It is known among these mountain parts that if you leave, you’ll forever wonder when you’ll be moving back. Soon-to-be-again Evergreen resident Kevin Ruble understands this sentiment better than most. As a man who has several lifetimes of experiences in his back pocket, he won’t use the “R” word, but he does look forward to planting his feet where he calls home: Evergreen.
Kevin is easy to smile and has a quick wit about him that is both engaging and entertaining. When asked about where he grew up, he laughs, “Well, that’s our first deviation because a lot of people will argue that I’ve never grown up.” After learning his backstory and interests, I’m a firm believer in keeping a youthful perspective on life; it bodes well for the heart and mind as evidenced by Kevin’s effervescent nature.
While he was born in Champaign, Illinois and raised in the suburbs of Chicago, he spent the latter part of his youth in Texas. Both sets of his grandparents lived in Northwest Indiana where Kevin visited often, and railroads were plentiful. He was a train enthusiast before he could walk and even learned to read by watching the boxcars pass his grandparents’ home. “My maternal grandfather was a second-generation railroader and always talked to me about railroading. He grew up in Rosine, Kentucky and would sing songs based on the railroads. Two of my uncles on my father’s side worked for railroads as well.” Growing up in the Chicago area, Kevin was surrounded by trains, thereby making his passion for them an influence of both nature and nurture.
After graduation from Sam Houston State University, his affinity for trains led him to his first job at the Katy Railroad, where he worked in every department and learned the ins and outs of the railroad industry first hand. When asked to become an auditor, Kevin had to make his first big life decision. Although only 22 years old and just learning, he recognized that neither the position nor the culture was a fit for him and chose to leave the field he loved. But it wasn’t forever.
Having been a little disillusioned with railroads, Kevin returned to school to get his MBA in Finance and Marketing from the University of Dallas. He began structuring creative financial transactions, initially as a commercial lender and later as both an investment banker and a venture capitalist. While he knew he was good at what he did, railroads kept calling him and he couldn’t deny what ran in his veins.
During a grad school consulting project for Southwest Airlines, Kevin witnessed a culture that was “diametrically opposed to what I had experienced at the railroad.” Southwest’s Chairman, Herb Kelleher, had stated, “We at Southwest Airlines feel like we have a company bound by love, not by fear.” This concept of employees first stuck with Kevin and he began consulting with companies that desired to develop a similar culture, which ultimately led to the acquisition of his own employee-owned railroad.
Kevin and his fellow investors acquired a 126-mile rail line running north out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, structured such that the employees owned 60 percent of the company. After seven years of running the railroad in this conscientious, employee-driven business model, the company was sold at a significant gain, which benefited the hardworking employees the most. “I just wanted to make a difference in people’s lives,” Kevin said.
In 2010, Kevin moved to Evergreen and became active in the Evergreen Area Chamber of Commerce, Blue Spruce Habitat for Humanity, and Mountain Area Land Trust (MALT). He lived in different locations in Evergreen for a decade until he moved down the hill at the end of 2020.
As a serial entrepreneur and self-proclaimed risk-taker, Kevin has allowed his insatiable curiosity for life experiences to guide him into an array of soul-feeding opportunities. He owned a BBQ food truck in Denver with his son, became a licensed spiritual practitioner, knocked the rust off of his pilot’s license, and purchased and operated the iconic Denver train store, Caboose, until its COVID-related closing.
Now, Kevin is actively seeking property in Evergreen that will house his 1967-era model of the Monon Railroad in Southern Indiana, designed to operate just as the original railroad did with the same trains serving the same towns and industries. While this may seem a child’s dream, model railroading is a large community in which many individuals participate. Kevin attends “Operating Sessions,” where other train enthusiasts meet up in a person’s home and actually operate (“using headphones and switching yards”) a model railroad, where every detail serves a purpose and is representative of the original.
Kevin Ruble is what one might call a multipotentialite—a person who has many interests and acts upon them. He is a man who has followed his instincts and heart in order to become his best self and help others. Of course, he’s had his share of life’s punches, but views them more as opportunities for growth. In regard to Kevin “never having grown up,” maybe we should all consider being a little more child-like in our approach to life, and seek adventure, follow curiosity, and continue to play. It seems to have done a world of good for Kevin.