2023 Annual Conference Speakers

Tom Murta, Executive Director
Short Line Safety Institute (SLSI)

Tom Murta is an experienced senior professional, boasting an impressive track record of over three decades in diverse fields such as safety, regulatory compliance, auditing, infrastructure protection, hazardous material transportation, crisis management, and emergency planning. With exceptional communication abilities, he adeptly engages with individuals at all organizational levels. Mr. Murta's extensive knowledge in the regulatory domain is further highlighted by his successful interactions with local, state, and federal agencies. Tom's proficiency in crisis management extends to both fixed facilities and transportation incidents. He also demonstrates remarkable leadership qualities, effectively guiding diverse teams and offering valuable coaching and mentorship to emerging talents.

Melody Forry, PE, Project Manager, Rail Division
Benesch Engineering

Melody Forry, PE is a Project Manager for Benesch in Denver, CO. Ms. Forry has worked on railroad structures since 2014 and has served in a variety of roles including structural design task lead, project manager, and resident engineer. Ms. Forry holds a Bachelors of Science degree in civil engineering from Syracuse University and a Masters of Science degree in civil (structural) engineering from the University of Cincinnati and is a licensed professional engineer in the State of Ohio, Colorado, Kansas, Texas, Arizona, and
New Mexico.

Nicole McKinstry, SVP Sales Operations
The Greenbrier Companies

Nicole McKinstry has served in various roles for Greenbrier since 2009, ranging from entry-level to upper management. She has participated in a number of transformative initiatives at Greenbrier, including the development of the company’s award-winning Virtual Sample Railcar (VSR) program, which allows customers to inspect railcars remotely. In addition, McKinstry streamlined the way Greenbrier manages bids, proposals and orders as the company has grown its product portfolio, manufacturing footprint and customer base. Her team covers two umbrellas—pre-and post-award activities, covering the full scope of new railcar transactions.

As one of the most senior females at Greenbrier outside of the C-Suite, McKinstry takes her leadership position seriously. She enjoys mentoring females entering the rail industry and creates a welcoming space for them to grow their professional careers.  

She is an active community member and participates in Greenbrier’s volunteer initiatives. In addition to volunteering at food and clothing banks and cleaning up parks, she actively encourages her reports to participate in company-sponsored volunteer events. On her own time, she coordinates company teams for runs and other events that benefit health-related non-profits. These team-building exercises have increased cross-functional encourage employees to work well together, both inside and outside the office, while supporting worthy causes.

Trish Haver, SVP Business Development
North Carolina Railroad Company

Trish has 25 years of rail and port transportation experience. She offers a background in development, engineering, and market strategy. Specializing in strategic and industrial planning, 3P infrastructure, and supply chain, Trish is focused on expanding and growing North Carolina’s competitive advantage through rail. 

Her role as the SVP of Business Development and Head of Strategy for North Carolina Railroad concentrates on new business development and project management. Trish plays a key role in shaping and executing strategic plans focused on revenue growth from the company’s assets and other resources. 

Additionally, Trish served as the CCO of Green Rock Distribution and CEO of Pyxis Associates leveraging her expertise in infrastructure, construction, industrial development, and materials contracting in the greater gulf coast region. During her time with the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad and Port of New Orleans, she was Vice President of Industrial Development. Trish also spent over 20 years with Norfolk Southern in various marketing, finance, and development roles.

Trish holds an MBA from Old Dominion University with a concentration in Ports and Maritime Economics/Operations and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of William and Mary.


Kathryn Gainey, Deputy General Counsel

Kathy Gainey serves as CN's Deputy General Counsel, and is based in Washington, DC. Commencing her tenure with CN in 2017, Kathy's legal purview encompasses a spectrum of federal regulatory domains, notably extending to service, operations, rail safety, as well as the intricate realms of technology and cybersecurity.

Before her role at CN, Kathy worked in the private sector representing transportation clientele. Notably, she has steered the ship as Chair of the Transportation and Transportation Security Law Section of the Federal Bar Association, and has also served as President at the Association of Transportation Law Professionals.

Kathy's academic journey boasts a crowning achievement from Harvard Law School, where she attained her Juris Doctor degree. Prior to this, she graduated with honors from California State University, Long Beach with a Bachelor of Arts degree in the majors of Economics and Philosophy.

Maggie Vuono, President
TraConcepts, LLC

She began her railway career eighteen years ago in the Rail Division for the LB Foster Company.  Maggie has also held estimating and management positions at several railway supply and contracting companies, most recently as the Chief Sales Officer for Rail-Pod, Inc.

Maggie recently launched TraConcepts, a new independent Sales & Marketing Consulting Firm.  Whether it is  Business Development, Proposal Writing, CRM Assistance, Contract Management or Sales Team Development; TraConcepts, can help build your business and increase your sales and profitability.   Maggie brings her dedication and hard work to help continue others success stories.  

Maggie is an experienced leader with a consistent, results-driven record of operational and project management.  She is a powerful mediator with a proven ability to develop business, increase revenue and reduce costs without jeopardizing performance or quality.  Maggie is also known for excellent communication and interpersonal skills, strong work ethic, self-motivation, and dedication to customers. 

She serves as a Board Member of the NRC, as well as Scholarship Chair and is also a member of the Education Committee.  She is also a member of AREMA, ASLRRA, and LRW.  Maggie serves on AREMA Committee 5: Track, were she just completed her term as a Supplier Chairman. 

Maggie has a BA in marketing and a MS in Business & Leadership.   

In her spare time, she enjoys going to the beach and playing golf with her husband, Mark.  Maggie has a blended family which includes seven children and ten grandchildren.  She volunteers at her church and has been involved with Autism Speaks for over 20 years.

Vanessa Knapton, SVP, Sales, Field Services
Cathcart Rail

Ms. Knapton started in the railroad industry as a switchman-conductor in 1994 working for the Santa Fe (ATSF) in Los Angeles, California. Having received her undergraduate degree from the prestigious northeastern school, Smith College, this might have been seen as a strange choice of careers, but Knapton worked for four years on the ground, on yard jobs, RIP track switching, and conducting up and down the fabled Cajon Pass, until 1998, when one of her managers asked her to take an open trainmaster position. 

Ms. Knapton worked as a Trainmaster for the railroad, now named BNSF, for ten years, mostly at the Ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles during the first international intermodal boom of the early 2000s. She helped design the operations systems for the massive influx of container business from 2000 to its height in 2006. During her tenure as trainmaster, Knapton completed an MBA program at Chapman University.

Ms. Knapton and BNSF parted ways in 2008 and Ms. Knapton worked in warehouse logistics and for a railroad shipper until she joined an early entrant in a niche market of the railcar repair business in 2011. For the last dozen years, Knapton has worked for three of the largest running repair agent companies in the country. She currently oversees a nationwide footprint of short line repair operations, expands current locations, and develops new operations with short line partners.

Her company, Cathcart Rail, is a leading freight rail services and transportation company. The company currently operates the largest railcar services network, encompassing 18 repair facilities and over 75 field services locations, as well as a rail services division that operates three short line railroads and a dozen contract switching and
transloading sites, among other services such as railcar storage, track maintenance, and railcar parts.


Davida Flowers, Yardperson, Houston Service Unit
Union Pacific

Ms. Davida Flowers, affectionately known as DAY, hails from Houston, Texas, where she has been employed with Union Pacific for 6 years as a Conductor. The growth and maturity she has attained while being a part of the railroad have had a tremendous impact on her life. She possesses a strong passion for helping and assisting others, whether it be at work or during her leisure time. Away from her professional responsibilities, Day finds joy in activities such as crabbing, attending church services, and spending quality time with her family and friends.

Day is recognized for her unwavering commitment to finding the good in every situation. One of her proudest achievements is the opportunity for her parents to witness the values and morals they instilled in her, which she firmly holds onto both on and off the job.

Claire Levesque, Conductor

Claire Levesque, age 28, was born and raised in the Muskoka area in Ontario, Canada. Claire has been a Conductor since April 2021 in Jasper, AB, Canada. Currently, she serves as an OJT (On Job Trainer) to 76 trainees in their terminal. Claire loves hiking, going on bike rides, playing the guitar, and spending time with her loved friends and family.

Daniela Fietta, Project Management Specialist

Daniela Fietta is the External Relations Lead for CN’s Women’s Employee Resource Group (ERG) and a member of other ERGs and CN’s IT Diversity Council. She joined CN’s IT Department in 2018 and is currently supporting the cloud team as they drive CN’s cloud transformation and modernization in partnership with Google.  Before CN, Daniela worked at a mobile app startup and in the translation industry for several years.  Daniela is passionate about wellbeing and making a difference for underrepresented groups.  She believes in creating a culture where everyone can thrive in their authenticity. 

Mary Carlson Bis, Senior Director of Emergency Management

Mary Carlson Bis is the Senior Director of the Emergency Management Division within the Safety & Security Department and brings more than 25 years of experience in directing emergency management and business continuity programs. In her current role, Mary is the senior executive accountable for Federal, state, and local preparedness, response and recovery planning and directing resources to ensure the company has an organizational management structure to support the continuance of the mission when major disruptions occur. This includes leading the deployment of Amtrak’s Incident Response Team and the company’s response to Federal investigations during the enactment of the Rail Passenger Disaster Family Assistance Act. As a member of the Senior Leadership Team, Mary also serves as the Co-Chair of Notch 8, Amtrak’s women and allies employee resource group. Notch 8 offers women and employees of Amtrak the opportunity to reach their full potential, while powerfully contributing to Amtrak's strategic goals and objectives through professional and leadership development, networking opportunities, teamwork and collaboration. 

Prior to joining Amtrak in 2013, Mary spent ten years in Washington, D.C. leading programs for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and others. Mary served as a Public Information Officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and served private sector clients as a crisis management expert at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide. Mary earned a bachelor’s in business administration from the University of Iowa and is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s National Preparedness Leadership Initiative. Mary currently serves on the Advisory Council for the Business Women in Leadership program at Florida International University and was named to Railway Age’s Women in Rail 2022 honorees. Amtrak is accredited by the Emergency Management Accreditation Program.