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AHEAD OF THE TORCH is one part trade exposé, one part public radio journalist, and one part industry malcontent. We’re mad as hell at the industry's struggle – but madder still for its potential.

We're here to offer advocacy, solidarity and insight for the advancement of the rail preservation industry in the format of a limited series video podcast and support group.


Nearly 65 years on, the railroad preservation industry remains a fractured, siloed community. There are few catalyzing influences outside of sudden 11th-hour salvation movements or in the aftermath of destructive if otherwise teachable moments.

AHEAD OF THE TORCH is dedicated to providing meaningful content and influential dialogue that can unify the industry’s conversations and elevate pressing topics – from strategic planning, volunteer retention, training, marketing, legal issues, hero-worship, gatekeeping, and fundraising. There will be no stones unturned.

But that’s just the start.

AHEAD OF THE TORCH will not shy away from tackling pressing issues facing railroad preservation, and will highlight guiding lights, failures, and controversial topics; invitee listener feedback, participation, and industry guests; and break down generational, cultural, and industry divides to cut through the din of hearsay to provide perspective, guidance, and insight.

Helmed by rail preservation professionals and joined by a cast of diverse, revolving guests and contributors that represent the many different perspectives and experiences within the industry, AHEAD OF THE TORCH will explore failures and rally around successes to expound and extract detailed information, assert guidance, and evangelize ways to bring the rail preservation industry into the 21st Century.


AHEAD OF THE TORCH‘s dedicated Facebook group has become centerpiece of preservation discussion and salvation movements since its creation.


AHEAD OF THE TORCH first originated in 1992 as an online journal charting railroad and industrial preservation. It has been re-imagined with a dedicated website and reinvigorated social media program.


Ahead of the Torch is produced by three rail preservation advocates with over 100 years of combined expertise. The views and opinions expressed by our hosts and guests are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities they are employed by or associated with.


Rob Davis has been active in historic preservation for over 40 years. He is currently a principal/founder of the Railroad & Industrial Preservation Society, Inc. which is restoring Lehigh & New England locomotive #611. Rob founded Ahead of the Torch in 1992. Rob brings over 25 years of digital communications and marketing experience to AOTT.

In his profession, he is engaged as Chief of Digital Innovation at MSL Group, the PR arm of Publicis Groupe. Rob was previously Head of Digital/North America Innovation Lead at the legendary global advertising agency Ogilvy. Rob previously led the digital businesses for the Independent Film Channel and AMC TV networks, as well as running the experimental programming team at MTV Networks. Rob holds an MS from the Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse University and a BS from the University of Scranton.

Railroad and industrial preservation has been a lifelong passion for Rob. He began with local preservation projects around his Jersey Shore hometown, and that interest blossomed when he left for college in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Living in one of the cradles of the American Industrial Revolution during a time when the physical destruction of past relics was rampant shaped Rob’s views of preservation as an activist activity.

Rob’s experience in railroad history and preservation includes:

  • Editor in Chief/Publisher, Ahead of the Torch (current)
  • Founder/Principal, Railroad & Industrial Preservation Society
  • Board of Directors, Project3713, a locomotive restoration partnership with the National Park Service (2011-2022)
  • Trustee, Garden State Central Model Railroad Club at the InfoAge Science & History Museums (current)
  • Vice President, Jersey Shore Commuters Club, operating a private railcar on the NJ Transit system
  • Volunteer, Steamtown National Historic Site
  • Motorman, Buckingham Valley Trolley Association
  • TV, Film & Media Railroad History Consultant & Writer

Professional Website | LinkedIn


Thomas J. Gaffney has weathered a quarter-century of experience in the fields of antiques, collections management, education, industrial archaeology, museum administration, and his broad base of knowledge, connections, and Masters Degree in American Transportation History serves clients in the private and non-profit sector.

He has previously served as the Executive Director of the Steam Railroading Institute in Owosso, Michigan, Curator of the Port Huron Museum, a Director for Port Huron & Detroit Railroad Historical Society, and adjunct professor at Baker College.

TJ is currently President of Streamline Historical Services in Port Huron, Michigan, which specializes in consulting, project management, and property and historic research.

Professional Website | LinkedIn


Kelly is an award-winning filmmaker and digital marketing consultant with experience in filmmaking, strategic planning, brand development, grant-writing, event coordination, customer experience, and placemaking.

A third-generation railroader, he has worked in various capacities for numerous rail preservation organizations, tourist railroads, short lines, and Class 1 railroads including the Ohio Central Railroad, South Central Florida Express, RJ Corman, Norfolk Southern, CSX, and others. His career has also seen stretches at Apple, NBC/Universal, CBS/Paramount, Sweetwater Sound, and as a film professor at Huntington University. In train service, Lynch has served as a fireman, conductor, and trainmaster.

Since 2007, Kelly has served on the board of the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society. As Vice President, he oversaw the first steam excursions operating in Chicago in over 30 years. More recently, he has recently developed a new tourist railroad enterprise connecting Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan. Kelly is the Director of Marketing and Strategy for railroad contracting and consulting firms FMW Solutions and National Rail Consulting Group, whose clients include Norfolk Southern, Nashville Steam, Railroaders Museum of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Railroad T1 Steam Locomotive Trust, Colebrookdale Railroad, Iron Horse Society, Sugar Express, and 60 other organizations and railroad related businesses.

Professional Website | LinkedIn

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