David Ezell, AITX Bude. Profiled in Legends & Legacies 2023
LOVE OF TRAINS
Ezell lives out childhood dream with a 44-year career on the railroad.
American Industrial Transport (AITX) employee David Ezell said he remembers the lonesome whistle blowing from trains as he laid in bed as a child. His home was in Bude and many nights he would sit up and listen to the trains rumbling along the tracks.
Whistles, bells, clacking of cars and the roar of a freight train captured his attention. He and his friends would watch the trains roll through town. In his bed, he had an operational toy rail system with metal tracks and cars.
For the past 44 years, he has been able to live out his childhood fascination with trains and now works hands-on with railcars. A native of Bude, he spent 30 years at the plant in Bude and came to Brookhaven in 2014. He currently calls Summit home.
“When I finished a degree in Diesel Mechanics at Co-Lin, AITX was opening up the Bude facility. It was one of the biggest facilities in the country at the time,” Ezell said. “I decided I wanted to work. I put in an application and got a job. I love trains. It was an idealistic thing… I still have a love for trains. I don’t think you ever lose it if you really love it. I have always loved them. I still have those toy train cars at my house.”
He continues to work with in the car cleaning department and moved to the Brookhaven location to oversee the car cleaning operations at the AITX facility off of Industrial Park Road. In Bude, he jumped around to blasting paint and maintenance work but always came around back to cleaning.
Car cleaning is a job he has enjoyed the most. Each day, he arrives at the plant by 5:30am. The shift starts at 6am, and he gets off typically around 3pm, unless overtime is needed. His role as a car cleaning and waste water leadman is important to the operations of AITX.
Each car that carriers liquid commodities, such as crude oil, has a build up of gas within the car. Car cleaners hook up a hose to the tank and burn off the gas before they clean the car out with diesel and water. The runoff then goes through a wastewater treatment plant on site.
Ezell explained the process has a lot of different moving parts to it. Once clean, the cars are moved down the line to be worked on in the repair shop. At the time, maintenance workers were removing the metal shell of a tanker car and exposed a ring of insulation to prolong the contents from catching fire in case of a derailment. Welders worked to repair the cars and once they were finished they look almost “brand new,” Ezell said.
“We have to clean the cars to make them safe for the guys to work on it,” Ezell said. “I enjoy for the guys to work on it.” Ezell said. “I enjoy what I do. It is a learning experience. Everyday you learn something new. Anytime you think you have seen it all, something comes up and you learn again. You are always learning about new chemicals and new ways of cleaning cars and new ways to treat water. Everyday is a new experience. It is not repetitive.”
BUILDING A LEGACY
Across the road, AITX is in the process of expanding its facilities with a $30M investment and adding 100 more jobs. The new facility should be completed in 2023 and will expand the capabilities of the current Brookhaven facility.
Ezell walked around the facility still under construction in February 2023 and explained all they will be able to do with the addition. A repair shop will have space for 18 more cars, an increase from their current six car spot. Plant managers will have new offices, a fabrication shop will be able to make smaller parts and a giant warehouse facility will be a place where cars can be repainted.
A giant box compartment will be where the car paint is removed using bb shot before those cars are painted and a table will move cars. Ezell said it will be a massive operation once everything is complete.
“It will be exciting months to come around here once they get it up and going,” Ezell said.
For the past 44 years, Ezell has supported his family and sent four kids to college. His supervisor, Barry Cotten, said they have not had to face many layoffs like other industries. Rail has been pretty stable.
Ezell’s two sons kind of followed him into the hands-on workforce. One is an automobile technician and another works with chemicals like Ezell. His father worked at International Paper in Natchez, which is where Ezell learned the value of hard-work. It was a value instilled in him and his brother from the time they could walk. Now, he gets to pass on knowledge to the next generation of workers at AITX.
“We are working to pass on our legacy to the younger guys. AITX will provide security and be a place they can retire. We will work to keep our customers happy,” Ezell said. “I have guys who have been with me since I came out here. Most are here in Lincoln County and are very special and hard-workers to me.”
Cotten says Ezell is training the next generation of employees before he retires in the next decade.
“We don’t want to lose his expertise so we are trying to pass it on. Experience is knowledge and he has 44 years of it,” Cotten said. “It is a big deal that he is training new employees. It will be a busy few years. The cleaning rack will get busy here.”
OFF THE CLOCK
If Ezell is not working at the plant, he is at home spending time on his hobbies of wood working, cooking, and working on old cars. His brother-in-law was a mechanic and loved working on old cars, mostly old trucks or cars.
Ezell has nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They keep him busy with requests for different wooden projects.
“I build little cabinets and tables for my family,” Ezell said. “They are always wanting something and asking me to build it. It is what I do; I love it.”
In the kitchen, he loves to make dishes with ground beef or chicken. He does not have a signature dish but loves using ground beef in his cooking. Sometimes, he will help cook for the guys at the Brookhaven AITX facility.
“I have cooked my whole life, ever since I was a little boy,” Ezell said. “My parents worked odd shifts. We learned to cook way back then. We would spend hours by ourselves in the kitchen. I learned how to cook pretty early in life.”