I have many memories and stories of railroads. I am from a family of railroaders and then married a Union Pacific conductor. It was true love when I saw him in those railroad bibs.
My great-grandfather, William Lee Putman, worked for the Rio Grande in Soldier Summit and then Helper, Utah, in the late 1920s He filled the switch tender with kerosene. He controlled the red and green light switch.
His son, my grandfather, Henry Lee Putman, was in World War I serving in France. When he returned, he started working for the Rio Grande about 1920. He worked in Soldier Summit and Helper, Utah, as a locomotive machinist. He started working on the steam engine and then carried over to the diesel engines. The men would strike and he would have to hire out again. My dad remembers when he started to work at the Rio Grande watching his dad work so fast and diligently. He asked a coworker why he was working so fast and hard. The coworker said “Oh he always works like that.” He retired in 1955, after having a severe heart attack.
My dad Raymond Lee Putman, started working for the Rio Grande in Helper, Utah, about 1946, after returning from World War II serving in India. He worked as a carman helper, caboose supplyman and driving trucks. My parents moved to Salt Lake City in 1952 where my dad continued to work for the Rio Grande full time, and in 1953 started working part-time for the Union Pacific. After about a year he was working steady for both railroads and they made him make a choice. He then continued to work for the UP as a yardman, clerk and in accounting. He was an honest hard worker with humor. I've been told he added joy and humor to everyone's day. He has some interesting railroad stories that he now shares at 88 years old. He retired in December 1984.
Like I said, when I met my husband Brent M Jepson it was an omen. I loved those bibs since I was growing up, seeing my dad and grandfather in them. Brent has been a conductor for the Union Pacific Railroad since 1970. He started out as a switchman, brakeman and finally a conductor. He has been on the road ever since. Most of the railroaders start on the trains as young men and stay until retirement. They spend many hours on the road together, many days away from home, for many years. They become not only friends but railroad family.
My brother Michael Lee Putman worked for the Pacific Fruit Express for awhile in Idaho and Tacoma, Wash. He worked in the clerical department.
My mother grew up across from the railroad tracks in Helper, Utah. My mom always said they got use to the sound. When I was a child and we would visit my grandma, we would hear the engines running and the cars coupling. My mom said that was their normal. When she was a child she would run through the rail yard to get to the other side of town. Wow, dangerous for a child.
My sister was born in an old caboose that was made into an apartment in Kenilsworth Utah, once again a railroad connection.
A railroaders granddaughter, daughter and wife,
Linda Lee Putman Jepson