Toby Kolstad's 2015 rail-car forecast was among the first rail-specific "outlook" 2015 pieces I read this fall. He's optimistic about the North American rail-car market's near term, as he notes in his annual (and final) public forecast, and that sunniness (it wasn't ridiculously bright, but it was shiny) set the tone for the rest of the year-ahead articles and conversations I stumbled into. Turned out a fair number of rail execs and observers share his optimism about the rail industry's prospects, in general.
There's uncertainty, of course — on the regulatory front (as ever), on the capacity front (infrastructure as well as a certain rail-car type), on the workforce front (recruitment and retention as experienced talent retires continue to be big-time issues). But this thing about rail being a growth industry for the first time in many railroaders' lifetimes — a thing I've written about off and on for a few years now — still holds sway, optimists tell me. For some, that's reason enough to feel good about 2015. We'll see how winter factors into their sentiment indices.Note: This is Toby's final public rail-car forecast because he's taking his writing talents in a different direction, as noted in my December column. He's been a columnist for us and a friend since 2003. I'm grateful to him and wish him all the best on his next word-oriented quest.