Railroaders - "Good People"

by Tommy Lightfoot

As a young boy, I was what we call in the industry, a “foamer.” I loved trains. This fascination probably was a result of my father working as a conductor on the MKT (Katy) railroad and growing up close to the Southern Pacific main line in Denison, Texas. Being a typical youngster, I loved to build tree houses, clubhouses and finally, a pretty good replica of a railroad control tower just yards away from the SP main track. After watching nearly every train that passed though Denison, I became known to the crews and soon was collecting money that they tossed off inside twisted paper water cups. On several occasions, an SP crew would stop their locomotive on the way to switch the Cotton Mill and I would climb aboard and ride with them to do their work and then they'd drop me off on the way back to finish making up their train.

Fast Forward 35 years.

The year was 1999 and as a director in the HDC working on the Southern region, I was asked to attend a Ft. Worth service unit quarterly staff meeting in Ft. Worth. Being the new director and eager to attend, I booked my flights and hotel stay. When asked to extend my stay another day so that I could participate in a meeting with service unit superintendent, Al Orrick, and union representatives, I was less than thrilled, but agreed. This “extra” meeting turned out to be one of the highlights of my career.

Al introduced me to two of the union representatives before our meeting. and the usual friendly background information was exchanged. My interest peaked when both said their careers began in Ennis, Texas, on the Southern Pacific “running” between Ennis and Denison, Texas. My next question was, "What year?" And to my surprise, both answered 1964.

They remembered the little rag-tag kid and makeshift tower in Denison, but would never admit to such a serious rules violation as allowing a trespasser to ride in their locomotive. We all had a good laugh and productive meeting, especially at the revelation that maybe I was not quite as impoverished as I looked. Just another example of railroaders being “Good People,”

Tommy Lightfoot
HDC Regional Superintendent - Northern Region

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Working at UP
Omaha, NE-Denison, TX
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