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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Info on Boomers

Date: 03/25/17 12:51
Info on Boomers
Author: 1019X

I know that the term Boomer was used for railroad employees that moved around the country from railroad to railroad. I know in today's world with all of the HR regulations nobody is doing this but was wondering when the practice died out? I have read that some moved around based on seasonal traffic rushes. What would be some typical locations and railroads that these boomers would have migrated to in the winter?

Thanks in advance for your help.

Date: 03/25/17 21:48
Re: Info on Boomers
Author: jointauthority

People aren't doing this anymore? You sure about that one?

I'd beg to differ.

Posted from Android

Date: 03/26/17 08:33
Re: Info on Boomers
Author: 1019X

I suppose so with all of the short lines, my experience with class ones is that with all the EEO and HR requirements dictating who can be hired,I assumed the possibilty of bouncing from one class one to another is more limited than it once was.

Date: 03/26/17 09:25
Re: Info on Boomers
Author: PHall

Your "logic" works for people who get fired for cause, but for people who move and change employers to follow the available work, it wouldn't apply.

Date: 03/26/17 22:05
Re: Info on Boomers
Author: aaronhanson

1019X Wrote:
> I suppose so with all of the short lines, my
> experience with class ones is that with all the
> EEO and HR requirements dictating who can be
> hired,I assumed the possibilty of bouncing from
> one class one to another is more limited than it
> once was.

The conventional wisdom with corporate HR:  job hoppers are bad.  I went to a group interview and discovered that a fair amount had short line experience.  I didn't meet anyone with previous class one experience.  the hr people seemed to expect no railroad experience, while the operations people I met, like the safety rep, assumed most of the applicants had experience. 

Date: 03/28/17 10:53
Re: Info on Boomers
Author: dcfbalcoS1

      Many companies hiring are so confused by the crapolla coming from add agencies and the fact that the people doing the hiring 'never did the job themselves' that they don't know what to do or screw it up. Some want idiots that they believe they can train to do the job only as they in their wisdom see it being done. Others want experienced people that can step right in AS LONG as those people do the job as the HR people see it being done and the new hires shut their mouth. Companies hiring also want experienced people that can step right in and they will pay them $8.75 an hour which they consider to be excellent pay.
     Listen to some of the commercials on the radio. You would think the SNL crowd made these up as jokes with all the whining they do.

     I don't know if it is possible to do much ' booming ' now days.

           I've watched guys switching now walk back over to the point area and wave their hand up and down the track as though they are assuring themselves it is okay but don't know what a set of points is. I have asked two so far and they have a deer in the head light look. Not a clue but if someone has experience, oh hell no. You can't get in.

Date: 03/30/17 09:02
Re: Info on Boomers
Author: 1019X

Thanks for all of the responses, I should have made a better explanation of what I was looking for. I have a writer friend that is considering a novel involving a minor league baseball player who has to work at another job during the off season. I have suggested a Boomer Railroader. That was why I was asking which railroads back in probably the 40s or 50s, that would have had seasonal traffic increases requiring hiring additional workers.

Date: 03/30/17 12:54
Re: Info on Boomers
Author: mapboy

Have him read "The Boomer: A Story of the Rails" by Harry Bedwell.  It's about boomer Eddie Sand.  These stories were commonly featured in "Railroad" magazine many years ago.  Like the farmworkers that followed the harvest from Texas into Canada, many boomers followed that trail.  The boomers probably headed south in the winter to restart the cycle.  The Imperial Valley in California (an SP stronghold) would be one of the first places to start harvesting in the yearly cycle.  South Florida and Texas' Rio Grande Valley would be other places.  

Get a railroad map from the '40s era and pick a large railroad in South Florida.  There's more retirees down that way that might buy a novel like this.


Date: 03/30/17 16:57
Re: Info on Boomers
Author: OHCR1551

Baseball and railroads? You got my attention!

Even major leaguers back then had winter jobs, went to play in Mexico or the Caribbean, or otherwise boosted income by any means necessary (Honus Wagner was a coal miner. Back in his day, most mines were off from April to September, so he didn't usually miss a lot of work.) Without doing research myself, I'd guess he'd be most in demand around harvest and during the Thanksgiving-Christmas travel rush. Most minor leagues end their season at the end of August these days. Cooperstown doubtless has the start and end dates from the pertinent years and leagues. That was a very interesting era and I wish your friend all the best.


Rebecca Morgan
Jacobsburg, OH

Date: 04/01/17 00:58
Re: Info on Boomers
Author: rabidcats

The "classic era" of the boomer, popularized by railroad authors such as Harry Bedwell, "Haywire Mac" McClintock, Maxwell Swan and others, began to wind down around World War I.  The preceding several decades were the time of (mostly) switchmen and brakemen following the various seasonal "rushes" -- grapes, potatoes, wheat and iron ore on the Missabe.  In the mid-'60's I worked with an old switchman who told me, "When the ore was moving they even hired cripples."  He stated, "I worked with a one-armed car handler who who could switch more more cars in eight hours than any man with two good arms!"  I also worked with an oldtimer who had been employed by thirty-some railroads; had been a passenger conductor many years before and lost his seniority rights in a strike.  He also told me, "I served on a prison chain gang down South, but Railroad Retirement won't credit me -- they said it was the wrong kind of chain gang service!"  In the 1980's I worked with a boomer--a "local boomer"--who had switched on every road in the greater Chicago area before coming to Los Angeles.  There were always the "home guards" who hired out and stayed put with the intent of climbing the seniority roster; then there was the footloose boomers who worked long enough to get a few dollars ahead before "pulling the pin" and seeing what was around the next corner.  The best short story about boomers is "Switchman's Boots" aka "Toothless Mooney" by Harry McClintock which recycled over the years in the pulp pages of the old Railroad Magazine.

Date: 04/02/17 14:53
Re: Info on Boomers
Author: Copy19

Recommend Boomers, Railroad Memoirs by Linda G. Niemann for a modern, unvarnished view.

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 04/05/17 05:58 by Copy19.

Date: 04/03/17 23:01
Re: Info on Boomers
Author: 3rdswitch

With todays "system" seniority on some roads (BNSF for one) there are still some "sorta" boomers who bid from division to division. I also know a few that years ago took leaves of absences just to work on new short lines for a few months.

Date: 04/04/17 11:37
Re: Info on Boomers
Author: 1019X

Thanks to everyone who has responded. I hope I can sell my writer friend on this story line. He is currently working on  a 1940s crime mystery which includes some action on a train. I have helped him with some of the details such as railroad terms and operating practices.


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