My railroad career began in 1969 as a Southern Pacific secretary in San Francisco, but 2-1/2 years later I took a job as a guaranteed extra-board clerk at Los Angeles’ Taylor Yard on April 10, 1972. The move was a very eye-opening experience.
Back then, women weren’t well received in the male-dominated rail industry, and many uncomplimentary comments with colorful language were made to make me uncomfortable. But not for this woman. I was there to learn and do a job.
One of those first jobs was processing arriving and departing trains. An IBM card had to be keypunched to represent every rail car moving inbound or outbound through the yard. Each rail car had a waybill assigning its destination that also had to be keypunched – a very labor-intense process. It’s amazing to see how far technology has come. Today, Electric Data Interchange (EDI) billing goes directly from the customer to the central billing department in Omaha.
Throughout my career I worked both inside and outside the office – in the railyard. The worst job was being a “mud hop” – working in the yard verifying rail cars on inbound and outbound trains, come rain or shine. In lousy weather it was unpleasant work. The men thought I would get discouraged and quit, but not this woman. I just put one foot in front of the other and kept going.
I worked several jobs in those early years, including as a weighmaster generating scale tickets for rail car billing purposes; a car distributor taking customer cars orders for certain types of rail cars to be placed at the customer’s dock for loading; and a claims inspector of damaged freight at the 8th Street Team Track.
In 1974, I tried my hand at “the piggyback ramp” – also known as the intermodal yard. The atmosphere at the ramp was the opposite of Taylor Yard – no “good ole boys club,” just plain, down-to-earth employees. Fortunately, there were more female employees working at this facility than Taylor Yard. Entrance into this department was well received and this ramp has been my home for most my career except during one major event: The Union Pacific-Southern Pacific merger.
At that time, I travelled to Omaha and received extensive training on Net Control, TCS and Oasis – an intermodal software program. I became a district field analyst assigned to train select SP employees on Union Pacific computer processes. I visited all the intermodal ramps systemwide conducting classes. During this 12-year span, I also taught software programs to other departments, including the Locomotive and Car departments, Crew Dispatching and Maintenance of Way.
When DFA jobs were abolished in December 2007, I returned to my intermodal roots.
I’ve seen so many advances in how trailers are loaded onto flatcars over the years. In the beginning, this was done through a roll-on, roll-off process where trailers were literally driven onto the rail car and locked in place ready for movement. Then along came piggy-packer lift equipment, and soon after, the arrival of Gantry (straddle) cranes.
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Today, outside trucking companies use automatic gates and process their units via kiosk computer with no intervention by rail personnel unless they encounter a waybilling problem or pick-up number issue.
Through the years I've seen a lot of changes in the rail industry, including more female employees working in the transportation and craft sectors. There has been a lot of progress and I can only imagine what's in store for the future.