Soni Honegger, a talented and resourceful man of steam, has resigned from his position as General Manager of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. Honegger came to the position November 1, 2008, amid praise for his skillful resourcefulness. At that point, he had worked with the C&TS for nearly 9 years after serving with Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railroad and the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad.
According to the C&TS web site,
Soni has served as Steam Locomotive Mechanic in the C&T shop and is Engineer certified. Soni prides himself as an entrepreneur, which includes strong financial planning and budget analysis skills along with great interpersonal skills.“I look to build upon the good work that has already taken place, I was looking for an opportunity to lend my skills and talents to something I believe in and have a passion for."
Not 18 months later, Honegger tendered his resignation on December 31, 2009. Now, the C&TS Management Corporation is reportedly in "management meltdown" following his departure along with the resignation of founding board member Richard Tower, Vice President and Treasurer, in protest of Honegger's treatment. Marvin Casias, a 30 year veteran and the Chief Mechanical Officer, is now the interim GM.
After reading the text of Honneger's resignation letter in the North Country Bulletin (pdf), on page 20, my personal impression is that the best thing to happen to the C&TS RR in its 40 years of existence slipped through its fingers because of micro-management by a board dominated by the wrong kind of leadership. Honegger was willing to return if the issues he listed would be addressed by the board, but having made no headway with the board, he made his notice final on January 15th.
In his May 2009 issue, Trains magazine editor Jim Wrinn wrote of Honegger,
At age 47, Honegger's new mission is to ... keep it together for the next generation. Honegger says working as a locomotive engineer on the C&TS was his childhood dream come true, but the opportunity to be General Manager ... gives him the chance to propel the entire railroad forward.
To give passengers more options, his crew this winter rebuilt parlor cars with mahogany interiors and elegant end platforms worthy of the Victorian era. The railroad also constructed its first tourist-class cars, a step between coach and parlor, and began preparatory to put one of the line's most beloved 2-8-2s, K-27 "Mudhen" No. 463, back into steam.
Growing up in Switzerland, Honegger paged through Lucius Beebe and Charles Clegg books to learn about the charming Rio Grande narrow gauge, yet thought it would all be gone soon. He saw the line for the first time in 1967, just before the Rio Grande quit.
Wrinn concluded, "On a railroad like [the C&TS], such passion and drive are as important as coal and water." While Honegger was just as vital as coal and water for steam, people of his ability, passion and drive are exceedingly rare. A loss like this is undeniably severe.
For more regarding the fallout, read the Albuquerque Journal article, Rough Times For Scenic Railroad, reposted here.