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  This week I officially retired from the Norfolk Southern as Engineer, ending more than 130 years of continuous railroading by my family .

It all started with my Great Granddad William Collin McLaughlin in the late (1880's - 1920's )  as fireman/Engineer , Granddad  as machinist (1912-1965 ) ,my late father as machinist (1962-2003 ) and myself as brakeman/conductor/Engineer (1991-2022 )

There was several members of my fathers family whom worked for the railroads like his brother as brakeman / conductor and one uncle as Superintendent , and several others  .

My two sons have chosen other career paths at this time other than the railroad , but who knows maybe they'll change their minds in the future .

I can remember fondly how excited my Grandmother (dads mother ) was when i told her I had hired on the railroad . So was my father who worked on the C&0 - Chessie - CSX and his brother who retired from the NS after going thru the Virginian-Norfolk Western mergers and then the formation of the NS.

I also remember back when my father and his brother told me what changes I would see in the years I would work for the railroad , And yes , I did see quiet a bit of changes in just 32 years . From four man crews when I hired to the two men crews we have today . From operating  locomotives older than I was to the modern day electronic everything onboard running the train for you .

I guess that's the one change that really got me down with the job , was taking the control of the train out of  your hands . I will never believe that a computer can run a train better than a human . Seems there's more derailments in the last five years since these computer formatted train operation programs have been implemented .

So now I'll just set back and watch and listen to the daily operations of the industry I was so proud of being a part of . I pray the men and women of the rails safe travels .

I've tied the engine down for the last time  

Last edited by mackb4
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Now time to sit back and enjoy that pension. I pulled the pin with NS December of 2014 and have never regretted it. I do miss the guys I worked with though, I actually ran into one today at Costco. He said that a lot changed in the six years that I have been gone and not for the better.  Like you, all my family members worked for the railroad, mostly NYC, PC, CR, and NS from the late 1890s till I left. Good luck and Happy Retirement!

Quite a family legacy - hard earned and certainly impressive, 130 years overall is really exceptional, and your own 30 plus years to boot.  Congratulations on your retirement, and we do too look forward to a few tales, exaggerated or not, those of us who share the forum will enjoy them for sure.  Maybe we need a separate forum for Rail Tales. God Bless you and yours.  Chuck242.

Congratulations Collin!

I have 16 more months to go, myself. It is an interesting and challenging industry, with so much heritage to boot. Unfortunately, the implementation of PTC and other technical “advances” have dulled the job of the Engineer. On board cameras do not allow for “honest mistakes” that were usually rectified with out the need for management or the FRA to intervene. I will not miss that.

My distant relatives were also railroaders back in the 1800’s into the 1950’s, but then the railroad skipped a couple generations before I was bitten by the railroad bug.

My old neighbor was a railroad cop back in the 50’s. He always said “once you work for the railroad, you are good for nothing else…” Very true!

Tom

I should have mentioned this in my original post .

My late mother's father and Granddad also worked the railroad.

Her Granddad on her mother's side retired as a carman for the C&0 railroad in Huntington,WV  , and her Dad worked as a carman for the C&O in Raceland , Ky  and Seaboard in Jacksonville ,Fl  .

Her father had gotten cut- off at the C&O's  Raceland , Ky  carshop , went to the Seaboard in Jacksonville for about 10 years and got a phone call telling him , the shops were going to reopen and it would probably be his retirement job.

Well after moving back to nearby Ironton ,Ohio (yes the I in DT&I ) he worked one day and guess what ...yep cut back off !

So he gave up on his railroad career and joined the boilermakers (which was his railroad craft) until he unfortunately passed away at the early age of 54 due to asbestos .

My mothers brother joined the boilermakers union like my Granddad and never tried to hire on the railroad. I'm sure he learned from the troubles my Granddad endured . 

Last edited by mackb4

Congrats Colin. Had a Grand father worked the switch tower in Florence SC, and two uncles who worked in Wash, DC. One was a pass rep for the B&O, and his brother was asst. station master. We had a guy who had 62years service in the Roundhouse/eng house, true!  When he retired, WT wanted to give him a big send off, and Amtrak said "WE have a lot of people with 62 years of service" BS! Again' Congrats!

A railroad history to be proud of.  Once a very prestigious, sought after career and a major pillar in the economy, l can only claim two generations of railroad employee heritage, father and grandfather, and grandmother's brother, although l vaguely remember hearing of others.  With today's talk of "supply chain" problems, unheard of when our ancestors kept trains rolling, the term "greatest generation" comes to mind.

@PRR8976 posted:

Congratulations Collin.

I know the railroading life is not for everyone. My own father came back from WWII and was a fireman with the New Haven for a brief period. He complained that he had paychecks stuffed into his pockets that he never had time to spend.

Any plans to start or improve a layout?

Tom

Yes sir, as soon as I get caught up with all the things,

I've needed to get caught up on for the last 30+ years

@Railrunnin posted:

31 years. That is a lot of iron under those wheels. Congratulations Collin.

Care to share one odd or funny thing that happened to you while on the job? Every single railroad worker has a few - some that can even be told.
Paul

I got a funny little story from my very first day on the property in Kenova WV.

I got called on a local the J-13 , with Engineer Mike L. , Conductor Bobby T. , Head Brakeman Carl W. and myself as trainee / Rear Brakeman.

Well the conductor was also an Ole Time Baptist preacher and when he was outlining what our task was for the day he sounded like he was giving a sermon in the crew room. He explained to me , it being my first day on the job I was to ride around with Engineer Mike who had already walked to the engines and observe and take in as much of the yard's layouts as possible because we were only gonna be given 10 days to train before being marked up on the brakeman's extra board.

So he instructed me to walk over the hill to the diesel track , since at that time Kenova still had laborers on duty to fuel and sand the units .

Well Engineer Mike had already walked around the units and was knocking off the handbrake as I  approached the lead locos steps . He was like "Come on board little buddy you'll ride around with me today . " . So I climbed aboard .

He followed me into the cab and made his acquaintance introducing himself and I likewise while he was bending  over explaining he was fetching his required earplugs out of his grip and doing so must have accidentally knocked the independent brake off .

So the diesel track being on a slight downward slope at Kenova the units started rolling downhill and Mike mumbling around about not finding his earplugs didn't notice we were rolling towards other tied down units and then looks up and says " Hey , why do I have a feeling we're moving ? " and being green and thinking the whole time I yelled out " We are and look out we're about to crash ! " .

  Mike slammed the independent brake back on just before we coupled up !  And Mike just set back down and explained it would have been a bad start to my first day if we would have slammed in to those units .

Maybe not as funny as it sounds , but all I was thinking " Oh my gosh what have I gotten into ? " .

But Engineer Mike became one of my best friend's on the railroad  and is nearing 90 years old now and we still keep in touch . Conductor Bobby passed away a couple of years ago in his late 80's ,  and the head brakeman that day had to retire a few years early due to health problems about 10-12 years ago .

I had some fun times and yes have some funny stories about working on the railroad . Everyday was a surprise waiting to happen it seemed .     

Congratulations, Collin.  There really is life after railroading.  I retired on the last day of 2007, and was a little bit uneasy about leaving at age 61, but I did it and life has been quite good since.  You will surely feel the same way after a very short adjustment.  Don't be surprised to find yourself busier than when you were working.

And you'll probably run into former co-workers just where you least expect it.  Even after 15 years of being gone, some railroader will see me out in town and we'll have a minute or two of pleasant conversation.  I even encountered two former co-workers at the Santa Fe Historical and Modeling Society convention last week, 600 miles from my home.

Congrats on the retirement, and thanks for sharing the stories. Working for the railroads has always been different (note, neither I nor anyone on my family worked for a railroad, though I have friends and acquaintances who did). It seems to be one of those things that get in your blood. Looking at the history of railroads and yes, railroad management, It seems to me like it was more desirable to the people working on the rails than the people running it, at least in how workers were often treated. Yet railroad people to a person I have met (I would say man, but met a lot of women who worked for them, too) were proud of what they did, considered it despite all the tension, stress, economic anxiety, etc, the best job in the world

I can tell how much the railroads have changed, even the most die hard train people I know pretty much told their kids that given the way the industry is now and likely to be in the future, they wouldn't encourage them to sign up, to find something else to be passionate about.

@mackb4 posted:

I got a funny little story from my very first day on the property in Kenova WV.

I got called on a local the J-13 , with Engineer Mike L. , Conductor Bobby T. , Head Brakeman Carl W. and myself as trainee / Rear Brakeman.

Well the conductor was also an Ole Time Baptist preacher and when he was outlining what our task was for the day he sounded like he was giving a sermon in the crew room. He explained to me , it being my first day on the job I was to ride around with Engineer Mike who had already walked to the engines and observe and take in as much of the yard's layouts as possible because we were only gonna be given 10 days to train before being marked up on the brakeman's extra board.

So he instructed me to walk over the hill to the diesel track , since at that time Kenova still had laborers on duty to fuel and sand the units .

Well Engineer Mike had already walked around the units and was knocking off the handbrake as I  approached the lead locos steps . He was like "Come on board little buddy you'll ride around with me today . " . So I climbed aboard .

He followed me into the cab and made his acquaintance introducing himself and I likewise while he was bending  over explaining he was fetching his required earplugs out of his grip and doing so must have accidentally knocked the independent brake off .

So the diesel track being on a slight downward slope at Kenova the units started rolling downhill and Mike mumbling around about not finding his earplugs didn't notice we were rolling towards other tied down units and then looks up and says " Hey , why do I have a feeling we're moving ? " and being green and thinking the whole time I yelled out " We are and look out we're about to crash ! " .

  Mike slammed the independent brake back on just before we coupled up !  And Mike just set back down and explained it would have been a bad start to my first day if we would have slammed in to those units .

Maybe not as funny as it sounds , but all I was thinking " Oh my gosh what have I gotten into ? " .

But Engineer Mike became one of my best friend's on the railroad  and is nearing 90 years old now and we still keep in touch . Conductor Bobby passed away a couple of years ago in his late 80's ,  and the head brakeman that day had to retire a few years early due to health problems about 10-12 years ago .

I had some fun times and yes have some funny stories about working on the railroad . Everyday was a surprise waiting to happen it seemed .     

  Sad news .Found out on a Facebook page I'm on " The N&W family in Portsmouth Ohio " that the Mike L. that was the Engineer in my story about my first day on the railroad , passed away this past Sunday . He was 80 years old .

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