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February 18th- A Special Man and A Special Car

posted Feb 19, 2016, 4:22 AM by Sue Line RailRoad

This week we have a special note from associate Sue Line Crew member Robert A Della-Pietra...

In July, 1997, I was re-hired by the Burlington Northern Santa Fe (BNSF) Railway, in Shreveport, Louisiana. The Superintendent of Operations assigned me to a conductor, James Oren Whittenton, known to all as “J.O.”, who had hired with the Saint Louis-San Francisco Railway (Frisco) in November, 1959, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

 J.O. was not used to having students, but it was apparent to their railroaders that he had taken a liking towards me (our sense of humors are/were similar), and would go on about the his days of flagging for The Black Gold, a Frisco Passenger Name Train, and of remote locations and towns that he worked, of which most locales have lost rail service.

I spent eight weeks braking for J.O., prior to promotion. When I arrived in the Cotton Belt Shreveport Yard on my first trip, J.O. was waiting for my arrival, just to check on “the kid”. He and another fellow railroader were instrumental of my entering the Engine Program just months later. Other employees at the terminal had an on-going joke that J.O. had adopted me. Over time, roles reversed, and it was I who would assist him with his Rules Exam.

In January, 2003, I took call as an engineer on a trip, with J.O. as my Conductor. This is still a highlight of my thus far twenty year career.  Life and the railroad caused us to drift apart a decade ago, but his work ethic still remains with me.  

After fifty-six Years of railroading, J.O. left us. I was blessed to have had this railroader enter my life, and show me how to railroad as if it were still 1959. J.O. gave me two things that I will always value: Railroad experience and his friendship.

SLSF 81015 has J.O.’s signature on it. It traveled the Sue Line RR for nineteen years, until given to a fellow railroader who was a treasured friend of J.O.’s.