped me out and they support me with everything especially with studying.  Everybody is always there, uplifting and willing to help.  It was definitely, if I didn’t have that support I don’t know if I could have participated I might have had to withdraw.  But I did and I’m glad.”

JACKSON: “I’m glad you didn’t.”

HOST: “Well I feel it and I’m sure you do as well just recounting what happened I feel this great dynamic, like this teambuilding that really occurred through this experience.  You were calling John your little brother I mean it really is quite an experience that you guys must really come together on this.”

JACKSON: “We jelled automatically from Day One, we just jelled.  Every move, if I stepped he was stepping farther so we were walking in synch.  We were finishing each other’s sentences, we were ‘it’s time for lunch you hungry, I felt your stomach growling mine is too, let’s eat.’  This makes us a family.  Gary, especially at the dinner, you know Gary has been here before and I want to say thank you.  Gary was ‘you okay TJ, you’re okay Tenikia, take a drink, just relax and I was like no I can’t right now.’  And the thing is from Day One Gary looked at me and he said ‘you’re going to do okay, you’re going to do fine.’  So for us four being the first ones Gary is like a daddy to all of us.  He’s like Big Daddy right there, he’s like ‘you guys are going to do fine just do what you do, just do what you do.  You know this stuff, you know that you can learn this stuff and you know you have to put it out there’ and that’s exactly what we did.”

O’CONNOR JR.: “Like Tenikia said, from the beginning her and I were able to come together and just really work together great out of the gate.  We hadn’t been able to work together outside of this like on the rails but we came together and we knew what we had.  It goes back to the pressure, you have the pressure and all eyes are on you.  You have your co-workers who are looking at you, you have management who is looking at you, you have everybody who’s a part of this and everyone who knows about this are looking at you and they want to see if you’re ready.  For me being a young guy it was just like okay this is definitely something that’s intense but I have the support of TJ and like she said we jelled and we’re like family.  That’s my big sister and I’m the little brother and she was there to help me.  We had to know everything that each one of us had to do anyways because if something happened to one of us the other one would need to step in and just be ready to go.  So we were able to work with each other and push each other so that way, ‘hey you missed this and you have to make sure you get this’ and we were able to work together not to take offense to that but to take that constructive criticism and build on it, okay that’s what I’m going to work on and do better.  When she saw that I was nervous out there she calmed me down and said we’ve got this and when I would see her there I’d let her know she’s got this or I’d let everybody else know you guys need to back off and let her go.  We had escorts and things like that with us because we couldn’t co-conspire or anything so I’d have to be like hey, you guys need to back up and let breathe and give her space.”

HOST: “What’s your ritual?”

JACKSON: “I’m nervous as heck.  I’m in a zone where I’m just in my little body zone and I’m just ‘let me walk it off and everybody’s like you okay, you okay, just leave me alone’ and I stay in that ritual until it’s test time.  And once it’s test time I’m a totally different person.  I hear nothing, I see nothing, I’m focused on my job and when I’m finished it’s like ‘okay, did I just have an out-of-body experience, what just happened?’  Because I really don’t remember what just happened but I remember ‘I messed up on that part, I messed up on that part, oh I didn’t do too well, oh I did okay, oh man no I didn’t do too good.’   So when people ask me, ‘well how did you do, I didn’t do too good, I really didn’t do too good, I messed up.’ But I guess I did okay enough for us to place.”

HOST: “Seems like it worked out pretty well.  So take us back to that night.  You guys have put in all this effort, there’s all this pressure that you’ve had to endure and you must just be, I would think, a bundle of emotions going into this thing.  What is it like that night and what are your expectations before the announcement is made?”

JACKSON: “I did not eat.”

HOST: “Wow!”

GROSS: “I was kind of nervous I mean I felt we did good but you have to stay humble at the same time.  It’s an interesting experience, almost I guess like being at the Grammys for rail train operators and mechanics.”

MOON: “You thought it was a good movie but you don’t know how good.”

HOST: “The box office is in but we don’t know what the critics think.”

GROSS: “Just try to stay calm and then you get cued up to walk on stage and all that every time they call you and we must have walked up there six times or something. Lights and cameras….”

O’CONNOR JR.: “It’s intense.  The setting and scenario, it’s like he said, it’s like the Grammys.  Very formal setting, placements you’ve got Grace (BART General Manager Grace Crunican) was there, we had a lot of people from upper management there and they’re looking at us hoping that we represented well and so all you want to do at that point is hope that you prepared enough and hope that you get called up there.  For me I knew these guys were going to do great, these guys always do well.  It was intense for us because they called all the maintainers first for their awards.  You’re sitting back and I’m watching these guys go up for first place like almost every single time and I’m just sitting there and my stomach is turning it’s intense.  Then when they called us for first place I almost jumped out of the seat and Grace was like ‘you need to calm down.’  I was like ‘alright let me relax.’  So we were walking up and once we get our first place awards, the second place for overall and each time you walk off that stage it’s just relieving, so relieving because of the fact it’s so intense.  I was just sitting there and I was like we need to be called for at least one because I need to make sure that we did our part too because I knew these guys were going to do their part.”

HOST: “Did you guys, did you expect to win?”

GROSS: “No, I don’t think you go into the competition expecting to win.  That’s when you start messing up.”

O’CONNOR JR.: “We had jelled really good with the guys from Denver.  We had a lot of time where we were able to hang out with the people outside of the competition because by five or six o’clock everything’s done, you’re back to your room and you’re hanging out.  Well a lot of times we were hanging out with Derek Shaw from Denver and then you had G and Martin….”

JACKSON: “They were from L.A.”

O’CONNOR JR.: “Yeah and the L.A. crowd.  So we were hanging out and jellying with them and everybody was feeling the same way, it’s intense.  You get down on yourself because of the curveballs and you’re like man, ‘well you know what, I’m here I’m going to compete and I’m going to have fun.’ But deep down inside everybody is feeling the same way that I want to make sure that I did good.  Because everybody’s competitors there.  It’s all fine and dandy but when it came to competition mode you could see everybody’s in their zone and it was on.”

MOON: “That’s an interesting point you brought up about you guys having confidence that the maintainers were going to do well because they always do well so that’s extra pressure for Mike and me who haven’t been here before and we have this expectation that, ‘oh the BART team always does well in the maintaining.”

HOST: “Well, it’s like Steph Curry he makes shooting a three pointer the simplest thing in the world but you still have to go out and do it and all that practice it’s like you guys have these expectations built in, it must be a challenge.”

GROSS: “Yeah, definitely.  I’m the type of person that will doubt myself right up until the point where it’s time to preform and then I always seem to do pretty well but every time I doubt myself.”

HOST: “You guys did so well and now the targets on your back.  They’re going to be coming for you next year.  How do you deal with that?”

O’CONNOR JR.: “Well hopefully I won’t be there and that’s not because of not wanting to be there.  I recently got promoted to foreworker.”

HOST: “Congratulations.”

O’CONNOR JR.: “Thank you, thank you.  So hopefully I’ll still be in the program and I’ll still be continuing on my way, building my way up through BART.  That was part of the reason I wanted to do this in the first place.  I wanted to build a resume and try to continue to make a name for myself so I can escalate my career as high as possible for my son.”

JACKSON: “I was the only girl in the local and being on a team of all guys I felt actually special.  But I’m hoping that I place next year in the local so I can make it to the international.  I love the different experiences.  You know my history has a lot of different public transportation in it so I actually love the experience of going to the international and competing.  It was thrilling for me the first time I just didn’t know what to expect and every year is going to be something different.  Maybe the same realms but you still don’t know what to expect until you get there and the thing is you have to beat the local to make it to the international so that you find out what to expect and hopefully place well again.”

HOST: “I’m speaking with the BART team that won the International Rail Rodeo, the first time that BART has ever won the overall price.  I think you’re win is a big boost for everyone at BART.  What are you hearing from colleagues and coworkers?  I understand they made an announcement on the radio system, I mean people are pretty hyped about this.”

JACKSON: “Just congratulations and thank you for bringing it home.”

O’CONNOR JR.: “There was definitely for us, there was a lot of, I would say not necessarily doubters but people who question things.  We went out there and we did it.  We might not have gotten first place overall but we got second place and we’re right there and this was the first time it ever went down like this for the operators’ side.  To be able to say that we were the first to place and the first to get first in some things is a great accomplishment.  So to have that milestone set now the bar is set higher for everybody else.  But for a vast majority of people it was still congratulations, you guys did great, everything is awesome out there.  It’s satisfying when you come home and you’re able to hold your head high because you did so good.”

HOST: “This is another one I want to go around the table on, Gary, I’ll start with you this time.  What is going to be your fondest memory that you take from this experience and it was an experience, it’s a competition, it’s an award but there’s so much work that goes into it?  What do you take away from that?”

CRANDELL: “I’d say I take away from this the fact that this is our fourth maintainers first overall and I hope we do it again next year.”

HOST: “Beautiful, Michael.”

GROSS: “Fondest memory, I think the camaraderie between everyone and how we were able to work together so well.  We’re all very different people and we just came together and pulled through.  It was fun I had a good time.”

HOST: “James.”

MOON: “I think the fun and the teamwork and the winning, that was very exciting.”

HOST: “I bet, Tenikia.”

JACKSON: “I’m going to take away everything from the time I got announced in the local because I didn’t believe that part, I didn’t believe I placed first.  And to the time when we won second as operators and we came in first at maintainers, I mean as the whole overall.  I’m taking away, I had an awesome, awesome rodeo 2017.  That’s what I’m taking away.”

HOST: “Beautiful, John.”

O’CONNOR JR.: “Much like Tenikia I didn’t think I was going to get called even in the first rodeo in the regional.  There were guys who’ve been there before and have done it and you like at them like ‘alright, they’ll win but I’m here to compete and have a good time.’  But then from that you go out and compete.  You meet all these other agencies and meeting them and figuring out their system, asking them about their unions, asking them about everything that goes on with everything was great.   The blue crab was great.  And then that feeling of getting called up for first place I could have went through the roof.  That and going out to the power plant actually, which was a local bar area, but I was out there with not just TJ, we had the Denver people, we had the LA people, we had the St. Louis people, the Dallas, everybody was all there and everybody was there to have a good time.  The competition’s over, the awards are given out and everybody’s there like ‘hey let’s de-stress’ and that was a lot of fun.”

JACKSON: “We took away new friendships.  You know it’s a competition but now you have a new connection somewhere so you build on that and new friendships, it’s beautiful.”

HOST: “Let’s bottom line this for our riders.  A lot of our riders are going to be listening to this and learning about the rail rodeo for the first time.  Should they take away a certain level of confidence in the people that make this system work?  Seeing your example and the effort that you guys put in, should they feel more comfortable and more confident riding BART?”

GROSS: “I would hope so.  It’s an old system but we do our best to keep it running.”

JACKSON: “We make it work.”

O’CONNOR JR.: “I think coming in first place overall just really goes to show what the riders have here is excellence.  The system might not work excellently all the time but the people behind the system will work to the highest standard to get it working and to make sure it continues to work for them.”

JACKSON: “We will give that 120 every day from beginning to end.”

MOON: “It’s an old system and things to break so we’re really good at troubleshooting and fixing lots of problems.  Constantly learning to keep it working.”

O’CONNOR JR.: “I hope that they can walk around with a little bit of pride knowing that what we serve here is excellence to them.  We try to give, the first thing that Baltimore did say out of the gate their mission statement was to be on time and things like that but their ending statement was world class customer service.  That’s something that I know that a lot of my coworkers try to give. It’s not always so easy but everybody here at BART is striving so that way we can make things better for everybody else because we want them to get where they need to go because we take pride in our work.  I know I take pride in everything I do just like these guys do and I think our work and what we came back with, our trophies and our plaques and everything really goes to show that everything we do we really try to give the best.”

HOST: “Well that pride really comes through.  Guys, this was a really fun conversation.  Thank you so much for your time with this.”

GROUP: “Thanks.”

HOST: “A big congratulations to our International Rail Rodeo champions Michael Gross, James Moon, Gary Crandell, and Tenikia Jackson and John O’Connor Jr.  Thank you so much for joining us and for sharing your stories.  And thank you for listening to “Hidden Tracks: Stories from BART.’  You can listen to our podcasts on SoundCloud, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher and of course at our website at”