1st African American Locomotive Engineer

by Mrs.William A. Riley, Sr.

1st African American Locomotive Engineer

William A. Riley, Sr.

My late husband, William A. Riley, Sr., was the first African American Locomotive Engineer to be hired at Bailey Yard. Bill started his UPRR career in October 1968. Bill passed away while on duty Sept. 18, 2011. Bill had logged over 2 MILLION miles on the rails, with no major mishaps. Bill hired out right after Martin Luther King was killed. Bill fought racism with grace and dignity, and earned the respect of his peers through hard work and professionalism.

Several months before Bill's passing, he was inducted into The Golden Spike Visitors' Center and Museum Hall of Fame, here in North Platte, as North Platte's first African American Locomotive Engineer.. Bill's story and many of his railroad personal items, are on public display at "The Spike." On display are several of Bill's many safety awards and photos of Bill running the locomotives are being added.

During Bill's funeral procession, all of Bailey Yard paid their respect, and every locomotive for miles sounded their train horns in his honor. The official track order asking all on duty Engineers to sound their horns also is on display out at "The Spike." This is only the third time in the history of Bailey Yard that the horns have been sounded for an employees death.

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Historical Events, Working at UP
North Platte, NE
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  • What a legendary man.

    - Austin Mace a few years ago
  • Bill was one-of-a-kind and he is missed.

    - Joe Meuser a few years ago