Our committed volunteers are LASTA’s lifeblood! The organization benefits greatly from each member’s different backgrounds and experiences.

Board and Officers

Walt Pierce

Walt says he got his love of all things trains from his father, who worked for the Southern Railway as a car knocker (inspector) at Southern's old New Orleans Bernadotte Street coach yards and as a railway mail clerk. 

A communications consultant for more than twenty years as sole proprietor of Walt Pierce Communications, Walt previously spent 25 years in broadcast news as a Reporter, Managing Editor, Assignment Editor and News Director. But in 1999, Walt made a career change from broadcast journalism to public relations, first as the Director of Communications for the New Orleans Public School System and for the last 20 years as the Public Information Officer for Orleans Parish Civil District Court.  

Walt is also involved in television and radio production as an Associate Director, Talent Coordinator and Stage Manager. He has been employed by all of the major national and regional broadcast networks working behind the scenes at professional and college football, basketball and baseball, including the New Orleans Saints, the New Orleans Pelicans and numerous Super Bowls broadcasts. 

In the community, Walt is active in several arenas, including serving as Vice-President, Board of Directors, Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office Special Reserve Deputy Unit; President, Louisiana Steam Train Association (LASTA) and Board Member of the ACE Mentor Program of New Orleans. Pierce also served six years on the Amtrak Customer Advisory Committee (ACAC) and is currently a member of the Rail Passengers Association (RPA).

Gwen Styron

Gwen previously worked for the Jefferson Parish School System and the Jefferson Parish Department of Parks and Recreation. As the Information Specialist for Recreation, her duties included marketing, producing publications, managing team travel, photography and other areas of management.

Now retired, she volunteers time to LASTA as Secretary and Board member. She helps support the event concessions sales and the gift shop at most of our events.

Matt Anderson

Matt became involved with LASTA in late 2004 when he learned about SP745’s and its crew’s radio troubles during a test run of the locomotive. Matt was successful in solving SP745’s radio equipment issues prior to the Bicentennial trip. Since then, he has continued to work on expanding and improving LASTA’s communication systems. Matt also helps maintain various electrical and electronic systems around the yard.

He has also volunteered his time to manage LASTA’s website and social media account to keep train enthusiasts updated on SP745 and LASTA events. Matt currently works in the telecommunications industry, providing technical services for broadcast and the wireless data industry.

Wayne Babovich
General Counsel

Dr. Babovich was a charter member of the Federally created Louisiana-Mississippi-Alabama Rail Commission.  Appointed by Governor Treen, he served as the Commission’s chairman in 1984.   Wayne has a Ph.D. in Urban Planning from the University of New Orleans, specializing in economic development.  A graduate of the University of Houston Law School in 1973, he practiced law for over 35 years, specializing in commercial and business law.

Still active in academic circles, he lectures regularly. Wayne has published, taught, and lectured in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and Europe. 

Wayne has served as a member of the Board of Directors of New Orleans Museum of Art, a member of the Board of Directors Municipal Yacht Harbor for the City of New Orleans, and a member of the New Orleans City Council. 

Wayne is an ardent supporter of mass transit and played a key role in the implementation of the New Orleans riverfront streetcar and the Gulf Coast Limited during the 1984 World’s fair.

Robert Riley
Chief Operating Officer
Robert Riley serves as LASTA's Chief Operating Officer (COO). As COO, Mr. Riley will oversee day-to-day operations, implementing the organization's strategic plans. In addition, working closely with our crew members, he will prioritize our efforts to get LASTA to a new home and return SP 745 to service.

Robert has spent more than 20 years in the transportation industry and is currently the CEO of the CHICAGO, ROCK ISLAND & PACIFIC RAILROAD. 

Jacob Styron
Director / Asst. COO

Jacob has been a long-time volunteer and joined the Board in 2021. He is in charge of our crew training program and is currently employed by a local industrial railroad.

Richard Lemieux
Compliance Officer

LASTA has appointed Richard Lemieux as our new Chief Compliance Officer. He is very familiar with our mission and will work to ensure compliance with the upcoming state and federal grants. 

Richard earned a degree in Business and Economics from the University of New Orleans in 1971. He served as the business manager on major construction projects throughout the United States, Canada, and Kuwait. He started working at Anheuser Busch in St. Louis in 1979, where he eventually retired as manager of Bid Activity and Contract Administration for global projects. 

Richard Jacobs

Since the early ’80s, Richard has been involved in the preservation of SP 745 and other historic railroad equipment.

Richard became acquainted with SP 745 when the locomotive was on static display at Audubon Park. Sometime in 1983 or 1984, he heard a rumor that the locomotive was going to be scrapped. Of course, he went straight to the park to protest. However, when he arrived, he found a group that was actually working to move and save the engine! It was then that he was hooked, and his energies turned toward assisting with the restoration effort.

His mechanical expertise has provided many valuable contributions to LASTA. He previously served as the Chief Mechanical Officer.  Richard also currently serves as the director of the Historic Railway Charitable Trust of Louisiana. 

LJ Jordan

LJ has been a long time LASTA volunteer. He currently works for a short-line railroad in the New Orleans area. 

Barry Keegan

Barry answered a call for volunteers in August 2003, becoming the LASTA equipment painter in support of the 2005 state tour. This included the refinishing and painting of the inside of the Jefferson car and the outside of all of the LASTA cars. He traveled with 745 for the first leg of the state tour.

Following this trip, he organized a number of the Steam Fests held at Audubon Park and coordinated 745 at Gretna Fest for many years. He is on the LASTA Board of Directors and is currently working on our collective effort to secure both a new home for 745 and funds for the engine rebuild.

Bill Langkopp
Karl Smith

Karl is a fireman, electrician, and all-around handyman. For many years, he traveled from New Jersey to support us at major events. In 2022, he relocated to the New Orleans area and joined the LASTA Board.

Skip Waters

While growing up in New Orleans, Skip loved watching trains go through the French Quarter on the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad. He remembered SP745 in Audubon Park very vividly. He played on it as a kid and wondered, as we all did, what it would be like for it to run again.

Skip is a member and past President of the North Texas Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society [NRHS] and currently serves on the NRHS National Board as a Director of District 7, which includes the state of Louisiana. He was also the Chairman and organizer of the 2008 Lone Star Rails NRHS National Convention.

In addition to LASTA’s projects, he is a member of other historical railroad groups, including the Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society, the Railroad and Locomotive Historical Society and the Austin Steam Train Association (which has SP786, a sister to SP745). Skip is excited to be on the board and working toward the goals of seeing SP745 roll again.

Crew Members

Tucker Baker
Jim Bellmyer
Support / Operation Lifesaver Liaison

Jim "Bigfoot" has been with LASTA since 2006 and is the Director of Rail Safety Education and serves as the Liaison for Operation Lifesaver and LASTA. He is an NSC certified Defensive Driving Instructor. Jim served on the Board of Directors from 2011 to 2019.

Volunteer Spotlight Jim Bellmyer (2012)

Bruce Brown

Bruce is the former President and founder of LASTA. His dedication and encouragement ushered to the formation of a new group that was eventually able to raise the fund to rebuild 745 and return her to operational status.

He remains an active volunteer and recently completed a Thru-Hike of the Appalachian Trail (2,000 miles), spreading the news of 745 along the way.

David DeBlanc
Support Crew
Lewis Doherty
Support Crew

Lewis Doherty serves as the editor of the 745 Journal, LASTA’s quarterly publication for members, and LASTA’s annual calendars.  He has a background in publication layout, editing and writing.

Jacques Dufrene
Track Crew Leader

Jacques Dufrene joined LASTA in early 2020 and has recently taken on the Railroad Track Maintenance Supervisor role. This crucial position is responsible for safe and efficient operation in our yard. Over the years, he gained comprehensive knowledge in track maintenance, repair, and inspection techniques, making him an invaluable asset to the teams.

Jacques currently works as a locomotive engineer for Petroleum Services Corporation.

Makayla Dufrene
Support Crew

Makayla became a volunteer in September 2022 after becoming involved in other railroad preservation efforts alongside her husband, Jacques Dufrene. With significant prior knowledge and experience in the preservation of life and property, she holds the titles of industrial firefighter, hazmat technician, and high angle rescue technician. She plans on continuing to direct her efforts and knowledge towards keeping our volunteers and visitors safe for many years to come.

Ed Ernewein
Support Crew

Ed Ernewein was one of the founding members of the Old Kenner Railway Association (OKRA) and was involved in the transfer of SP 745 from Audubon Park. Since retiring from the Federal Railway Administration official ( FRA ), Ed has assumed a greater role in operations and served on the LASTA Board from 2016-2019.

Ron Goldman
Support Crew

Ron has been a member of LASTA for 20+ years and has been currently training as a Fireman. During the 1920s, Ron's Grandfather worked as a foreman in the Southern Pacific boiler shop at Algiers, where 745 was built.

James Guilbeau

James (aka Sparky) became involved with LASTA in 2004 when he helped obtain a handheld radio for the state-wide tour. He later worked with Al to rewire the former south yard. Since then, he has continued to work on documenting and safely improving LASTA’s electrical systems. He also maintains various electrical & electronic systems in the consist.

Ed Hennisen
Engine Crew

Ed has been a member of LASTA since 2017 and works tirelessly to keep our diesel locomotive operational. He previously worked as an Engineer with the New Orleans Gulf Coast Railroad and operated his own electronics repair company for some time.

Mike "Nitro" Herbert, SR
Support Crew

Mike “Nitro” Herbert enjoys working on equipment large and small. He first met former LASTA President Bruce Brown when he was working on the reclaimed oil project for Jefferson Parish.

His first job as a volunteer was to change the water pump on Rock Island 745 (“Agnes”). Since then, he has worked on or operated all of LASTA’s maintenance-of-way machinery, including the big Orton crane and smaller motor cars.

Volunteer Spotlight Mike Herbert

Michael Hebert, JR
Support Crew
Nathan Hull
Support Crew
Larry Janeski
Support Crew
Robbie Jacobs
Support Crew
Phillip LeBlanc
Support Crew
Erich Lendermon

Erich has always liked trains and railroads, and eventually, they became his vocation. As a child, his parents took him to railroads and museums like The Texas State Railroad, The Grapevine Vintage Railroad, The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum and the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.

Wanting to have a hands-on experience with a steam locomotive and in particular, SP745, which his father played on as a child when it was a static display in Audubon Park, Erich began to volunteer for LASTA around 2007. The more volunteer work in which he participated, the more he thought about undertaking railroads as a profession and the more experience he gained.

In 2011, Erich began working for the New Orleans and Gulf Coast Railroad as a switchman, eventually becoming a locomotive engineer. Then in 2014, he was hired by one of the major railroads, Kansas City Southern. As before, he started out as a switchman and worked his way up to engineer, which is his current position there.

Erich is currently a certified engineer and frequently operates SP745 during our events.

Alan Maleig
Support Crew

Alan was born and raised in New Orleans and played on 745 while it was at Audubon Park. Many years later, he had heard about Steam Fest and decided to go over and see what the locomotive looked like since it had been restored. Alan was impressed that the engine was operational and joined that organization on the spot. With his 30+ years of experience as an auto mechanic, Allan has been instrumental in keeping things moving at the yard.

Volunteer Spotlight Alan Maleig (2012)

Wayne Minnick
Support Crew

Wayne is a retired Information Technology Specialist and previously served as LASTA Treasurer. He is currently part of our support crew.

Volunteer Spotlight Wayne Minnick

Michael Mann
Support Crew
Bill Morris
Support Crew

Before joining LASTA, Bill spent many years working as a locomotive engineer with a Class 1 railroad. Bill served on the the Board from 2008 to 2013. He also previously served as President and Chief Operating Officer (COO). 

Kevin Plunkett
Support Crew
Bryson Roy
Support Crew
Alison Schenk
Support Crew

Alison has been a long-time volunteer and joined the Board in 2013.  Her professional background includes the medical industry and private investigations.  

David Solis
Support Crew
Keith Stouflett
Support Crew
Larry Stryon
Support Crew
OJ Williams
Support Crew

OJ is a retired mechanical engineer who enjoys working on anything mechanical. Shortly after joining LASTA in early 2016, he took on the complete restoration of our Fairmont MT-19 Inspection Car (a.k.a. "Speeder"). The restoration took over 6 months and made its first appearance at the 2016 LASTA Christmas party giving rides to attendees on a cart that was pulled by the speeder.

In addition to maintaining the speeder and cart, OJ assists with the various projects around the LASTA yard. 

Former Crew Members