Montgomery Business Journal

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Knox Kershaw, Inc.

Knox Kershaw Paves the Way in Railway Maintenance Innovation

November/December 2013
By Jennifer Kornegay   
Photography by Robert Fouts

Knox Kershaw, president and CEO of Montgomery-based Knox Kershaw Inc., has been working on the railroad, all the live long day (or most of it) for five-plus decades.

Although it has had different names and provided different products and services through the years, his company Knox Kershaw Inc. has been in existence in some form or another since 1924 when his father, Royce Kershaw Sr., started the Royce Kershaw Co.

After years of buyouts and switching between doing contract railway maintenance for railroad companies and building the machines and equipment needed by railroad companies that handle maintenance themselves, today, Knox Kershaw Inc. is exclusively a manufacturer and remanufacturer of railway track-work equipment and has become known in the industry as a leader and an innovator.

The company creates different variations of several basic pieces of equipment such as ballast regulators, snow removal equipment, brush cutters, tie cranes, tie insertion and extraction machines, yard cleaners and kribber adzers (machines used to replace rail).

While walking through the facility, Kershaw proudly pointed to one of his company’s innovations. “We came up with the tilt cab for our brush clearer, which allows you to work on the machine’s engine without getting underneath it,” he said.

The cab’s also pretty comfy for the operator, with a cushy seat and even air conditioning. The same machine can be converted into a snow mover by changing its arm attachments.

“We are constantly re-designing our current machines to improve their operation and make them more efficient to build,” Kershaw said.

The company routinely manufactures and delivers between 60 and 70 of its machines a year, with many being put to work beyond our borders. “Last year 55 percent of our sales were outside of the United States, with the majority of those in Canada,” Kershaw said. “We also do business with railroad companies in Australia, Southeast Asia, Mexico, South America, Africa and Saudi Arabia.”

When asked about the company’s business in Europe, Kershaw explained why it’s virtually non-existent. “Central Europe maintains its track in different ways and uses different standards than everyone else,” he said. “We really don’t do any business in that area.”

Since focusing solely on manufacturing beginning in 2002, Knox Kershaw Inc. has been growing at a rate of about 10 percent a year. Even the recession didn’t really affect the company, and right now, railroads are doing well; so is Knox Kershaw Inc. “When they do well, our demand is up,” Kershaw said.

He attributed growth to the expansion of the company’s product line and how well those products do their job. “We have improved railway track maintenance for our customers, and they know it.” He also credited his employees. “I have great people working here,” he said. “That’s a part of our success, too.”

Knox Kershaw Inc.’s future includes the introduction of some new machines and a possible major plant addition in the next few years. 

But Kershaw has no plans to venture beyond the manufacture of railway maintenance machinery. “There is plenty of growth left in what we do and it is where our expertise is,” he said.

At a time in his life when many of his counterparts are about to retire or already have, Kershaw doesn’t see retirement anywhere in his future. “I always knew I would enter this business and I’ve been happy in my career,” he said. As the head sales person for the company that bears his name, Kershaw has a lot of interaction with the people who buy what he makes. “I enjoy seeing my customers; it’s what I really like about what I do.”

Plus, he has a son and daughter working for him. “My daughter works in marketing the company, and my son is in the purchasing and materials management department,” he said.

While he admitted to slowing down a bit, he plans on working as long as he is able, mainly because he does enjoy his job, but also because he’s learned what his total absence might mean. “I know that I need to be here and stay actively involved to keep things running right.”

And even when he’s not physically at work, his mind is: “I’m never not thinking about the business,” he said.

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    Manufacturing railway track-work equipment

    Named Manufacturer of the Year in 2008 by the Business Council of Alabama

    41 Commerce Street, P.O. Box 79, Montgomery, Alabama 36101   Tel: 334.834.5200   Fax: 334.265.4745   Sitemap