acting LIRR president Raymond Kenny dies at 68 NEWSDAY
Raymond Kenny retired in 2014 after working more then 40 years at the Long Island Rail Road. By Alfonso A. Castillo Updated April 18, 2020 10:19 PM
Former acting LIRR president Raymond Kenny, a Lindenhurst resident whose childhood fascination with trains led to a railroading career that spanned a half-century, died Saturday from complications of COVID-19, his family said.
Kenny's family said he was admitted to Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center about a week ago with symptoms of the coronavirus, later tested positive and was put on a ventilator. Kenny, who most recently headed rail operations for New Jersey Transit, was 68.
In a 2014 interview, Kenny said he became interested in the LIRR while riding the train between his Cedarhurst home and Molloy High School in Queens. He began working at the railroad as a summer ticket clerk in the early 1970s, while pursuing a bachelor's degree in business administration from John Jay College. After graduating, he was hired full time on the management side of the LIRR as a junior industrial engineer.
Kenny worked in various management roles until being promoted in the early 2000s to chief transportation officer. When then-LIRR president James Dermody retired in 2006, Kenny served as acting president for 10 months. In the role, Kenny was charged with leading the railroad’s response to the concerns raised by a Newsday investigation about the dangers of wide gaps between trains and station platforms.
"I was not stressed, because I had a lot of help. Everybody was pulling the same weight," Kenny said in 2014 about his time as acting president. "I really did enjoy the job. I tried to bring the place together."
After Helena Williams was appointed as the railroad’s 38th president, Kenny took on the position of senior vice president of operations. Williams, who is now a deputy county executive in Nassau, acknowledged leaning heavily on Kenny’s experience and wisdom as her “right hand man.”
“He was always methodical in evaluating every situation. And he always stressed the most important issue for everyone on the railroad was situational awareness, because he wanted to always protect the well-being of the employees,” said Williams, who credited Kenny with coming up with key strategies for the LIRR’s Double Track project between Farmingdale and Ronkonkoma and for its East Side Access link to Grand Central Terminal. “It was his passion. His life.”
After serving as a “champion” in the railroad’s recovery from super storm Sandy, according to Williams, Kenny retired from the LIRR in 2014. He worked in the private sector until being hired by NJ Transit in January 2019 as senior vice president and general manager of rail operations.
Kenny held three master’s degrees and was working toward a doctorate in emergency management, his brother Ed Kenny said.
“He was a tremendous leader. He loved the work that he did,” said Ed Kenny of Lindenhurst, who also remembered his brother as “a wonderful family member, a great big brother and an uncle.”
Industry leaders on Saturday remembered Kenny as a railroading giant. Anthony Simon, general chairman of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers, the LIRR's largest union, called him a “true railroader who worked his way through the ranks and became a legend in the railroad industry.”
Kevin Sexton, general chairman of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Division 269, which represents LIRR train operators, said Kenny's "knowledge and commitment to this industry were second to none."
Christopher Natale, of the Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen, called Kenny a "beloved, gentle soul."
Kevin Corbett, NJ Transit president and CEO, said, "Ray's reputation and experience in the industry are unparalleled."
"While I never had the opportunity to work with him at the LIRR, the results of his leadership were clear throughout the railroad when I came on board," current LIRR president Phillip Eng said. "The entire railroad is hurting right now."
Kenny is also survived by another brother, Bob, also of Lindenhurst.
A private wake for family members is scheduled for Wednesday at the Lindenhurst Funeral Home, followed by a public motorcade at noon from Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church to Pinelawn Cemetery, where he will be buried.
1", "RPK 2", "RPK 3" INTERLOCKING FORMERLY "ND" BLOCK LIMIT SIGNAL
HAMPTON BAYS. AUTOMATIC INTERLOCKING R.C. FROM "BABYLON" IN SVC: 11/13/17
PER G.O. #303. RENAMED IN HONOR OF RAYMOND P. KENNY WHO HAD A 44-YEAR CAREER
ON THE LIRR STARTING AS AN
RPK1-3 remote controlled interlocking at Babylon. Photo/Archive: Christopher Soundy
Raymond P. Kenny 2014 Photo: Uli Seit - NEWSDAY
It is with deep sadness that we acknowledge the passing of former LIRR Senior Vice President of Transportation, Raymond P. Kenny.
Kenny served a 40-year career with MTA-Long Island Rail Road (LIRR). He most
recently served as Senior Vice President – Transportation and Facilities
Planning, responsible for MTA Capital Construction’s efforts on the East
Side Access project. In the mid 2000's he
served as acting president of the LIRR in addition to senior management
positions including Senior Vice President of Operations and Chief
Transportation Officer. In January 2019, Ray left the Long Island Rail Road
and was appointed as senior vice president and general manager of rail
operations for New Jersey Transit.
Dave Morrison Branch Line Manager Retirement - Ray Kenny Gen. Sup. of Transportation (right) presentation 7/01/1999
Form 19 Dave Morrison Final Run Clear Block 7/01/1999
LIRR Pres. James Dermody VP Ray Kenny (right)
PD Tower, Patchogue 5/05/2006
From Railway Age Magazine:
He Has a Trained Eye on the Railroad
By Alan Feuer
"One advantage of having so much railroad experience is that I tend to focus not on what we can't do, but on what we can do," said Raymond Kenny. Credit: Andrea Mohin/The New York Times
If you are the sort who feels a transportational-historical chill when the conductor on the Long Island Rail Road calls out, “Next stop, Babylon! Babylon, next stop!” you will probably be intrigued by Raymond Kenny, the railroad’s acting president. Mr. Kenny is a railroad man’s railroad man, an up-from-the-yard guy who started in the business 36 years ago as a summer ticket clerk and now rides herd on a huge network of M1, M3 and M7 trains, 282,000 commuters and more than 700 miles of open track.
Recently, Mr. Kenny earned public kudos for coming up with a sensible and elegant solution to what has been a longstanding problem on the railroad: the gap between train doors and station platforms. He proposed simply moving the tracks.
“One advantage of having so much railroad experience,” he said, “is that I tend to focus not on what we can’t do, but on what we can do.”
Running a railroad is a complicated task, one which in its fickleness and convolutions is not unlike trying to coordinate the various mountebanks and tumblers who make up a traveling vaudeville show. In much the way a harried stage manager must contend with a tardy contortionist or an intoxicated strongman, the president of the LI-double-R struggles daily with downed trees at Ronkonkoma or multicar trains stalled in the bowels of Pennsylvania Station. And, of course, there was the question of the gap. For years, the railroad has tolerated gaps between its train doors and its station platforms, papering over the danger by posting signs that read, “Watch the Gap.” Then, in August, a woman, while under the influence of alcohol, fell through the gap at the station in Woodside, Queens, was struck by a train and died. The accident led to institutional hand-wringing in which it was decided that the platforms were far too heavy to move and that nothing could be done.
A month later, when Mr. Kenny was appointed acting president, he and his crew figured that if Muhammad could not make it to the mountain, perhaps the mountain might be moved to Muhammad. They determined that it was possible to simply shove the tracks a little closer to the platforms.
RAILROADING is a practical business, and Mr. Kenny, 55, came to it in a practical way. At age 14, he began commuting on the rails from his home in Cedarhurst, Nassau County, to Archbishop Molloy High School in Briarwood, Queens. The trek, five days a week, gave him ample time to study the complexities of the Jamaica Station where hundreds of trains pass daily in a transportational ballet on numerous switches and eight separate tracks.
“I developed an interest in the railroad on that commute,” he said. “Waiting at Jamaica I could see the operation, the trains moving simultaneously, the way they connected.”
It is worth noting that three decades later Mr. Kenny’s presidential desk affords a dead-on view of Jamaica’s Track 1. (And for those who believe, like Wordsworth, that the child is father to the man, Mr. Kenny’s foundational contact with the railroad was an old Lionel train set, O-27 gauge.)
Since 1970, Mr. Kenny has spent only one year not working for the railroad. That was the grim expanse between the end of his summer clerkship and the start of his true career. Like a young recruit impatient to enlist, he had applied to the railroad when he was 17. They told him to come back when he was 18. In the meantime, he worked in a clothing store until he got the clerk’s position. He did not care for the clothing job. “It was not a train job,” he said.
As far as train jobs go, Mr. Kenny has held his fair share, progressing steadily from junior industrial engineer to block operator to train dispatcher to manager of timetable schedules to field supervisor to supervisor of train movement to general superintendent of transportation to chief transportation officer to senior vice president for operations to acting president, a post in which he remains nostalgic for the old, ungainly, un-air-conditioned MP-54s of his youth.
Along the way, he says, he has met some good people (most notably Walter Ernst, the storied former Amtrak chief) and has gotten to employ some fairly Orwellian train jargon (including something called “mean distance between failure” which, though it sounds like something from an anger management course, is actually the number of miles a train can travel before breakdown).
“I bring a detailed knowledge of the operation to the job,” Mr. Kenny said. “I feel I can picture the entire system up in my mind.”
That is fairly impressive, given that the system extends from Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan all the way out to lonely Greenport on the eastern end of Long Island. There is no grid that charts the progress of his trains, although there is a frequently updated electronic report called Timacs that tells viewers the last station a train passed through. Mr. Kenny says he can digest the raw data and visualize the capillary network of the railroad in his head.
Still, the best part of the job is watching actual trains go by, especially those he can control. “If I don’t see one in a while,” he said, “I just call somebody up.”