I joined the railroad as a way to save money for college, but in the process was building a legacy that began with my grandfather, Homer Rankin.
Homer, a 40-year railroader and World War I veteran, worked as a machinist in the car shop in Palestine, Texas.
Those were the days when machinists ran machines such as turret lathes, engine lathes and drill presses to make parts for rail cars and locomotives. My father, Bill Rankin, began his career in 1949 working in the freight claims department in Palestine. He transferred to Harlingen, Texas, about 30 miles north of the Mexico border, as a claims agent and later promoted to district claims manager in Houston and assistant to the general claims attorney in St. Louis.
When the Missouri Pacific merged with UP, my father moved to the Dallas claims office. He retired in 1985, returning to Palestine, where he lived until his death in 2003. He served 10 years in the Texas National Guard during the Korean War Era.
As a high school senior, I unloaded boxcars for Southern Pacific in Harlingen. After graduation, I also went to work for the Missouri Pacific, gaining permission to work for both railroads.
In 1977, I moved to Houston as a clerk, where I worked for various departments. I transferred to San Antonio in 1989 as a claims representative. I later promoted to senior claims representative, senior claims specialist and district claims manager..
My brother Randy worked summer breaks as a B&B carpenter's helper and relief clerk in the 1970s. My son Chris worked for the railroad as a trainman based in San Antonio.
In addition, my cousin Jerry Wilmoth is general manager-network infrastructure in Roseville. Jerry's father, Garland, worked in Palestine as a brakeman. My uncle Fred Lasiter was a brakeman in Harlingen.