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A BIO OF THE  RAILROAD LIFE OF ROBERT  L. “BOB” FERGUSON

 

What was the first job on the MOPAC and what were the daily duties?

The duties consisted handling time cards from the 2nd shift of the Mechanical Department Employees, calling train and engine Crews for the Operating Department.  Crews living within a two mile area from the train yard were not required to have a telephone, therefore was required to go and notify them of the “CALL”.  Then perform any other duties as requested by the Roundhouse Foreman.

 

What was the most interesting job on the railroad you had?

Being Secretary to the Superintendent was very interesting, learned how the 'Leaders of the Pack' operated.  Also being appointed as Conducting Chairman for the Omaha Diviison and later the Western District Safety Program under Superintendent  R.L.McCoy and Jerry Everett allowed traveling to various points.  I was then given the honor by Mr. Bill Ray, District Safety Chairman, and Mr. Charles E. Baldwin, System Safety Chairman, to attend the Harimann Safety Awards in Washington, D.C in May 1980 and setting to the right hand of Mr. James W. Gessener,  President of the Missouri Pacific System during the ceremonies was quite an honor.  In October 1983 was invited to attend the First Accident Injury Prevention Summit Safety Meeting in North Little Rock, Arkansas and asked to serve as Chairman of the “A” Team.

 

What were your duties, what were the most interesting or challenging areas.

I had several different assignments in my 43 years of service, moving from the Mechanical Department to the Train and Yards Department after the Strike in September 1949, first working the 11:59 p.m. to 7:59 a.m. as a yard clerk, then moving up to the depot on a clerical swing position, calling crews, billing oil and grain shipments, handling company mail to and from the passenger trains, selling Tickets, etc.,    Trying to find what was the most interesting or challenging area, that possibly would have been maintaining the train and enginemen crew boards - making sure there were personnel available for the movement of trains.

 

What was the rest part of working of the Mopac?

I would say that the best part of any of my different positions that I had with the railroad was with the people that I can in contact with, of course receiving the paycheck was a a very good thing to have, the benefits of health insurance, and the weeks of vacation under the Union Contract was appreciated..

 

What did the railroad focus on as your daily responsibilities?

Working with the public both handling passenger and freight customers, providing both with the best service possible.

 

How did the MP differ from other railroads?

This to me is hard to answer, I was fortunate to work at differ times with both the C&NW and BN, receiving compensation from both.  This occurred  while I was on vacation from the MP and also with the BN.  When I was the Leader for the BN Boy Scout Explorer Post in Falls City, the BN Representatives were wonderful to work with.  

 

When the MP began their so-called apprentice Program, (i.e., bringing in people from outside, giving then instructions how to run a railroad, the program failed to thoroughly investigate many of the ones hired !!!),  it was quite a problem trying to do my work and at the same time having to assist the 90-day wonders in the operation of the business. I realize that many of these who were hired in the program went on to “”great  ways””, but many can on with and egotistical attitude, telling you how to perform your work when they did not know the lay of the land.

 

What changes did you see in your career that you felt were significant?

This again is hard to answer.  The reduction of train and engine crews to me was over-done, I realize the cost savings of manpower was an issue, but the greatly decrease of personnel did put a burden on many. Then coming of the diesel age in the 50’s did make a big difference, elimination of the majority of the shop craft people, forcing many to relocate in order to serve out their time did upset many families.  The implementation of the TCS Program along with the computers arriving on the scene created a whole new scenario for the operation of the railroad.  This did cause relocation of many.

 

Any stories you can tell now you couldn’t when you were working?

I have many!!!  So many that the embarrassment would  probably caused me to hide out somewhere!!!  Wherein the Management was always hiding in the weeds, pulling tests on the train crews was something that I got involved with several times, the big problem was the Officers pulling many of the “Surprise” tests did so improperly, like throwing a “RED” Signal too quickly would cause either a derailment of some type of freight car problem (drawbar or knuckle breakage). Another time, going with an officer of the company to catch another officer violating a company rule.

  

How did working for the railroad affect your personal or family life?

My father was employed by three different railroads during his lifetime,  As a young man of 17, in 1915, he worked for the Union Pacific in Hastings, Nebraska as a clerk and then transferred into train service as a brakemen.  He started being a “”BOOMER””, one who went from job to job, working for the CB&Q in Lincoln and Omaha, coming to the MoPac in 1924, again in 1926 and finally establishing seniority as a brakeman in 1928.  

 

When I was a young boy, my Dad was seldom at home, he was always assign to an “”Outside”” Job”” away from Falls City.  Later in 1942, he was promoted to conductor and again had to work away from home.  I was in the same situation as a clerk, working in Falls City, then to Omaha, then to Downs, Kansas, back to Omaha, back to Falls City in 1954.

 

Transferring to a different seniority roster and working in the Superintendent’s Office, but with being displaced at different times after my marriage, had to again work in Atchison, then Omaha diesel shops then back to Falls City.  In May 1962 came the movement of the Division offices to Kansas City, I had a chance to revert back to my old seniority roster and ended up working nights at the Falls City depot.  

 

In December 1963. The clerical positions were abolished and the telegraphers assume all clerical duties.  I ended up working in St. Joseph for three and one-half years.  A disagreement with the then Division  Superintendent caused me to have to leave St. Joseph and exercised my rights to Lincoln as a  Rate-Revising Clerk. Working a short time there and then to Omaha as the Trainmaster’s Clerk, then back to Lincoln.  Due to the Telegrapher and Clerks Union merging into one, I bid in the agency at Crete, Nebraska, remaining there until 1973, when the vacancy of second trick telegrapher’s position came open at Falls City.  With change of rest days, I bid on the Swing position and then with the abolishment of all the telegraphers jobs in November 1986 I moved on the agent’s  position.  

 

On January 10, 1991, the Union Pacific closed the Depot building and moved the Agency to a mobile building in the train yard.  On January 10, 1992 the position of Agent was abolished, a Buy-Out was offered. And my services ended..

 

What will be regarded as accomplishments you made in your Mopac career.

 I feel that providing a good financial livelihood for my family, learning to work with many people over so many years has been my accomplish in life.

 

What was Mopac’s relationship like with the unions? Other railroads, customers.

 I was appointed as Secretary-Treasurer of Falls City  Lodge 205 of the Brotherhood .of Railway Clerks Union in August 1958, was elected in January 1959 and served 25 years until December 31, 1983 when consolidation with Sedalia Lodge No. 25 was made. In only one time was there a conflict between the Union and the Mopac that I was involved in, the Superintend of the Omaha Division in 1967 demanded that I move to Atchison and give up my position with the Union, after deep consideration of his demand, I refused his demand,  and shortly thereafter my job at St. Joseph was abolished.  As far as working with other railroads, I believe that there always was a congenial relationship.  With the Customers that I was involved with, everything was fairly good, but there were sometimes a representative from the Traffic Department would get out-of-line with some of the local customers here in Falls City and there was a Trainmaster who in my opinion was too overbearing and hard to work with, both to the customers and us employees.

 

What was it like working for the Mopac during the UP merger.

I had a feeling that the merger was not in the best interests. Within a short time things started to take shape. The Omaha Division lost its identity and became the Falls City Sub-Division,  Dennis Duffy came on as the Superintendent  and was in again in my opinion one of the best officers I ever worked with. The UP Car Department at Marysville, Kansas and the Mechanical Department at Topeka, Kansas had some of the best workers I ever met they were very accommodating. when I need assistance.