Prior to 1972 in this history, when employee names
are listed in towns or offices, we realize that all clerks on
the Colorado Division Station roster represented by the (BRAC)
Brotherhood of Railway and Airline Clerks were eligible to qualify
at any station on the division. Most had found their niche in
a certain area, or community, and stayed there whenever possible,
however their names may appear in multiple listings.
Likewise, members of the (ORT) Order of Railroad Telegraphers
had a separate division seniority roster, and could hold telegrapher
positions anywhere on the Colorado Division.
After 1971 the BRAC clerks and the ORT telegraphers
merged, with seniority being dovetailed, into one roster.
The General Office Building clerks on the Superintendents
Operating Department roster had their own seniority district,
but were still members of BRAC. Their seniority allowed moves
mostly within the building itself.
LA JUNTA RAIL HISTORY
AS I KNOW IT, LOVED IT, AND LIVED IT !
Colorado, the "Centennial State", became
a state in 1876. The Atchison, Topeka Santa Fe Railway came to
La Junta in December 1875. La Junta in Spanish means "junction"
referring to where the northwest bound Oregon Trail split off
from the Santa Fe Trail that went southwest. The Santa Fe likewise
junctions in La Junta with main line traffic to Albuquerque, and
a branch line to Denver.
The rail yards are on the south bank of the Arkansas
River, and by my arrival in 1941 as a boy of 15, La Junta had
all the usual facilities needed to operate as a division point.
The mechanical back shop area was next to the river, then the
freight yard tracks, then the passenger yard tracks and finally
the depot facilities and yard offices. This was in the main yards.
Uptown was the General Office Building on the corner of 4th &
Santa Fe Avenue featured in a separate article.
The river made the yards subject to flooding, and
the 1921 flood wreaked havoc in the yards, as did successive floods.
An earthen dike was built, but the annual build up of silt made
the dike less effective as time went by, and flooding occurred
more often. (The most recent was this year, April 1999.)
A panorama picture taken in 1913 shows an overhead
walk way from the passenger yard to the round house to access
the back shop. It was removed in 1930 and a cement lighted tunnel
was built to replace it.
By 1941, the oil burning passenger train engines were
fueled in the vicinity of the tunnel, and over the years, leakage
of fuel oil seeped into the tunnel, requiring a raised wooden
walkway platform. The tunnel, even with lighting, was a smelly
and spooky place to walk, especially during the night hours!
In 1941 the diesel and oil burning engines were taking
over, but we still had coal fueled switch engines in the yard
that were hand fired (with scoop shovels), and some road engines
with coal stokers. One of my chums was Alvin Johannes and he was
a fireman on a yard engine. I do not remember when the last coal
fired engine was used on the Colorado Division.
Passenger Yard Layout
The yard from west to east started with the original
freight office and warehouse (where I never worked), which was
abandoned when the present combination passenger and freight depot
was built in 1950's. It is now a feed store.
Combination Telegraph Office and Yard Office
East of the freight house was the two story building
(now removed) housing the Yard Office and Yardmaster on the west
side, and the Telegraph Office on the east side. The building
was called the HN building, the railroad code call letters for
La Junta. The upstairs portion had lockers for trainmen's use,
and one room used for a meeting place. I never worked in this
building but from memory, I will try to list those persons that
Two of the General Yardmasters I remember were Vic
Bishop, and John Hjelmstad. Trick yardmasters included "Shug"
Shugart, Lon Zumwalt , Cleo La Fever, Don Hjelmstad, Virgil Kibler,
Bob Swentzell, and John Cullinane ( a former clerk).
Yard office clerks were Don Lowman (later Agent),
Roy Conyers, Ralph Taylor, John Proctor, Christopher "Kit"
Carson, Frank Foster, Hubert "Red" Hinman (later Agent
at St. Joseph Mo.), Virgil Benham, Noel "Pepsi" Jenkins,
Ron Alvis, and Ray Hunter to name a few. Some of these were crew
callers, known as call boys in earlier days.
Bob Collier and Dave Proctor were two of the Refrigeration
Department Inspectors also in the yard office. Dave finished his
career in Denver.
At the HN office, Ben Turner was Head Wire Chief in
my early days, and Rick Langley in later years. Trick wire chiefs
included Bill Frye, Jack Hagerman, and Tom Peabody to name a few.
Among the many ORT operators that either worked there, or were
eligible to qualify, were Guy Turrentine, Herb Trumble, Joe Baublits,
Gary Montgomery, Bill Davis, Bob Marston, Howard Holter, Cecil
Hendrickson, Bob Wheeler, Jim Lewis , Pat Martin, Dave Muniz,
Ken Zwick, Mary Zwick, Susanne Proctor, Ed Vela, Debby Skinner,
Ron Yergert, and Doug Harrison. Some of this group may
have worked in the train order office at the passenger depot in
the 1970's and some may have been promoted to dispatching. Some
even went to train service in the 70's and 80's.
Messages were hand delivered to offices by messengers,
usually ladies, many of which became train order operators, and
later clerks when the different crafts were merged in the 1970's.
Messengers included Hazel Bailey, Doris Holcomb, Julia Rupp, Mary
Stahl, Bonnie Swentzell, Bonnie Casper, Velma Michels, and a host
When the new passenger depot was built, they installed
a message vacuum tube from the HN office to both the depot, and
the General Office Building. As the tube aged, moisture leakage
became a problem, and foot delivery was used as needed. Foot delivery
was used for all other offices.
We sometimes attended safety meetings in this building.
As a lure for young appetites, they had something to eat and drink.
At one meeting just before the lights went out for the movie,
one piece of pastry was left. Everyone, being polite, declined
to take it. When it was dark, I saw Duane Fox slyly inching his
hand towards the prize, without looking. I took the piece, and
watched his frantic hand go all over the table, and finally turning
his eyes to the problem and me with a look of frustration as I
ate the goodie!
East of the HN office was the Reading Room, (now removed)
which was an overnight rooming house for out of town rail personnel
and trainmen waiting for the return trip to their home point.
I roomed there on occasions when a force reduction at Lamar or
Granada caused me to bump into La Junta. The cost was .50 per
night, which included showers. Gus Bradley the Watch Inspector
had his office there, and may have also been the "room clerk",
but I think there was a man assigned to that job, name unknown.
The main floor was actually the second floor. The
original first floor had been a swimming pool in the middle of
the building in the early days. It was later converted to a dormitory
which had no windows, and was a cool place to sleep in hot weather,
almost like a basement room. There were also rooms with two beds
each. You might go to bed in a room by yourself, and have a room
mate when you awoke.
The main floor was an open area with chairs and couch's,
and papers and books for passing the time. There may have been
a pool table, since they were a common item in places such as
this. The track side of the building had a large covered porch,
and shade trees which provided a pleasant place to sit.
In September 1945, I was working in La Junta, and
I bid in a new Utility Clerk position at Granada Colo. established
to handle the extra business of closing the Japanese War Relocation
Center known as Camp Amache. Union rules were, if you bid in a
job in another community, and were not released to make the move
within 21 days, they had to pay your living expenses for the extra
time held on the old position.
I was kept for an additional nine days, and my total
living expenses were $15.75.
Besides my nightly room rate at the Reading Room, my meals were
.35 for breakfast; .35 to .40 for lunch; and .55 to .65 for dinner
I remember that I ate "higher on the hog" those nine
days, than I usually did!
Railway Express Building
East of the Reading Room was the Railway Express Agency
building, (still standing as of this writing) but used as storage.
Old Passenger Depot and Fred Harvey Hotel
The three story hotel building (See FRED HARVEY
STORY) (removed in 1950's) also housed the passenger station
and ticket office, and baggage room in the west portion of the
ground floor. The building was razed in the 1950's and a new station
was built on the same site. The only thing left from the old building
was the huge cockroaches in the sewer system!
East of this building were the carmen shanties who
serviced the various cars on all trains. Who can forget these
men with their long spouted cans for oiling the old style brass
journal boxes. The lids on the boxes were snapped open with a
squeak, and slammed shut with a bang! These jobs were gradually
eliminated with the roller bearings.
Trackside in the passenger yard were long water hoses,
where carmen filled engine and passenger car tanks, and as the
hoses were removed from the cars and engines, there was nearly
always a loud gushing stream of water as air pushed the excess
out, and water flew everywhere.
Carmen names I remember were Phillip Johannes, Charley
"Rabbit" Green, Al Monaco, and later Foreman Dennis
Robinson. I remember a multitude of faces, but not names.
Another memory is the mangy rail dogs that found the
shanties for shelter, and to beg handouts during meal times. They
knew exactly when each group of men ate their sack lunches, and
were waiting for the handout!
New Passenger Depot and Freight House
Built in the 1950s, this one story building originally
housed the news stand in the west end, with a display window opening
onto the platform. The room inside the depot was all display,
open to the adjoining passenger waiting room and ticket office.
A small office off of the ticket office housed at
different times, the ticket agent; freight agent; or the rail
The hallway to the east contained coin operated baggage
lockers and rest rooms for both genders.
A door then led into the one room multi - desk freight
office; a hallway on the other side to another set of rest rooms;
the baggage room; and finally the freight house and trackside
unloading dock. A few carmen shanties were located near the dock
Since it was also the bus depot for Greyhound and
Santa Fe Trailways, the new depot also had three covered bays
for bus parking, but the bus lines eventually moved away, allowing
three special parking places for the company truck and supervisory
List of Passenger Trains in 1945
Chicago to Los Angeles and return passenger trains
were numbered even when eastbound, and odd westbound. Full service
indicates dining car and /or lounge car.
Lightweight "Streamliner" Cars
Chief, Nos. 19 & 20, full service extra fare all
Super Chief, Nos. 17-18, full service extra fare all
sleepers, twice weekly. This train later sported a domed lounge
El Capitan, Nos, 21-22, full service extra fare all
chair car, twice weekly
(In the 1940's the El Capitan were standard size cars,
but later were High Level cars giving every passenger an elevated
The Chief carried many movie stars, and autograph
seekers were on hand every evening as stars, such as frequent
rider Gregory Peck, walked along the platform. Edward Arnold rode
the train often, and even came to La Junta in 1943 when invited
by student Philip Domenico for a special celebration. They had
a gathering in the old courthouse square, and at the high school.
Other stars rode the late night Super Chief, but it
was not as accessible as the Chief. We seen Abbot and Costello
one night through a sleeper window, playing poker with a group
I understand the High Level El Capitan cars were purchased
by the Alaska RR when Amtrak took over, and now run from Anchorage
to Denali park.
Standard Heavyweight Cars
California Limited, Nos. 3 & 4, full service chair
and sleepers daily
Grand Canyon Limited, Nos. 123-124 full service chair
and sleepers daily (added about 1950 ?)
Fast Mail & Express Nos. 7-8, daily with one combination
chair-baggage car. I rode No. 8 to Lamar occasionally. It was
a fast, slam bang ride, the combination car being the "caboose"
of the train!
Denver - Kansas City
Centennial State, Nos. 9-10, full service chairs and
Denver - La Junta
Centennial Limited (?) Nos. 13 & 14, full service
all chair cars
La Junta - Newton
"The Plug" Nos. 127-128, actual name unknown.
This seemingly unimportant daily train left daily
about 1:00 PM from La Junta to Newton and return. The consist
was an engine, baggage car, Railway Post Office (RPO), and a chair
During those war years, some of the chair cars were
also retrieved from the scrap yards and even had coal stoves for
winter heat. This train carried local traffic, stopping at nearly
The locomotives had large drivers, known locally as
the prairie type, and on the straight "race track" between
La Junta and Kansas could, and did, set some speed records. One
record over this trackage was the famous Death Valley Scotty trip
California to Chicago.
You could put a postal letter in the mail slot on
the side of the RPO at 1:00 PM and it would be delivered at any
of the towns on the route within 24 hours.
We also had a steady milk business. Milk cans came
in 5 and 10 gallon sizes, and many farmers shipped their milk
this way. They sent milk to some distant creamery that paid better
than the local one. Many were sent to the Newton creamery that
supplied milk for Hanlin Supply, which in turn was sent out to
railroad labor crews in food supplies over the system.
Many a depot worker went home at night with sore shoulders
after handling multiple shipments. Unloading was not too bad,
since the cans were going down, but lifting 10 gallon cans UP
into baggage cars was something else!
Mail, Baggage and Freight Handling
This crew handled checked baggage and bags of U. S.
Mail originating in both the local area and across country. Weight
volumes of mail bags had their ups and downs, but was always heavy
at Christmas. The mail was stacked on both sides of the baggage
car with a aisle down the middle. Late one night a car loaded
with mail bags almost to the ceiling, was spotted on a holding
track. It was the practice of some of the crew to sneak a nap
on top of mail bags during slow nights, and they decided to sleep
in this car. Most switching operations were smooth, but this night,
the car was hit hard, dumping everyone to the floor with mounds
of bags on top of them. There was much wailing and consternation,
but no one was hurt seriously, but did cut down on the naps for
One night, I was in a baggage car looking for something
and found a large box labeled "Extremely Dangerous"
with a wire mesh top. Being inquisitive, I shined my light, to
see what was in it. Staring back at me was a live King Cobra!
Wow, what a chill that was!
We had soldiers from the local Army Air Corps. base
that helped on the mail crew in their spare time. One night we
had a coffin with a corpse in a "rough box" (shipping
container) to move from one train's baggage car to another, however
we had two military trains between the two trains. Most military
trains had kitchen cars, with a wide door in the middle of the
car on both sides. We took the coffin alongside the troop train
until we found a kitchen car, and shoved it through the first
At the second train we also found a kitchen car, and
had the coffin in the door when someone said something about it
being a coffin with a corpse, and these soldiers would not have
anymore to do with it. The military train wanted to leave, but
could not until the coffin was removed. We had some tense moments
until the situation was finally solved with personnel that were
not so superstitious! Another incident with a coffin happened
on the road between two baggagemen. They each worked in their
own car. One was a nervous type guy, easily scared. The other
had finished his work early, and decided to take a nap. A rough
box is over 6 foot long and fairly wide, so he turned all but
one light off which left a dim glow, and laid down on the box
for a snooze. The other fellow came looking for him, and nearly
died with fright when the man rose from the top of the "coffin"
Some crew names I remember were Trinidad Carrillo,
C. L. Cox, and Santos Werick as Mail Foremen (Cox was Chief Clerk
to Supt. when he retired), and mail crew members Chris Lopez,
Raul Guerrero, Ralph Guerrero, George Lopez, Gabe Fernandez, Vincent
Valvides, Froilan Rosales, Silas Padilla, W. M. Vasquez, Shorty
Perez, Andy Carrillo, and Joe Florez, Eddie Salazar, just to name
a few. The mail crew members later worked on the freight house
dock as needed. The Freight Warehouse had foremen, R. H. Mc Neal,
then Earl Hollis, then Lee Whorton. Greg Everett was a Porter
for the passenger trains.
We were both train and bus depot, handling bus companies
Santa Fe Trailways, and Greyhound in the 1950's. I sold tickets
on third trick. Most of the time I enjoyed the public, but the
occasional drunk was the down side.
One night, shortly after I began, a fellow was going
to Lone Tree, Colorado, but there was no listed town by that name.
For over an hour I searched tariffs and made phone calls to Pueblo
and Denver without success. Finally I asked a question I should
have asked much earlier. "What is the nearest town?"
He replied "La Junta."
He lived in a shanty about 5 miles south of town on
the road to Trinidad. He would catch the bus under the one tree
that grew in that desolated area, that he called "Lone Tree",
and the drivers and day ticket sellers routinely sold him 25 cent
tickets to his bus stop!
La Junta ticket clerks that I remember were Leonard
Grimsley, Byron Kingsolver, Carmel Carrillo, Tony Aragon, A. R.
Baker, John O'Neil, and later Chris Watters, and Roger Hernandez.
Station Masters and Special Agents
These railroad policemen had offices in the passenger
depot. In 1941 Dave Fresch was the first I remember. He was a
large, muscular man, and ran a tight ship! Any nonsense in the
depot, and you were history!
Later men were George Friedenberger, Floyd Widup, J.O. Alley,
Jim White, and Carlos Martinez (a former clerk) and many others
that I can picture in my mind, but can not remember their names.
My next installment is entitled
The Centralized Accounting