150 Years with Uncle Pete

by Richard Flebbe

  • 150 Years with Uncle Pete

    1907 First assignment as new Engineer

  • 150 Years with Uncle Pete

    844 with Walter Flebbe, Ready to leave North Platte, 1940s

  • 150 Years with Uncle Pete

    8444 with (Paul) Richard Flebbe, Omaha Shops 1974

With three generations of railroaders, our families service to the UP began in 1898 with my grandfather, Walter H. Flebbe, who began his career as a callboy. He worked hard and rose through the ranks, eventually being promoted to engineer in 1907. Based in North Platte, he retired in 1947 after a last run on the City of San Francisco.

Two of his sons would follow in his footsteps: Elmer, who worked as telegrapher, and later became the West-bound Dispatcher, also at North Platte. He, too, served well over 40 years, and raised two sons that would become railroaders - Ron, who worked in the Lab at North Platte for several years, and Carl, who apparently drew the short straw. He worked with a track crew for one summer and decided this was not for him!

Walter's other son, Paul E. Flebbe (my father), started as an engine cleaner in 1927, and was Research & Standards Engineer at his passing in 1974. During his railroad career, he attended Purdue, where he earned a B.S in Mechanical Engineering, graduating in 1937. After graduation, he returned to UP, and by 1939 was Assistant Engineer of Road Tests. Later, he took a couple of breaks from the UP to serve in the military as enginehouse foreman and superintendent of shops in India from 1943-1945, and as Superintendent of shops at Inchon from 1951-52. Between his two stints with the military, he was promoted to Engineer of Road Tests for UP. In 1968, he was finally appointed to the position of Research and Standards Engineer, overseeing the entire research department. He was instrumental in developing UP 110, a “test” car loaded with electronics for performing road tests on locos and cars.

As an Officer of the UP, one of the perks my father enjoyed was a free rail pass for the family. As I was growing up in the 1960s, we always took summer vacations via Streamliners. The service and the beauty of the scenery on these vacations is permanently etched in my memory. These were, "The Best of Times."

When I graduated high school, it was just a few short months before I began as a Machinist Apprentice at the Omaha Shops. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work on the 8444, as well as the Big Boy that went on display at the shop complex. I enjoyed sixteen years in the shops, until they were closed in 1989.

There are a lot of great memories, and I am fortunate to have a number of photos and memorabilia, particularly of the Steam era, showing my Grandfather powering across the plains or just getting ready to leave the yard.

Thanks, Uncle Pete.

(Paul) Richard Flebbe

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Passenger Trains, Steam Trains, Family, Working at UP
Omaha, NE-North Platte, NE
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