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Railroaders' Nostalgia > The "Ancients"


Date: 02/06/21 09:26
The "Ancients"
Author: eminence_grise

Shortly before I retired as an operating employee, a younger co-worker came to me with a question. It was then that I learned that amongst the younger employees, some of us were referred to as the "Ancients".

Throughout my working years and beyond, I got to meet some of the truly "Ancients", railroaders who had lived to be 100 or older.

Gene was the oldest operating employee I ever met, he was 104 at the time I met him in the early 1980's. I was chatting with his grand nephew, also a locomotive engineer when he spotted Gene working on his garden. I was warned that Gene didn't like to talk railroading, so instead we admired his vegetable patch.  Gene apparently had an interesting career and was quite outspoken in his day. He was involved in a serious wreck at some time. He still had a French accent eighty years after leaving Quebec. He was happy and content and had put the past behind him.

"L.R." was also 104 when I met him. He had risen from trainman all the way to a corporate vice-president. He was attending a re-union of the employees near the place he started on the railway. He credited his long life to keeping busy. He was the "nuts and bolts" manager of the railway
who took an interest in everything that took place on the system, and could be relied upon to explain the why and wherefore of what was going on to his superiors. He outlived many of them by being involved but not letting  it stress him. He lived to be 107.

At the same reunion, there was a steam shovel operator who was over 100. Most of his career with the railway was spent loading rock and ballast into freight cars from a trackside quarry.  Sometime early on, he had been seriously injured and was found a job which would accommodate his disability. So it was that he and that steam powered Bucyrus Erie shovel worked away together for forty plus years.

Thelma was a crew clerk. She always had an active and involved personal life. Her dad emigrated from Belfast,Ireland as a boilermaker and found employment working and maintaining stationary boilers  for the railway. He was initially stationed in Vancouver BC. As a young lady, Thelma became part of the social life of that city in the 1920's.  She was still living at home when her father was transferred to a small railroad town. Thelma was not happy and planned on moving out on her own as soon as she was old enough. She was in a funk, but decided to join in a community Christmas dance. She met a young man at the dance whom she later married and had a family. She always carried on in community activities and developed a network of friends for the rest of her life. She worked as a crew caller at the roundhouse. Thelma was always polite and well dressed. She worked alongside Darlene, a big brash women whose style of dress was exuberant, and was loud and colourful in her style of speech.  However, Thelma and Darlene were the perfect "tag team" when it came to dealing with unruly engineers and firemen and were truly appreciated for their clerical skills.

I'm sure a few of my generation of railroaders will live to be over 100.  From the diverse background of the four "Ancients" I met, I think it likely that those who will make it past 100 will be just as diverse.



Date: 02/06/21 12:02
Re: The "Ancients"
Author: Northeaster

A number of years ago, I worked with a great woman, Lynn Peters Adler, who wrote several books about 100 year old people and I met at least a hundred of these "Centenarians." One of the most consistent features of these long living men and women was their sense of humor which along with the ability to "shift gears" when confronted with insurmountable  misfortune such as death of a spouse. The oldest fellow I met was a Dane who lived to the age of 114 and had smoked cigars, 3 a day, until two years before his death. They all were very interesting people but none considered themselves as anything special. If you have a chance to speak with a very elderly person, take the time to do so because they very likely have some grand stories to tell.



Date: 02/06/21 13:10
Re: The "Ancients"
Author: OldPorter

eminence_grise Wrote:

> Thelma was a crew clerk. She always had an active
> and involved personal life. Her dad emigrated from
> Belfast,Ireland as a boilermaker and found
> employment working and maintaining stationary
> boilers  for the railway. He was initially
> stationed in Vancouver BC. As a young lady, Thelma
> became part of the social life of that city in the
> 1920's. 

Thank you for the interesting Post. About the "ancients." I have a good friend who lost her decades-old job (with TWA) back in the '90s during the Icahn takeover.
They called the highest seniority workers "dinosaurs."  Just as an after thought- I wonder if Thelma's father, being from Belfast in those days ever worked for Harland 
and Wolffe, as a boilermaker on the Titanic? That was the biggest job in Belfast then. it's certainly possible that he was involved with that heavy, difficult line of work
on the legendary doomed Ship.



Date: 02/06/21 13:57
Re: The "Ancients"
Author: eminence_grise

OldPorter Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
."  Just as an after thought- I wonder
> if Thelma's father, being from Belfast in those
> days ever worked for Harland 
> and Wolffe, as a boilermaker on the Titanic? That
> was the biggest job in Belfast then. it's
> certainly possible that he was involved with that
> heavy, difficult line of work
> on the legendary doomed Ship.

It is possible, he was a skilled craftsman before he left Belfast.  Canadian Pacific had UK based ocean liners which sailed from Liverpool. CP always used Clyde built liners but certainly would have needed boilermakers.  



Date: 02/10/21 03:08
Re: The "Ancients"
Author: Texican65

I’ve worked alongside conductors and engineers in their 70’s...

Never met a rail over 100 however...I didn’t think that many of us made it that far. Glad to hear that some have.

Cool stories...thanks for sharing.

Posted from iPhone



Date: 02/10/21 10:57
Re: The "Ancients"
Author: Trainhand

In the past couple of years 2 engineers that I fired for died one was about 4 months from 100 the other had just turned 99.



Date: 02/19/21 10:44
Re: The "Ancients"
Author: Pacific5th

When I went to work out of Wishram there was a older man that would come down to the depot nearly every day. He rode a power chair down as he was in his 90's. He had retiered off the BN as a clerk but had started on the SP&S. He always had candy and just wated to talk with the guys wether it be some TY&E, Trainmaster or the ocasional MOW guy that would come in. I heard he passes a few years ago. Nice guy.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/25/21 14:10 by Pacific5th.



Date: 02/23/21 18:40
Re: The "Ancients"
Author: johnsweetser

Pacific5th Wrote:

> When I went to work out of Wishram there was a older man that would come down to the depot nearly every day ...
He always had casndy and just wated to talk with the guys ...

What is "casndy?"
 



Date: 02/24/21 10:07
Re: The "Ancients"
Author: OSWishram

Word has it from those who know that fellow in Wishram was Clerk T. W. "Ted" Newman, with S.P.& S. seniority date of 7/29/1946, who retired in 1987 and was 81 years old when he died in 2007.  A member of "The Family."

Bob Willer



Date: 02/25/21 14:11
Re: The "Ancients"
Author: Pacific5th

OSWishram Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Word has it from those who know that fellow in
> Wishram was Clerk T. W. "Ted" Newman, with S.P.&
> S. seniority date of 7/29/1946, who retired in
> 1987 and was 81 years old when he died in 2007. 
> A member of "The Family."
>
> Bob Willer

Thank you for filling that in. He was a nice guy to talk with when waiting for trains. I must have met he shortly before he passed. I worked there in early 2007 for a few months. 



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