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Northwestern University

Sandhouse Rail Group

Sandhouse Rail Group

The Hagestad Sandhouse Rail Group began in 2002 as an effort to connect active and veteran rail practitioners with students and academics interested in rail-related issues. Named for Douglas Dean Hagestad, a primary group founder who passed away in 2007, Sandhouse meetings typically feature presentations from field experts, followed by open forum discussions. Sandhouse meetings take place Thursdays at 4pm with refreshments and networking at 3:30pm.


Locomotives carry sand for traction, because steel wheels on steel rails sometimes slip, particularly in wet conditions.  In railroading's classic era, the sand for this purpose was dried in engine terminals in small buildings known as sandhouses.  With their sand-drying heaters, sandhouses were among the few warm places in the terminal, so they served an important function in bringing together many of the different roles in rail—hostlers, engineers, brakemen, oilers, maintenance technicians, carmen, etc.—away from management. This allowed a free exchange of facts, stories, and rumors. The Hagestad Sandhouse Rail Group is a continuation of such practices, aiming to stoke lively discussion and spur new ideas for the rail industry.


NUTC established the Hagestad Fund to honor Doug, whose involvement and support for the Sandhouse Rail Group made it what it is today. The Hagestad Fund provides Sandhouse with the financial support needed to host meetings and presenations for Sandhouse members and the greater transportation community.

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