Celebrating engineering excellence

Highlighting our commitment to safety, service, innovation, people, communities and our heritage.

Feb 23, 2024

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5 mins.

Celebrating engineering excellence

During National Engineers Week, we applaud our fantastic engineers who keep operations running smoothly, thanks to their creativity, expertise and dedication. BNSF team members who specialize in engineering are tackling service challenges, driving technological advancements and helping us meet the needs of our customers. Here are just a few of the many innovative team members helping to realize BNSF’s tremendous potential every day.

Albert Espinoza, track design director 

As a licensed civil engineer, Albert Espinoza helps lead our Track Design team. The team uses emerging technology to plan and calculate costs for new track, roadway and drainage projects. They support capital improvements, economic development and division operations with safe and cost-efficient design.  

In his role, Espinoza uses design engineering, coaching and creativity to provide answers so others can sell an expansion idea or justify facility expansion. “Technology is rapidly changing the design engineering role and I’m responsible for taking the team in a direction that makes sense for us,” he noted. “We’re excited to move forward in the spirit of our storied engineering tradition as a railroad!” 

Spencer Furgeson, engineer, systems detectors 

Spencer Furgeson’s job is critical to keeping our railroad safe as he helps oversee the detector systems that look for defects on train components. 

“I enjoyed disassembling and reconstructing items from a young age to understand their inner workings,” Furgeson said. “I sought a career where my efforts could yield tangible solutions for real-world challenges.”  

Those real-world applications include enhancing BNSF’s train defect detector systems by refining their design, improving health performance and enhancing standards. 

He also values the collaboration needed to do his job. “I enjoy working with my team, as well as with different departments and vendors to bring our vision to life and achieve our objectives,” he said.

Ellen Garcia, engineering manager 

As a member of BNSF’s Hub Development team, Ellen Garcia specializes in project development for intermodal and automotive projects. This includes designing new facilities and expansions at existing hubs.  

“My role keeps me on my toes,” Garcia said. “I enjoy that every day looks different. One day may be running a ‘fire drill’ on a quick concept, and another day may involve water rights discussions. There are always sites to walk, cost estimates to verify, and puzzles to solve.” 

She also likes to travel and work in the field. “When I hired on as a track intern and eventually a management trainee, I learned railroading from the ground up,” she said. “I was able to use the problem-solving abilities associated with engineering while working in the field, but it was less pen to paper and more ‘How can we use the information, workforce, and materials we have to solve this problem?’” 

Ian Huff, software engineer 

Growing up, Ian Huff was always fascinated with how things worked. After getting his first set of tools, he’d occasionally find himself in trouble for taking apart appliances and putting them back together. That love for problem-solving put his focus on math and science in school.  

Today at the railroad, he helps manage on-call support, performing upgrades and resolving defects. “I’m focused on maximizing our system availability and ensuring that systems are functioning optimally to capture defective equipment, contributing to safety and velocity,” Huff said. “Whenever new outages occur, my teams are focused on getting to the root cause and resolving in a timely manner to reduce impact to our business.” 

Among the reasons he likes his job is there is never a shortage of new skills to learn, especially when coming from a non-software development background. “In my role, I often work with many groups at BNSF, and I can confidently say that I learn something new each day,” he said.

Nicholas Novay, facilities engineer 

Working first as an electrician in the field alongside BNSF and consulting engineers gave Nicholas Novay a chance to see the impact their work made, which compelled him to continue his education and training in the engineering field. 

“I joined BNSF in the system electrical group,” Novay said. “The appeal is the same now as it was then – the opportunities offered at BNSF to challenge and develop myself are better than any other company I have been a part of.” 

His role at BNSF today focuses on electrical aspects from power distribution and lighting in rail yards to movable bridge and ventilated tunnel electrical controls and infrastructure. He also works on emerging technology projects, including electric hostlers and charging infrastructure. 

Stephen Semenick, engineering manager 

Railroads provide young engineers with opportunities to lead impactful projects early in their careers, according to Stephen Semenick, who believes BNSF’s development methods and the wide variety of career paths it offers are the best in the industry. 

“My father is a civil engineer and, when I was younger, he would tell me stories of solving unique issues he regularly encountered while working at the Long Island Railroad,” Semenick recalled. “He’d explain how important creativity and collaboration were during the problem-solving process. The thought of working with a team to develop outside-the-box, engineering-based solutions was something I could see myself doing long-term.” 

Today, he leads our Northwest Division’s Engineering Services team in project management and oversight.  

Thank you to these and all our engineers for their outstanding work, which contributes to our railroad’s success. Happy National Engineers Week!

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