Frank Arbuckle, Colorado Railroader: Union Pacific's Constituent Railroads (1913-1959)

by Edward Arbuckle

  • Frank Arbuckle, Colorado Railroader:  Union Pacific's Constituent Railroads (1913-1959)

    Frank circa 1940

  • Frank Arbuckle, Colorado Railroader:  Union Pacific's Constituent Railroads (1913-1959)

    Frank circa 1941

My father Frank Arbuckle (Buck) was born in 1877, was raised in Kansas, and went railroading in 1906.

In 1913, he joined one of Union Pacific's constituent railroads, The Denver and Salt Lake Railroad (the Moffat Road) as a trainman, working there until 1946. He then worked with the UP-constituent railroad, the Denver & Rio Grande Western, from the time of the Moffat merger (circa 1946) until his retirement in 1959.

The Moffat was completed from Denver to its terminus, Craig, Colo., around 1913, and Rollins Pass, 50 miles west of Denver at 11,660 feet, with its 4 percent grade and months of arctic-like blizzards, dominated Moffat railroad operations, economics and the lives of employees.

Buck, based in Denver as conductor, worked Rollins Pass freight and in the winter worked snowplow trains over the Pass with its hazards, such as snarled trains; out-of-water tenders; and track laborers shoveling from snow precipices to clear a plow's blades and refill tenders. The single experience from that time that he shared with me was that of being stranded 30 days on the Pass because of repetitive blizzards!

My father already was 22 years into his railroad career when I was born, but when I was nine, I occasionally made trips with him. A few miles after departure, and after eating my precious box of animal crackers, I was asleep, sprawled in a chair car seat.

Original plans were that my father would retire in 1942, at the age of 65, and he would move back to where his railroad career began: Nickerson, Kan. But everything changed in December 1941 with Pearl Harbor. He knew there would be a huge need for railroad workers to serve the war effort, and retirement was out!

He finally did retire in 1959, at the age of 82, still in excellent health, with 53 years of railroad service, 46 of which were with Union Pacific's constituent railroads. Well before his retirement, the use of the Moffat Station was history. The train register, his locker, and watch check now were deep in the DUT (Denver Union Terminal), itself an edifice of change in regional Denver.

Buck was a witness to a large segment of spectacular Colorado railroad history, and he was part of that history. He passed away in 1973 at the age of 96, and was buried at the Goleta, Calif., Cemetery, just yards from the Union Pacific Coastline main.

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Denver, CO-Winter Park, CO
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