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C. R. (Bob) Kilgore

"My first job(s) with MoPac"

Graduation from Christian Brothers High School in St Joe, Mo in 1951 (63 years ago) was fast approaching and I had no clue as to what I would do after graduation – but college was out of reach economically.  My mother, however,  was a very  enterprising  gal and unbeknown to me had approached my high school’s  principal –  Brother Gabriel – and told him I would  need a job after graduation and if he heard from anyone “wanting help” to keep me in mind.  Shortly thereafter Mr. Walt Vogel the local freight agent for the MoPac in St Joe was looking for summer help to fill in for clerks in the freight office going on vacation so he contacted Brother Gabriel who gave him my name.  Mr. Vogel then called me and I was shocked because I had never heard of the MoPac railroad – St Joe was a “Q” (Chicago Burlington and Quincy) town and everyone had heard of the “Q” but not the MoPac - but I went for an interview and got the job relieving a messenger boy (the only job lower in the pecking order than the messenger was the janitor).  But I was in seventh heaven…. pay if I remember correctly was $9.19 per day and I would work from noon until 9pm with an hour for supper…it sure beat the 25 cents an hour I earned working in a grocery store through high school.

Prior to starting with MoPac I fortunately received the Commerce award at graduation from CB which carried with it a one year free ride at St Joseph Junior College.  I worked at MoPac that summer but when I set up my class schedule that fall there were three days a week I would not get out of class until 12:15pm which meant I would be 30 minutes late for work on those days.   When I approached Mr. Vogel he simply said work  extra time on the tail end of the  shift …that was my first indication that Mopac  may be a good place to work….no hemming and hawing;  no “I will have to check that out with the powers to be”….simply,  if you are late by 30 minutes just work an extra 30 minutes that night (I found out later this did not set well with the union griever who felt I must file for overtime when I worked beyond 9pm).  But somehow Vogel prevailed.

The messenger job entailed three main duties…..

Two daily walking trips from the local office to the Traffic office located in the Corby building delivering mail and picking up mail and bills of lading from grain shippers who also had offices in the that building .   One of the guys in the Traffic Office was Paul Watson who at that time was a “PUP” sales representative and also one of the nicest guys you could ever meet.  Paul eventually became Regional Sales Manager at Kansas City.

I also made two trips each day from the local office (uptown St Joe) to the yard office which was located in South St Joe.  Prior to first trip each day the local office cashier would give me four bus tokens for the day; then I walked to the public bus line that went to South St Joe, got off the bus and walked  to the Stockyards building and picked up waybills for shipments from the meat packers (Armour and Swift had huge operations in St Joe) and then walked about a mile  to the yard office to give them the waybills for shipments departing that night.  I also picked up waybills for inbound shipments and mail, walked back to the bus line (another mile or so) and returned to the local office.  I made another run in the evening but did not have to go to the stockyards, just to the yard office.  Needless to say I was pretty trim at that point in my life.

In addition to messenger duties my other main duty was preparing waybill “sets” which really taxed my intelligence!!!!  I had a 9/12 inch wooden box, a pile of carbon paper, another pile of blank 8/11 paper and a pile of preprinted waybill forms.   Into that wooden box I would put one blank piece of paper, a sheet of carbon paper, another blank sheet, another sheet of carbon paper; most sets had 5 such combinations followed by a formal waybill form on top.  I then grabbed the set and put a straight pen at the top through all copies to hold them together.  Those sets were used by the billing clerks to waybill carload and LTL shipments.  Each day I would prepare 100’s of those sets because I would be in deep “dudu”  if the billing clerks ran out of waybill sets the following day!!!!  After the billing clerks billed a shipment the carbon paper and pin were removed for use by me that evening.  This system was AUTOBILL of the 50’s!!!!

I held the messenger boy job for about a year and then got bumped, and bid on a yard clerk’s job in Omaha’s Grace yard and was unable to continue college.   I will never forget the Northwestern (C&NW-CM&O) making interchange deliveries to Grace using steam engines nor will I forget when someone at one end of the yard sent me to the yard office at the other end of the yard to pick up the “waybill stretcher”…I fell for it and was the 19 year old laughing stock at the yard office.   I will also never forget how cold it got when the wind blew off the Missouri River into Grace yard in January and February (anyone reading this that moved to Omaha when MoPac/UP merged  will appreciate this especially if they moved to Omaha in 1983 which was the worse winter I ever experienced in my entire life!!!).  

 

Several months later I  bid back into St Joe and worked various jobs for the summer including switching clerk, demurrage clerk, waybilling clerk and who knows what else…. the only job I could not bid on was the telegrapher’s job.  Then I got bumped again and had to go to the Upper Yard in Atchison, Ks on a yard clerks  (mudhop)  job and that was my first real exposure to switching operations and something called “Circular 7”  station numbers.  Atchison’s switching scheme in the Upper yard depended on those numbers written in chalk on the side of the freight cars….it was my job to chalk the cars and then, working with the yardmaster and switch crews, keep abreast of the changed location of cars on switch lists……. this was a poorman’s PICL or YATS system and it sure made talking about switching operation in our conceptual discussions on TCS a lot easier because I was involved in it at Atchison.  Several other comments about Atchison….I remember the Jitney passenger train that ran between Atchison and Downs  because if came down the main line in the Upper Yard in both directions.  I worked in the Upper Yard during the grain harvest – what an experience.  I learned about yard congestion and what a grain door was and watched them unload grain from box cars equipped with those doors at one of the grain elevators…what an operation….thank God for the covered hopper car!!! 

I was finally able to bid back into St Joe and shortly thereafter was approached by J J Richey the General Agent about moving into the Traffic Department.  I went to Kansas City (rode the Q’s Zephyr) to be interviewed by Wm H A Turner and then to St Louis on the MoPac  (my first overnight in a Pullman car (upper berth)) for interviews….names I remember were John Hrebec, Cliff Hahne, Ray Oliver, Charlie Michel, Harold Kassling, Cecil Butler, and Harry Schaeffer.   Somehow I made it and was made Chief Clerk in the MoPac Topeka Kansas sales office working with Jack Stratton and Fritz Dowling.  After a year or so in Topeka I was off to California for a two year hitch in the U. S. Navy.

 The experience I got working these many jobs in the Operating Department would prove invaluable in following years especially in my role as a member of the conceptual development team of TCS.  Experience is a great teacher!!!!

 My how things have changed in 63 years!!!!!!!!!

 

Names I remember from 63 years ago in St Joe at the MoPac (the reader may recognize some of these names):

 

Paul Watson                Paul Harris                  Gilbert Greishaeber                Jimmy Halter

Mamie Lowe               Farril Gullick               Charlie Cooper                          Walter Wideman

Walt Pankiewicz          Elizabeth Downey       Chris Hoppe                             Walt Vogel

Joe McAsey                 Pete Peterson              H E Roll                                Leo Harvey

J J Richey                     Kenny Steele               Dick Albus                          Theo Yackie

Part 2

“My thoughts on the early days of the TCS project prior to programming, testing and implementation” for the Mopac  Historical Society legacy project…..

TCS had its infancy in late 1965 or early 1966 when Bill Marbury (chairman of Mississippi River Fuel Corp who had gained control of MoPac) read a Railway Age or Progressive Railroading article about the Southern Pacific’ s TOPS system and sent a note to Downing Jenks (MoPac Chairman)   “what are we doing in this area?”.  Mr. Jenks got the ball rolling on February 10, 1966 when he wrote a letter to Messrs. Lloyd, Conrad, Weigel and Hoffmeister (MoPac Senior department heads) in which he initiated a feasibility study to be headed by C J (Jack) Maurer to “make a total management information study to determine the requirements of all departments for communications, data and data transmission” to take advantage of new emerging computer technology.  Each department was to assign people to conduct the study and I was fortunate enough to be assigned to represent the Traffic Department. 

Maurer hired Price Waterhouse to head up the study team and “away we went”!!!

After a “wallowing around” period, and while some team members were wrestling with cost benefit analyses, other members of the team visited railroads that were involved in similar projects.  In the 1960s, in addition to the SP’s TOPS (a joint effort with IBM), other leaders in railroad computerization were the L&N, Frisco, IC and Southern.  Their efforts, in the author’s opinion, were more of a data capture/provide-car-tracing effort and did little to manage the freight car cycle.  Many systems were driven by the traffic departments of the various railroads in their quest to get “basic, accurate and timely information”.

Eventually the study team concluded that development of a management information system at MoPac was very desirable and could be economically justified. They further recommended that a functional specification be developed outlining what such a system would do and how it would function.

McAuto, the automation arm of McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) the airline manufacturer located in St Louis, was engaged to assist in the creation of the functional specification.  Additional team members were added for this effort and McAuto assigned 6 or7 people to the project and they worked with the team members to create the document which was a grueling, time consuming effort.   At the outset I vividly remember Downing Jenks sitting on the top of a desk in our office to discuss the project with us and he said “forget how we currently manage the railroad, forget traditions and how we have done things for years and concentrate on how and what should we be doing to better manage everything connected with the freight car cycle.  Remember nothing is sacred and innovation is the name of the game”.

(Readers should be cognizant of the fact that in 1966 the punched card and tape drives were still very much in vogue, a very crude CRT had just been invented (black and white only), a HIGH speed communication line operated at a SCREECHING 9600 baud - pole lines along the railroad right of way was the preferred method of communications -  computer programming languages were very basic (almost machine language), computer disk drives were in their infancy, mainframe computers had about the same capability as the personal  computer we now use on our desktops and the study team was made up primarily of railroaders that knew little about data processing.  The Functional Spec took many months, had several false starts and went up a lot of blind alleys.   There were many critics (even at the highest management levels) but when it was complete the system to be created as outlined in the functional specification was definitely “BIGGER than a bread box” and in the view of many provided an excellent roadmap for future detailed development.   The name “Transportation Control System” or “TCS” was coined about this time and if memory serves me correctly Art Mennell of Industrial Engineering submitted the name in a contest that was held to replace the name Management Information System or MIS thereby cementing the fact that TCS was a management CONTROL system vs. a data collection system.

Once we knew where we were heading it became obvious that MoPac did not have the necessary personnel or resources in place to “pull off” such a large project.  In addition to the computer hardware, software and communications  the design also called for the creation of Customer Service Centers, a centralized transportation control  center, centralized rating,  assignment of  track numbers and customer loading spot numbers (ZTS) to the entire physical plant, creation of computerized master files of stations, customers, etc, computerized train blocking requirements,  a computerized car distribution strategy, computerized train and yard characteristics, a computerized file of repetitive waybill patterns   as well as standardized system procedures for many day to day functions.  Training of most personnel was also required because their daily duties would be affected one way or another - a herculean task to say the least.  Of course there were some who said it would never work and was too big to pull off; why do we need it?  There were a few in my opinion that even did whatever they could to make the job harder – “sandbagged” so to speak.  There was also a mentality that said it won’t work because what we do in my office or on my division or in my region is totally different from any other place on the railroad.  Another serious gnawing problem was the need to delay or cancel short term computer programming requests of various users because manpower resources were being devoted to the longer vs. short term requirements.   Most users were very understanding while others continually groused that their needs were much more important than anything else in this world- bar none!!  But they all soon learned the BIGGER Picture need was most important and you better get on board with TCS cause this Choo-Choo is going to highball down the track with or without you….and it did!!!   

So, Guerdon Sines, a West Point graduate and former SP operating officer who had led SP’s TOPS system development ( and was working for the New York Central at the time), was hired by Mr. Jenks to lead this effort.   I will never forget Bob Schoultz and I spending a very arduous week with Mr. Sines answering his many (almost endless) probing questions about TCS.   Initially I think he felt the thing to do was simply install TOPS on MoPac because it was developed jointly with IBM and was therefore basically free for the taking.  But at the end of the week he commented something like    “I think you guys are nuts and have created a MONSTER but it we can pull it off it will be a much better product than the TOPS system and be well worth the effort”.  He informed MoPac upper management that TCS should be pursued.  (MoPac did take the System software developed for TOPS but created its own application software).

In the next 8 to 10 months 50+ analysts and programmers were recruited from all over the country.  Included in that group was Jim Shattuck, John Nelsen, Merrill Bryan and Steve Robbins from the SP and I cannot say enough about the contribution these guys made to the overall effort.  Most of the people hired in that whirlwind hiring frenzy turned out very well - a few bit the dust - but overall the crash hiring effort created a team of people that worked their butts off creating TCS in following years.  Another big contributor was Don Dingle an ex IBM’er who had worked with Guerdon on other projects.  He filled a vital consultant role in the further development of TCS. 

Development of the system then proceeded through the Advance Design, Detail Design, Programming, Testing and Implementation phases in almost complete conformity to the Functional Specification.   It became the premier railroad information system in the US and Canada (the author may be a little biased!) and was really “rockin and rolling” by the time MoPac was merged into the Union Pacific.   With merger a decision had to be made…whose “MIS” system – the MoPac’s or the UP’s - would survive in the merged company ….TCS won out….and continues to operate (with numerous enhancements I am sure) on the vast Union Pacific to this day……and remember that includes all the properties of not only the UP and MoPac but the SP, DRGW, WP, MKT and C&NW properties as well.

The author was only one member of a great team.  Others that were involved in the early days of TCS:

Marvin Ummel           Wally Johnson             Wade Clutton             Mel Rothermich     Lucian Abernathy

Art Mennell               Russ Osman                Elmo Sheffield            Jack Maurer   

R. C. Pitts                Harry Macomber           Walter Jacobs            K. D. Hestes

Bob Schoultz           Rich Grunwald               Bob Lewis                 Roy Creath

Warren Dohack        Dale Saltzman               Emmett Wilcox          Art Anderson

Ralph Brewer           Ray Cummings              Jim Sohm                  Jack Heidenreich

Price Waterhouse Personnel - Joe Moynihan, Jack Nichols

McAuto Personnel - Don Gerth,  Delbert Massey, Gene Brock and others that I cannot remember

And of course GUERDON STERLING SINES

 

I apologize if I forgot anybody.

 

C R (Bob) Kilgore  12/23/2014