Jim, Kevin and UP Steam

by Jim Coker

  • Jim, Kevin and UP Steam

    (l to r:) Kevin and Jim Coker on UP's Great Excursion Adventure, 2011

  • Jim, Kevin and UP Steam

    (l to r:) Kevin Coker, Jim Coker and Jim Leonard, 2011

I would have to say that after spending 41 years working for Union Pacific Railroad, it has been a great trip.

In 2009, with the unexpected passing of Reed Jackson - the conductor with the Steam Team - I was excited when Steve Lee called and asked if I would be interested in taking that position. Steve was a legend in the railroad world, having run our steam engines all over the country for 25 years. My daughter and son are grown and out of the house, so a really cool benefit to the job was that my wife Kim would be able to be along with me all of the time. She worked in the souvenir car with the other crew spouses.

My first trip was in October 2009, traveling to Denver for the Chief of Police National Conference. It was amazing to me how many people followed us down to Denver and back to Cheyenne along the highway.

I soon learned how many details big and small must be taken care of to have a flawless trip. Darwin Brown had been the brakeman for Reed Jackson for many years on the excursions, and he was one of the best switchmen I had come across. It was a pleasure to have him onboard for these trips.

In November 2010, we celebrated 50 years of the UP 844 being put into special excursion service. Darwin Brown was retiring at the end of the year and Steve Lee allowed me two brakeman -- Darwin and my brother Kevin Coker. Kevin has 37 years with Union Pacific and knows his job inside and out. It was one of the most memorable trips that I have had since starting with UP. Kevin then became the regular brakeman for Steam.

I cannot tell you how much fun and enjoyable it is working along side your brother. We had worked freight service for many years as brakeman together on the same turn and always got the job done right. We traveled together on the Steam Train to many points on the UP System. Our travels took us to Omaha, Portland, St. Louis, El Paso, Tucson, Phoenix, Colton, Vegas and many more beautiful locations. Kevin and I were raised in North Platte, where both of our Grandfathers and our Dad worked for UP, so going through North Platte with the Steam Train was always special for us.

I know that my story is not unique, there have been many families on the UP that also have had many generations that have worked together. Our family history with UP continues beyond Kevin and me. My son just celebrated his 10-year anniversary with UP this month! We are proud to have worked for such an outstanding company for the last 86 years.

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Family, Working at UP
North Platte, NE-Cheyenne, WY
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  • I was fortunate enough to ride on the "Great Excursion Adventure" train between Kansas City and St. Louis with these guys, and it was an absolute pleasure.

    I was also able to get this picture of Jim looking out of the door of the observation car - it's one of my favorite photos:

    - Nick Benson a few years ago
  • I have just learned of the passing of UP Steam Conductor Reed Jackson! I first saw Mr. Jackson on the PBS Documentary
    "Hear The Train A Comin' almost 5 months ago. I took to him right away! :) Oh, how I wish I'd had the opportunity to meet and talk to him! I've only ever heard fantastic things about Reed and I would like to add a photo of Reed with his wife, Martha, and his daughters as a memorial to him. Also I'm a member of the Railroad Evangelistic Association and a railroad evangelist thus I consider ALL railroaders my brothers and sisters including Mr. Reed Jackson. Even though I have never had the opportunity to meet in person, my heart is broken and Reed is sorely missed! :( Thankx!

    - Cheryl Lengyel a couple of years ago