A group of educators, railroaders, researchers, scientists, engineers, and historians working together to preserve and make history.


Our Mission

The Coalition for Sustainable Rail is a Minnesota-based 501c(3) not-for-profit whose mission is:

  • Innovation - to support and advance sustainable modern steam, fuel, energy, and transportation technologies;

  • Preservation - to promote the safe and efficient operation and conservation of historic rail equipment; and

  • Education - to conduct informational activities to increase awareness of sustainable and historical technologies.

The Team is the right choice to pursue this important work which, in our judgement, is timely and relevant and holds the potential for a meaningful contribution to future boiler technolgy.
— Randy Rawson, American Boiler Manufacturers Association

Our Leadership

Board Officers

Davidson Ward | President

An alumnus of the University of Minnesota, Davidson Ward brings experience in marketing, business development, design, railroading and steam locomotive knowledge to CSR. Having worked extensively with faculty at the U of M to develop the partnership that created CSR, Ward continues to facilitate close interaction between all partners in the coalition to ensure efficient research and development. His railroad writing and photography have been featured in Trains Magazine and he is Co-Chairman of the Transportation Research Board AR 020 committee on Passenger Rail Equipment and Systems Integration and its subcommittee, Railroad Environmental Research Issues.


John Rhodes | VICE PRESIDENT & Treasurer

A railroad operations, simulation and equipment expert, John Rhodes has investigated the practical application of modern steam locomotives since his college days. He earned his Master's degree in Transportation Policy, Operations, and Logistics at George Mason University, having written a master's thesis on modern steam locomotive engineering. Rhodes has been published on the topic of modern steam in the Stephenson Locomotive Society Journal, the publication of this premier society for the study of railways and railway locomotion in the UK, founded 1909.


Rob Mangels |Director

Mangels specializes in providing new and unique ways to operate, design and build intermodal transportation systems and infrastructures, including the restoration and operation of historic rail and marine equipment.  His qualifications include administrative, technical, and business development related skills including accounting, engineering, marketing, and financial planning.  He also provides railroad technical training for locomotive engineers, conductors, and mechanical staff.  Mr. Mangels is currently working with various owners of many rail passenger cars in their efforts to upgrade and rehabilitate them, including some to Amtrak standards.  He also is contracted to perform Supervisor of Locomotive Engineers duties, provide airbrake, operating rules, safety, hazmat and train handling instruction for several short line railroads in New York and Pennsylvania, as well as consulting clients around the nation.


Shaun McMahon |Director

A leading world expert on Modern Steam Locomotive technology, Shaun McMahon brings a level of experience to the CSR team that cannot be matched. Experience he enjoys in both institutional and corporate steam research makes him perfect for leading engineering on the CSR team as well as serving as an educator at the University level. He has worked to modernize steam locomotives in The United Kingdom, South Africa and Argentina and currently serves as a lead researcher at the National Institute of Industrial Technology (INTI) of Argentina in Buenos Aires.


Board Members


John Betak, Ph.D.

John Betak is the Managing Member of Collaborative Solutions LLC, a Senior Research Fellow in the Center for Risk Management and Insurance at The University of Texas at Austin and a Research Fellow at the Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation at Rutgers University. John is a senior consultant with 40+ years of diversified, international experience in management, consulting, administration and research in corporations, non-profits and major North American universities.

Before establishing Collaborative Solutions in 1995, John was an AVP at Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail) where he developed/managed the corporate industrial development, plant rationalization and line sales, short line marketing, non-hazardous solid waste business group, real estate portfolio and Geographic Information System. John was part of the team that developed the plan that led to the restructuring of Conrail and its return to profitability. Key elements of that plan led to the passage of NERSA and a fundamental shift in the rail industry's ability to restructure their operations. It also led to the development of the modern short line and regional railroad industry. John was a member of Conrail's Strategic Management Team and Operating Committee and he was one of the senior team members involved in implementing continuous quality improvement throughout the company. In addition, John was President of CRC Properties (the wholly-owned real estate management subsidiary of Consolidated Rail Corporation), where he was responsible for managing the real property assets portfolio comprised of buildings, real estate holdings, corridor assets for utility utilization, etc.


Don Fosnacht, PH.D.

Donald Fosnacht is the Associate Director of the University of Minnesota's Natural Resources Research Institute. He is a metallurgical engineer with a broad background that includes minerals extraction and minerals processing, extractive and physical metallurgy and analytical chemistry. He is also a seasoned technical manager with 20+ years experience in managing and directing research programs and technology development. He has been trained in project management, total quality management, continuous improvement processes along with various statistical tools and methodologies. He consults with various clients on business improvement specializing in yield and profitability enhancement and cost reduction. Fosnacht brings a great deal of hands on materials handling, biofuel processing and institutional experience to CSR. 


Rod Larkins 

Rod Larkins serves as the Senior Director of Science and Technology at AURI. His primary responsibilities includes directing science, research, and development areas of AURI that lead to innovative, marketable, and commercialized products and processes. These products and process help build and sustain local and nationally partnerships and foster collaboration for innovative shared outcomes.

Larkins background includes serving as the Special Projects Director for Initiative for Renewable Energy and the Environment at the University of Minnesota where he specialized in stakeholder outreach and engagement , partnership development and strategic planning. Prior to this Larkins had a long and successful career with 3M, where he held positions of increasing responsibility in research management—with a focus on establishing new businesses. During his career at 3M, Larkins was awarded two U.S. patents and earned numerous individual and team recognition awards. He finished his tenure as operations manager of government R&D contracts. In this role, he managed the opportunity development, proposal, administrative and compliance functions associated with 3M's participation in federal- and state-funded contracts. He helped establish and execute government-funded programs related to fuel cells, composite electrical conductors, batteries, solar films, renewable fuels, high-temperature super conductors, and energy assessment and savings, among other areas. As an external advisory board member, he worked closely with IREE and the U of M.



Matthew R. Bergmann, Esq.

Matthew R. Bergmann joined the CSR Board in 2018 and offers the organization substantial experience in non-profit management. Bergmann is an attorney in Topeka, Kansas, who specializes in the areas of administrative, business, public affairs and legislation, real estate, workers compensation and general practice matters. He was admitted to practice law in Kansas in 2005, at both the state and federal levels.  Mr. Bergmann was named a partner of the law firm Frieden, Unrein & Forbes, L.L.P., in April 2010.

Mr. Bergmann’s preparatory education took place at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas where he graduated, magna cum laude, in 2001. He received his juris doctorate from the Washburn University School of Law in 2005.  During his preparatory and legal education Mr. Bergmann studied internationally, participating in coursework at Orebro University in Orebro, Sweden, as well as King’s College and the London School of Economics in London, England. 

Mr. Bergmann was selected to the 2014 Super Lawyers Rising Star List for Kansas. In 2012, he was honored as one of top “20 Under 40” young professionals in Topeka. In 2008, Mr. Bergmann was named the Topeka Bar Association’s Outstanding Young Lawyer. Mr. Bergmann is an Eagle Scout receiving that honor from the Boy Scouts of America in 1997. He currently sits on the Board of Directors for TARC, and has also served on the Board of the Directors for the Topeka Bar Association. Mr. Bergmann is a member of the Topeka Bar Association, Kansas Bar Association, American Bar Association, NSBA Council of School Attorneys, the Topeka Active 20/30 Club and Topeka Lawyers Club. Mr. Bergmann enjoys spending time with his family, as he and his wife, Shannon, devote much of their time to their three young children.



Gary F. Knudsen

Gary Knudsen is an experienced railroader, preservationist, and non-profit advisor who joined the CSR Board in 2018. Mr. Knudsen began his career in the commercial aviation sector, working for more than 20 years in the field of aviation insurance underwriting. He is a certified airline transport pilot with more than 40 years of incident-free flying experience.

Following his airline career and seeking a change of pace, Mr. Knudsen hired on with the BNSF Railway in 2004 first as a conductor, then working his way up to the position of locomotive engineer. Working at the BNSF until his retirement in 2013, he garnered experience in freight operations in the California, Kansas, Nebraska and Springfield Divisions of the BNSF Railway, as well as the Oakland, Martinez, Niles, and Fresno Subdivisions of the Union Pacific Railroad. With safety first in mind, he worked for nine years with no FRA reportable injuries, incidents or accidents.   

Regarding preservation and steam locomotives, Mr. Knudsen offers thirty year's experience in the steam preservation industry. He began working in the preservation industry at the Black River & Western Railroad, where he volunteered during the restoration to operation of former Great Western Railway 2-8-0 steam locomotive No. 60. In 1990, he began volunteering with the Michigan State Trust for Railway Preservation in Owosso, Michigan, where he served as both a board member and an active volunteer in the operations of Pere Marquette locomotive No. 1225. With the organization for nearly 30 years, Mr. Knudsen handled all manner of  planning, organizing, and operations tasks associated with the safe operation of the 1941-built 2-8-4 steam locomotive. 

Since retirement to Lawrence, Kansas, Mr. Knudsen has become involved with local preservation efforts, including having served on the board of the Lawrence, Kansas, Depot Redux project. That grass roots effort involved funding and logistics associated with the preservation of the former Santa Fe Railway passenger depot in Lawrence.