Ronald Lee McDaniel worked in the railway industry for 65 years and was a widely known and esteemed leader in the supply community. He died June 23, 2022, at age 83.
McDaniel grew up in the Richmond, Virginia, area and was associated with five generations of the Hayes family, beginning with Stanley W. Hayes. He started as a draftsman with the Hayes Track Appliance Company in 1957right out of high school. After years of hard work, he convinced owner Bryce Hayes to sell him the company. Ron became owner and president of Western-Cullen-Hayes Inc., a leading supplier of railroad appliances, including mechanical and signal equipment. He traveled the world and established Western-Cullen-Hayes as a respected worldwide railway supplier.
McDaniel served on several industry boards, including as aboard member and president of RSSI (Railway Systems Suppliers Inc.) and REMSA(Railway Engineering and Maintenance Supply Association), as well as a NRC board member.
“While I was chairman of the NRC in 1996, there was an opening on the NRC Board and I appointed Ron to fill the position,” noted Jim Dalasio, retired senior vice president/chief financial officer with Railroad Construction Co. of South Jersey. “He continued to serve on the board for the next nine years. His understanding of finance helped to steer the board in the right direction on many matters and make the NRC the financially successful association that it is today. Ron was a great man and very deserving of this honor.”
Railway Age Editor-in-Chief Bill Vanvuono wrote this tribute to McDaniel. “A colorful, outspoken figure who devoted his career to the rail industry, he was always willing to share an opinion, offer advice or lend his expertise. McDaniel’s pride and joy was the Ronald L. McDaniel Foundation, which benefits various children’s’ causes.”
Ron earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Dayton and was a certified public accountant. In 1977, he earned a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Chicago. He gave generously with his time and financial resources, serving on the Stanley W. Hayes Research Foundation, establishing his own foundation, and making generous gifts to the community, including a $1 million gift to the University of Dayton.
The McGrath Family Legacy
The McGrath family is deeply rooted in the U.S. railroad industry. Their story spans more than 150 years, six generations, and miles and miles of railroad track. It began in 1865, during the westward expansion, when John Joseph McGrath, along with his father, worked on the Transcontinental Railroad, starting on the Chicago, Quincy & Burlington Railroad (CB&Q) (now part of the BNSF) from Burlington, Iowa, toward to Rocky Mountains. McGrath and his crew built down the eastern slope of the Rockies to Ft. Worth, Texas, and proceeded into Indian territory to reach the coal deposits at McAlester, in southeastern, Oklahoma. The McGrath Transcontinental Railroad Gang disbanded at McAlester in 1892. Harry Gibson contacted John Joseph McGrath and convinced him to move his family and settle in Webbers Falls, about 150 miles east of Oklahoma City, 15 years before Oklahoma became a state.
Since 1865 the McGrath family has worked on railroad projects all over the country, most notably 30 transit, mainline, short line, and industry railroad projects, as well as amusement park rail-based projects involving ballasted, direct fixation, and embedded track.
Joseph Milton “Bud” McGrath Jr. the fourth generation of McGrath railroaders, was born in Webber Falls, Oklahoma, and led an interesting life highlighted by service in the navy, in professional baseball, and in the railroad and construction business. He was an industry leader who built up the family business as well as the NRC.
After graduating from Webbers Falls High School, Bud went to work on a steel gang for the Missouri Pacific Railroad (MoPac) for one semester making $1.27 per day. He then earned a baseball scholarship at the University of Oklahoma. In 1941, Bud was drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers and received a letter to report to spring training with wages of $300 per month. Later that year, with WWII raging, Bud joined the U.S. Navy and was selected for the NavyV5 Pilot Program.
Bud was charter member of the NRC and served as secretary at the first conference in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1978. Charter members contributed three years of dues in advance to get the association started. Bud took on the duties as the Chairman of the Safety Committee and wrote the first NRC Safety Manual. He also served as president of the association in 1984.
Bud was the first railroad contractor to come up with an innovative way of stabilizing subgrade for track installation. His company was also the first contractor to install concrete ties in a railroad mainline when they completed a test section for the Santa Fe Railroad.
Bud and other charter members are responsible for not only forming the NRC but shepherding it through its formative years. Their contributions helped to solidify the NRC’s influence, financial stability, and longevity.
Jon M. McGrath, Sr. is a fifth-generation railroader who started working on a track crew for the family railroad construction business in 1973at age 14.
During his 49 years with the company, he has worn many hats –progressing from a laborer to equipment operator, track foreman, superintendent, vice president and now president and chief executive officer of McGrath Railroad Construction. Along the way he earned degrees from the University of Oklahoma and Tuck Business School at Dartmouth College and developed extensive railroad construction expertise.
McGrath has employed his management, engineering, and consultative expertise in executing a wide range of inspection, maintenance ,and track construction projects with McGrath Railroad Construction. While building the family business, McGrath served as Chairman of the NRC and on the NRC Board of Directors for 26 consecutive years. He was an active board member who served on many committees. Since leaving the board, Jon has been an ardent supporter of NRC initiatives, serving as an advocate in the Western United States.
McGrath has a long track record of engagement on a broad range of endeavors to improve the community and life for its residents. He served on a number of public and private boards including Tulsa Human Rights Commission, Tulsa Transit Authority, and INCOG. He is a graduate of both Leadership Tulsa and Leadership Oklahoma. In his service as the Chairman of the Board of the Native American Business Development Center, Jon worked with Native American Tribes in Oklahoma and New Mexico. He also spent 10 years as an elected member of the Board for the Indian Health Care Resource Center in Tulsa.
McGrath currently serves on the Tulsa Industrial Authority and the Board of Directors at the Midway USA Foundation and is the Vice Chairman of the Tulsa Port Authority Board of Directors, the most inland navigable riverport in the United States. Jon M. McGrath is a voting member of the Cherokee Tribe and Nation.
Most recently, he was named to a six-member, multinational “Support Ukraine Rail Task Force” task force focused on supporting Ukrainian railroads with technical support and ongoing assistance. He also will use his expertise as the task force lead for reconstruction of the Ukraine rail system post-war.
I am really proud to have followed in my father’s footsteps who shaped and engrained in me the importance of the NRC and getting involved. (The NRC) through friendships and dialogue with fellow competitors, relationships with the supply community, and with a vision that private railroad contractors could and would have a seat at the table when it came to building and maintaining our country’s railroad infrastructure … and that we could and would do it safely, efficiently, profitably, and of the highest quality.
Retiree, 2020 NRC Hall of Fame Inductee
RailWorks Track Systems, Inc.