Growing up in Portland, Ore., in the 1950s the railroad bug bit me early on. I read just about every railroad book in the library and bought a copy of Railroad Magazine or Trains whenever I could afford it. I also wrote to as many railroads as I could, asking for anything they could send me. As a result, I received many timetables, copies of the Association of American Railroads’ Quiz and a few calendars.
All were gratefully received but none so much as the Union Pacific calendar. The scenery was always magnificent and the trains themselves seemed to exude limitless power. Early on I adopted the UP as “my” railroad and would seek out anything and everything I could find about it. I’d write to UP headquarters in Omaha (where my parents were from) every couple of months to see if there was anything new they could send me. They always sent something.
Only a mile from my home was a UP line with a small siding and several industrial leads. A friend and I would ride our bicycles there nearly every day and spend hours either waiting for a train to come by or to watch the local switch job service the industries. We were there so often that a railroad detective noticed us and asked what we were doing. When he discovered that we were enthusiastic railroad fans he told us many interesting facts, train schedules and how to be safe around a railroad.
When I was around 13 years old I again wrote to the Union Pacific and, as only a kid would do, asked if there was any way that I could see some yard operations up close. I didn’t really expect anything but one summer morning the phone rang, my mother answered it and in a somewhat puzzled voice said “Some man at the Union Pacific wants to speak with you.” The call was from an employee at the Union Pacific’s Albina Yard in Portland. He sounded somewhat puzzled, too, and said that he’d received instructions from Headquarters to give me a call and invite me to the yard for a tour and did I want to come? Did I!! I hightailed it to the yard and was given a tour which included the yard, the hump tower and even a look inside the cab of one of the EMD E6A diesel locomotives that pulled the “City of Portland” passenger train. It was quite an exciting day for a young kid.
When I was in the 8th grade, one of our projects was to show how industries served our community. Naturally, I chose to show the work that railroads did, and again wrote to the Union Pacific asking for any materials and statistics they might be able to provide. I promptly received several pieces of information regarding carloadings, industries served, people employed, etc. that enabled me to write a very comprehensive report.
All of these experiences showed me that the Union Pacific Railroad is a company that cares and makes a habit of going the extra mile, both for its customers and its fans, no matter how young they might be. It was my favorite railroad as a kid and remains so to this day.