One of the things I am proud of is being a part of the rail industry. I literally started at the bottom in greasy, sweaty overalls. Eager to find something that provided a decent living and a future, I hired out to Southern Railway (USA) in the 70's as a laborer in a track material yard. I can't think of many jobs more "grunty and sweaty" than working on the railroad. I "made my bones" (hey, I'm no gangster) down in the bottom of high side gondola cars in 95 degree heat slingin' joint bars and loading switch frogs, package switches, and "comp joints" (joints that allow transition from one rail weight to another), and slingin' a sledge hammer on a pile of scrap frogs 6 high, 3 wide. The rest of the time I followed an electric crane around the material yard loading/unloading track material into those gons, flats, and box cars. Then "other duties as required" so stated posted job bulletins of the day. Then I was furloughed when the track material yard moved to Irondale, AL. I thought my job was simple GONE. I must've done something right because less than 2 weeks later my boss phoned me at home and offered me an Extra Clerk's position in the office. Said, "We don't want to lose you to another company". I did nothing extraordinary- just did my job, showed up on time, never loafed around. The work was hard and tiring, but I LIKED doing it). So I moved up to the office filling in for vacationing clerks. Oh boy, the guys that were senior to me and often worked harder trying to get OUT of work did not like that! I worked that for a year and half, and I got a phone call from Chief Clerk, Charlotte Yard, said, "Will you agree to go to Georgia to train as a Line of Road Clerk." Yep. So I then "graduated" from what I wryly named "Railroad Boot Camp" and found myself knee deep in waybills, demurrage, signals, train orders and the way of life , language and, customs that a railroad Extra Clerk endures. I was deeply immersed in it. And the thing that was unique about it was, Southern Railway and Norfolk Southern, the partner corporation up until 1992-ish, endorsed and supported a "Steam Operations" program. So as a train order clerk, agent, operator, interlocking operator, I was right in the middle of it all. I was there to witness "Big Steam", clear these trains to go to work, hand up train orders to them. At any given time during the summer, I might be working as Agent/Operator at an outlying agency and find myself standing trackside with "flimsies" (Form 19 + Clearance Card) to hand up to the head end and rear (conductor). These were Engines 4501 (Sou), 2716 (ex C & O), T & P 610, and Norfolk & Western 611. A few of them I "deadheaded" in the cab. So I can relate well to both the modern diesel era and also to that of the Steam age that ended circa 1960-ish. I met people like Jim Bistline, AVP Passenger Operation (pre-Amtrak), Bill Purdie, Master Mechanic, Steam, and "Wick" Moorman, recently retired CEO of NS. I "knew" him when he was a Track Supervisor, Greensboro and I used to ship him stuff as an Inventory Clerk, Material Mgt Dept. So I got to experience railroading and an past era of steam as well. Sometimes it felt like 1940 what with the E8's and steam engines right in the same roundhouse! I wasn't a railfan; didn't follow it as a hobby, but I loved the job sometimes and HATED it sometimes. Only a railroader can understand why that is! I wouldn't trade it for the world!