It doesn't seem like I've been with the railroad 50 years, but on the other hand, it does feel like I've had this job all my life. I like it -- I've always liked it. And since I begged for it in the first place, it's hard to just walk away.
After high school in 1961, I had friends who worked for the railroad, and the process for getting a job at that time was to go to the trainmaster's office and ask the secretary. So I did.
I kept coming back for a year, with no results. Finally one time, the secretary said she had just hired five brakemen for the summer, and I was so disappointed. But, she said, "You've been coming in quite often, so if one of them fails the physical, I'll call you." And she did. I hired on for the summer of 1962 ... and well, it's been a long summer!
In 1964, the track washed out high in the Cascades - Noisy Creek. At the time, my girlfriend worked as a crew dispatcher, and when I called in, she said all the jobs had been cancelled as a result. So, I went out with friends, and not long after I got home and crawled into bed, the phone rang. I thought I was going out for a 50-mile deadhead, so, off I went. But something changed, and the next thing I knew, we were headed to Bend, Ore. I had only the clothes on my back, and no money - but it was payday, so that part worked out.
We went to Crescent Lake, out in the snow, and switched propane cars on the night shift. There was a passenger train on the siding by the washout, and that's where we lived. We worked Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day together. We sang to each other to mark the occasions -- and I spent two weeks in those same clothes. But everybody pulled together because we wanted to get the railroad back up and running. I was barely 20 at the time, and after two weeks of continuous pay, with everything else paid for by the company, that turned out the be the biggest paycheck I'd ever seen!
Fifty years later, I was invited to the 2012 Union Pacific Shareholders Meeting in Salt Lake City, where I was honored for my years of service. I took my son with me, and he and I met all the Company Officers, and stood together before the stockholders and officers and politicians as the whole room clapped for us. What a great feeling. I will never forget it.