short bio of responders : LUSENET : ACL and SAL Railroads Historical Society : One Thread

OK, guys, I'm curious as to your backgrounds. I have seen in the short time I have been posting answers to this Q&A, that some of you are very well versed on the subject, some better than others. Now my question, I would like a short bio on you: any RR experience, where, when, any family w/RR exp., age, occupation/profession now if not furthering RR career, how long a "railfan" of ACL/SAL/FLRS/CSX.

I will fill you in on my bio: I have been with SCL/CSX 28 years now, worked in Hialeah/South Florida, Waycross, and Tampa/Lakeland. I am Currently working 2nd shift yardmaster position at Yeoman Yard (Tampa) for about 5 of those 28 years. I am a qualified Conductor, Frt and Pass, Hostler, switchman, trainman. I declined to transfer to engine service and look forward to 13 more exciting years with CSX.

Your turn...

-- Walt Rogers (, July 03, 2001


I am the granddaughter of two ACL pioneers: Thomas M. Emerson, who rose through the ranks from freight clerk (1875) to President(1905- 1913) and Wm. Taff (Uncle Buddy) Coates, steam/diesel locomotive engineer in Fla. and Ga. for over 50 yrs (Circa 1900 - 1950).Niece of Bill and Dick Coates who worked for ACL -SCL - CSX for many years in the Central Fla. area. I remember my first solo trip was from Jax to Richmond at the age of 9 in 1946, the conductor "looked after me";watching the freight trains in the High Springs (Fla.) yard in the 40s and 50s go past the old ALABAMA RR HOTEL, which my aunt and uncle, Nan and Dick McDowell ran. My grandmother Emerson believed till her dying day (1952) that airplanes were a "FAD" that would never last;she was right though that they (planes) can never replace (the romance of the) railroad.

-- Julia Emerson Tracy (, January 07, 2002.

I live in Los Angeles, CA, where I write music for film and Television. I grew up in southeastern VA along the SCL and developed my life long interest in trains by spending countless Saturdays beside the tracks. In those days, all I wanted to do was become an engineer when I grew up. I can't say today I realized that particular dream but I do manage to live it vicariously through model railroading.

-- Andrew Callo (, August 20, 2001.

No railroad career. I grew up in eastern NC on the New Bern Subv of the SCL (old ACL, of course). That branch instilled a never ending love for the old ACL. I attended Campbell College (new university) between 1972 and 1975. This, of course, was only 10 miles from Dunn, NC on the A Line (MP A186) and only 30 miles to Raleigh, NC. I probably spent more time in Dunn, Benson, etc. and Raleigh than at Campbell. I did quite abit of railroading from Collier Yard, Va to Florence, SC between 1972 and the mid 80's. (Beyond that too but big time between 72 & the mid 80's). In May of 2000, we moved to Maryville, TN. because our plan had always been to retire to the Appalachain Mtns. While I miss the old ACL/SAL/SCL lines, we bought a house that is only about 800 feet (honestly, this was not intentional) from the old L&N line between Cincinnati, Corbin, KY, Knoxville, Etowah and the Atlanta (Junta to be exact) area. This line is pretty darn active. And believe it or not, not too awfully long ago, I saw an old ACL wood rack in a southbound train. It was not in too bad of shape considering that ACL/SAL merged in 1967!! A chill went over me.

This biography thing was not a bad idea. Again, as some of you have probably heard me say before in this Q&A forum, this historical society is the best in existence. We, for the most part, keep our heads screwed on right and share alot of wonderful information. Let's not ever loose sight of that causing our hobby to become a burdensome chore. Raymond Smith, always ACL even though living on the KD Sub at MP C292.

-- Raymond Smith (, August 16, 2001.

My name is Justin Dzan and I am originally from Atlanta, GA. My railroad career started out with AMTRAK as a extra-board clerk in Atlanta in 1994. I worked at Brookwood Passenger Station, Armour Yard, and Greenville, SC. Due to AMTRAK not letting me transfer into train service I hired on with CSXT as a conductor in 1995. Presently I am a Locomotive Engineer with CSXT working out of Louisville, KY. I run Louisville to Cincinatti, OH; Washington, IN; Evansville, IN; and Ravenna, KY. My present assignment is the q562/551 between Louisville and Evanville. When time permits I model SCL/L&N, Southern, and Illinois Central in Lionel "o" gauge. My favorite roads are the Georgia Railroad, CofG, and I.C. The I.C. being first being that my great grandfather worked for the I.C. as a Locomotive Engineer out of McComb and Gulfport, Mississippi. Hopefully one day I can transfer back to Atlanta and work on the A&WP.

-- Justin Dzan (, August 16, 2001.

I am currently the Deputy Director-Transportation Engineering for Metro-North Railroad in New York City. I have worked for Metro-North, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Niagara Frontier Transsportation Authority and the New York City Transit Authority for over 30 years. I am a registered Professional Engineer, with a degree in electrical engineering. At Metro-North, I have been involved with various electrification projects, modernization of the power systems on both the ex New York Central and New Haven lines, modernization of Grand Central Terminal, etc.

My father worked for the New York Central from 1950 to 1967, and I have been interested in railroads since I was a little boy. Having a dependent pass, I traveled all over the NYC and other roads. My first trip to Florida was on the Havana special in 1960. Subsequent trips on the ACL and SAL, along with the FEC and SCL, cemented a love for these roads.

Passenger trains and cars, along with the systems that make the trains operate are my interests. I collect books and have just started to write articles. So far, I have had two articles printed on observation cars, and hopefully, a future article will appear on my memories of trips on the secondary trains. In the works are articles on train control, wrecks, and more passenger car histories/descriptions. Sorry-I do not model.

-- Michael W. Savchak (Savchak, July 09, 2001.

I am a Track Inspector for CSX at Rocky Mount,NC.I hold foreman,asst.foreman,trk insp,and trackman senority on the raleigh/rockymount senority district.I'm only 26 years old but have been railroading since april 16 1975.I've gained most of my knowledge through either expierence or listening to the old heads...I hyrail the A line from Halifax to Elm City,the tarboro sub from rmt to plymouth and the kinston sub from parmele to elmer.If I can be of assistance,don't hesitate to drop a line..

-- Vic Lewis (, July 08, 2001.

I have a bit over 22 years experience in several capacities with various railroads (SouRy, A&WP/GaRR/WofA, ICG, FEC). I had the pleasure of meeting Ron Dettmer when we both worked at the GA-WP GOB in Atlanta in the early 1970's. I collect railroad memorabilia and when time/space/finances permit, I do some model railroading. My favorite roads are the Georgia Railroad, the West Point Route, and the Central of Georgia (brand X to this group). I'm currently employed by GST Corporation (a transportation/logistics company) and live in Loganville, GA.

-- Robert H. Hanson (, July 08, 2001.

I hired out as a brakeman on the SCL in 1977 at age 27 in Richmond and entered engine service at Rocky Mount in 1979. When Congress decided that Amtrak should have its own train and engine crews as a result of the 1983 Northeast Corridor Improvement Act, I was granted a leave from SCL/CSX to work exclusively for Amtrak in the mid-Atlantic region in 1986. Should Amtrak go out of business, it's back to running those freight trains, (so please press your Congressman to support Amtrak.) I held down the Capitol Limited from DC to Pittsburgh for nearly five years, worked the Carolinian to Charlotte for a couple more, and from time to time show up on the Meteor and Palm at Florence, or the Star at Raleigh and Southern Pines. I ran over the former C&O on the Colonial for many years and was assigned to the Twilight Shoreliner between Richmond and Newport News, VA on its first day. My preference, the job I'm working presently, is a daily trip up to Washington and back to Richmond on Amtrak's Acela Regional/Northeast Direct and Silver Service trains over the former RF&P. I was a union representative on both SCL and at Amtrak, first in the United Transportation Union and later in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. I currently serve as a representative on a joint CSX/Amtrak initiative called Partners In Performance, where we attempt to use input from front line employees to help eliminate passenger train delay and foster bettwer understanding between the two railroads. A former broadcast journalist, I wrote features and a monthly column entitled From The Cab in Pentrex's Passenger Train Journal and RailNews, and authored a book about my life on the railroad under the same title. I presently write a monthly on- line column for Kalmbach Publishing's electronic edition of Trains Magazine. You can access it by going to and entering my name in the search box on the title page. A list of my features when appears.

-- doug riddell (, July 05, 2001.

The ACL provided more than work to many people during the early half of the 1900's. There was an actual society formed among employees and sub-divided among the different crafts.

I was born into this society. Living in section houses from birth bonds and intiates one into this culture. Living in the Everglades from 1939 to 1942, a young boy's world is limited to trains running through his front yard. The occasional treat of waiting for some sugar cane to fall off the cane cars as they passed. Often accompanied by the disappointment from discovering the cane was seared by fire before harvesting.

The war years living in section houses at Sun City and Dundee. Riding with my dad on his motor car out to the job while my Mom, was in Bradenton, giving birth to my brother. Watching the SAL, women section hands in Tampa, working on the tracks, while listening to my dad express relief that the ACL didn't hire women track hands.

Watching the Army M.P.'s come arrest one of his laborer's for desertion. The German P.O.W. that was assigned by the Army to my dad for section hand work.

Listening to my dad and other roadway department friends talk of the Roadmaster's and General Roadmasters. The name of one Roadmaster, "Bulldog" Turner, cropping up enough to etch into the memory of a young boy. Oh, the day of reckoning came when Mr. Turner, knocked on our front door. I opened the door and shouted back to my dad, "It's Bulldog Turner." Somehow my dad kept his job.

Watching my dad load a rail on a pushcar with only one laborer to help him. Listening to him talk about shutting off his motor car, and it rolling uphill on Iron Mountain. Visiting my Granddad Hiram Hilliard, at his Winston, section foreman's house.

Eating the staple groceries shipped in from the company storehouse in Waycross. Moving to Orlando in 1944, just to have electricity and running water in a section house. It was one of the few, and only because the city mandated it.

The Orlando section houses were right in the yard, next to the water tank. Playing under the watertank and talking to the switch crews waiting in the shade of the watertank for the next through freight. Poppa Jeter, the grizzeled old switch foreman taking time for a young boy.

Going with my dad down to the depot to get his mail and send telegrams regarding track work. Listening to my mom scold some new engineer that let his engine smoke up her wash hanging on the clothes line. Memorizing the black dirty switch engine numbers....1132, 1135, 1134, 1136.

Watching the trains to see if Uncle Jack Hilliard or Uncle Lester (Buddy) Hilliard was on the passing engine or caboose. Excitedly running in to tell my mom, when her brothers came past. Watching the rookie flagman get left by his train after he re-lined the pass track switch and could not catch his caboose.

Moving to Bartow in 1948. Our section house was in the middle of the wye, and next to the SAL interlocking that bi-sected the ACL wye. Seeing my first SAL hand-up hoop which was not a hoop, but a "Y" shaped stick with a loop of cord to hold the train orders. The SAL operator letting me tie the cords for him in advance.

Moving back to Orlando in 1949. Visiting my Uncle Dan, who was section foreman in Paola. By then Grand-dad was the adjoining foreman at Sylvan Lake. Watching the cypress log trains from Cassia hit the wye and head towards Trilby. Watching the flagman drop off a lighted fusee to protect from trailing trains. Hearing the torpedo's explode from an engine approaching the flagman protecting my dad's track work.

My dad arranging with the Conductor on 91, for me to ride free back to the Marine Barracks at NAS Jax. Going overseas from the Marine detachment Memphis, Tennessee, on the night train from Memphis. Rock Island to Tucumcari,NM, SouPac to El Paso, SouPac to Los Angeles. Watching the Rock Island Conductor count passengers get off the train for lunch in Western Oklahoma. Train tied up for all to eat lunch.

Coming home from overseas on the Santa Fe, Mopac, Frisco, SAL, and ACL. Listening to my dad in 1960, asking the Asst. Supt. in Sanford to hire me as a brakeman. Being to young for train service, went into the signal department.

Working with Wallace Williams, the maintainer in Haines City, and his helper Charlie Hall. Setting off our motor car in Lake Alfred, for 92 to pass. Watching my Uncle Jack who was flagging on 91 & 92, wave to my Aunt Alice, who was the operator at Lake Alfred that day.

Uncle Joe Routh, Agent at Mulberry, Cousin Joe Routh Jr., yard clerk in Uceta, Uncle Sam Frazier, number one on the Ocala District Conductors roster.

Leaving the ACL in 1963, with pure ACL in my blood.

Watching my dad work through the merger of SAL & ACL into the SCL. Seeing him number one on the roadway roster. Seeing him into retirement.

Watching Conductor Slim Herring, quietly slip into the back of the funeral chapel in his work clothes at my dad's funeral. Seeing the old International Hy-rail Carryall of ACL, General Roadmaster Stone, in the funeral procession.

Now eagerly awaiting the next email from this forum to re-kindle fond memories of days gone by.


-- Curtis E. Denmark Jr. (, July 03, 2001.

I'm Ron Dettmer. I retired after 32 years in the Mechanical Department. I worked in the GOB in Jax. I started my career with the Sou RR at their Car shop In Spartenburg. Worked for 7 years with the GaRR in Atlanta as the Mechanical Engineer. Was offered a position in Jax in 1974. Have a great deal of interest in Passenger cars and operations. I build O scale models for the absolute fun of it. Well there's mine... Ron

-- Ron Dettmer (, July 03, 2001.

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