UP Joe Passentino

by Joel Harrison

  • UP Joe Passentino

    UP Joe in the cab of the UP 4466.

  • UP Joe Passentino

    UP Joe during maintenance duties with the UP 4466.

  • UP Joe Passentino

    UP Joe in the cab during excursion service along the Sacramento River.

UP Joe Passentino - Mr. Union Pacific. Anyone who had met UP Joe knew right away how much he cared about the railroad. Joe worked for the UP early on in his life and had many stories of his adventures during that time.

Actually, Joe started his railroad career very early, somewhere around the age of 15 when he ran away from home to work on the Illinois Central. His father worked for the railroad too, so Joe had it in his blood for sure. Joe also spent time working on the New York Central and had a great story about firing one of the steam locomotives that had a water scoop on the tender to receive water "on-the-fly." The story goes that he didn't get the scoop up time and just tore it off going 60 mph.

Joe knew many people on the Union Pacific and they were always glad to see him. He traveled often to Omaha, Cheyenne, Green River and many other locations on the railroad. Any time the 844 was running, Joe would be there to assist (which many times there was a maintenance issue that Joe had expertise in). Oftentimes when the 844 was out, Joe had a car for him and his wife Jodie. Joe knew presidents of the railroad, officers, and many, many of the operations people, all who revered him as he revered them as well. Everyone knew UP Joe.

During his golden years (living in Sacramento), Joe worked for the California State Railroad Museum. He was instrumental in the restoration of the Union Pacific steam switch engine 4466 to operating condition. He coordinated with the railroad who also offered three employees to assist in the restoration process. The locomotive became a showpiece, not only for the CSRM but also for the Union Pacific, operating several times for Operation Life Saver, pulling and switching the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus train, UP Old Timers special trains, and representing the Union Pacific at Steam Expo (1986) in Vancouver, British Columbia. The Canadians coined the title of "Raging Bull" for the locomotive as they were impressed greatly by the stature of this switch engine, how tall she stood and how powerful she was. They were so impressed, they invited the locomotive over to an active switch yard to help build trains for the Canadian National.

The locomotive ran regularly in excursion service (under Joe's watchful eye) along the Sacramento River for the museum's Sacramento Southern Railroad, again showing off the heritage of a Union Pacific 0-6-0 coal-burning switch engine. Following that, Joe also promoted the UP 4466 in other railroad fairs and displays around the state. Joe was a walking encyclopedia regarding facts of the Union Pacific, especially steam engines and their operations.

As a person, Joe was the best. Everyone that had the pleasure of knowing UP Joe knew he had a heart of gold.

Last but not least, Joe also had a G scale (garden railroad) in his backyard. Needless to say, Joe's collection was almost every locomotive and rolling stock produced that had the Union Pacific logo on it. He delighted in having friends over for bar-b-ques and celebrations, when he was sure to use all the Union Pacific serving utensils, plates, napkins, etc. from his collection, which gave him great pride.

There are not enough (or appropriate) words to convey how great this man was and his love for the Union Pacific.

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Steam Trains, Historical Events, Working at UP
Sacramento, CA
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  • i was very fortunate to have worked with UP JOE for several years at CSRM/SSRR-he was truly salt of the earth--a bit crusty but lovable all same--i was also lucky to have trained as steam fireman on the UP 4466-still love this locomotive.thanks for the memories and new info about UP JOE----JOEL...BRAVO!!

    - DARYL MUCK a few years ago
  • My Dad work for S.P. RailRoad for 42 Years my Uncle and Cousin work at The Hardy street Shop with Red Adair

    - Glen Baker a few years ago