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Railroaders' Nostalgia > Oakway memory

Date: 09/27/21 05:00
Oakway memory
Author: santafe199

In October of 1987 I was into my 5th month of employment with regional DM&E in Pierre, SD. I was thrilled to be working full time again after 6 long years of reaganomics recession leading to my personal bankruptcy, complete with a house foreclosure & an automobile repossession. But as a former Santa Fe train service employee in Emporia, KS I was beginning to really dislike my “new life” in South Dakota working on a branch line railroad that was still suffering from years of little or no maintenance during its C&NW tenure. Consider this: Going from 70 MPH intermodals & 90 MPH Amtrak with Santa Fe to a mostly 10 & 5 MPH, broken down branch line operation in South Dakota was not very conducive to a cheery personal disposition.

But something was stirring! All summer long in South Dakota we were hearing rumors and bits of news about some brand-new RR outfit starting up in Montana. Apparently BN was spinning off one of its main lines across the “Treasure State”. Intrigued, I kept a close eye on its development. In October when Montana Rail Link startup was a just-around-the-corner reality I took some previously granted time off from DM&E, packed my car with a week’s worth of clothes and other anticipated supplies and headed for Missoula, Montana. I had intended to go back home to Emporia to spend a week just kicking back with a few friends from my old gang. But remote as it was, the possibility of MRL employment had captured my full attention.

Starting out of Pierre, SD after working all day I drove all the way (9 hours, give or take) out to Missoula and grabbed a motel room around 4:30 AM. At about 9:30 I woke up to the sound of a train rolling by outside my room on the other side of East Broadway. I peeked out the window in time to see an eastbound BN SD40-2 followed by this blue & white EMD “demonstrator” looking unit. I would later learn it was part of a huge leasing arrangement BN had with EMD. As an ex-Santa Fe trainman it was gratifying to see a real main line manifest again. And as a railfan it was interesting, and maybe a little bit providential to see a previously unknown paint scheme.

Long story-condensed: I did get hired by MRL. I was the very first non-BN, non-engineer hired. At its 10-31-87 start up MRL was desperate for anyone with legitimate RR experience, and I was just what they were looking for. I established my new seniority that afternoon on a 3 PM switch engine. Later on it would occur to me that the 9 years of Santa Fe seniority I was forced to sell-out on had been replaced by about 25 years-worth of seniority with this new outfit. I was thrilled on so many different levels! And seeing & working with an EMD Oakway would become a constant and very pleasant reminder that my life had taken a huge turn for the better...

1. EMD “Oakway” 9013 leads a unit coal train at Reno, WY on June 3, 1987. On this day, my 32nd birthday, I was working my regular “Pierre Wayfreight” job in Pierre, SD. In 5 months I would be working for MRL in the Rocky Mountains of Montana.
Original Kodachrome slide by our own Jim Hickey, aka “highgreengraphics” (thank you, Jim!)
Trader slide from the collection of my late friend & KS Gang bro John Arbuckle.

Thanks for looking back!
Lance Garrels (santafe199)
Remembering the late John Arbuckle, aka “The Chief Way”

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 09/27/21 05:06 by santafe199.

Date: 09/27/21 06:01
Re: Oakway memory
Author: Notch7

Great picture and personal story.  Eventually we got to see some Oakways in NC on either Powder River runthroughs or repaying HP hours.  Probably both.

Date: 09/27/21 12:19
Re: Oakway memory
Author: 3rdswitch


Date: 09/27/21 13:50
Re: Oakway memory
Author: highgreengraphics

Great story! I nearly bit at MRL, too, but decided against moving. There was a BN operator in that little Reno depot that almost made me wish I was not married! She was good for train location lineups. No operator there any more... === === = === JLH

Date: 09/28/21 05:39
Re: Oakway memory
Author: texchief1

Great story and a great phot to match!

RC Lundgren

Date: 09/29/21 05:07
Re: Oakway memory
Author: CNW8531

That shot brings back a lot of good memories.  I worked the Coal Line and been by that spot many times.  Had a lot of fun back then and learned quite a bit too.  The Coal Line was so much different than running on the east-west main line across Iowa.  It was a great time and I miss those days.  Glad for all the memories though!

Date: 10/31/21 11:14
Re: Oakway memory
Author: santafe199

Thank you, Todd!

Posted from iPhone

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