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2005 UP Family Day at Commerce Locomotive Facility

Union Pacific Family Day at Commerce

Locomotive Facility

May 21, 2005
Story and photographs copyright 2004 by Richard Elgenson
RailNews Network

On May 21, 2005, the Commerce Diesel/Mechanical shops in East Los Angeles held a fabulous employee family day.  On this warm, clear beautiful day, hundreds made this open house part of their Saturday.  As I arrived the parking lot was fairly full due to regular operations, but the open house area was quiet except for last minute preparations.  Soon, employees started showing up, visiting, eating good food, claiming various raffled prizes and moving onto their next part of their Saturday.    The Family Day site was nestled between the diesel facility, the mechanical offices, the infirmary and the shop tracks.  Employees got to socialize over hotdogs and hamburgers potato salad, chips, water and soda.  I even spied some chicken being cooked.  Various equipment was parked and occasionally their was movement of locomotives.




This Family Day was open to a wide range of employees and vendors.  All service crafts at Commerce, employees from LATC and operating men and women, health and safety personnel were present to share the late morning and early afternoon. Vendors donated many nice gifts which were raffled off while different organizations had booths for sharing information.  Operation Lifesaver handed out highway-rail grade crossing information, keychains, pencils and coloring books and crayons in exchange for answering a rail safety question.  The O.L. personnel had a stopping distance comparison slide and asked kids and parents a safety question.  Other participating entities were the Peer support Coordinator Carl Biel with literature, the Pacific Federal Transportation Credit Union with pens and squeezable steam locomotives and loans.  The Union Pacific Police Department was out in force and joined by California Highway Patrol who handed out yo-yo's, literature and keychains.  There was a special booth which gave parents complete identification of their children via fingerprints and photographs.




The Union Pacific Police Department had a booth and distributed literature and other small items.  They also showed off their mobile command post trailer.  While visiting with the Union Pacific Police, fingers were being pointed at who was a bigger foamer.  All agreed that the Metrolink Sherriff, who was not present, was the foamer.  All others involved in the conversation denied being foamers.  UP officer Tim Nerhling said he had something for me and it turned out to be a glow in the dark UP Police yo-yo.  In a moment noticed by few, the California Highway Patrol officer was recorded doing driving cross-training.  This officer must be a very nimble driver judging by how good he was with his new UP Police yo-yo.  Wouldn't want him chasing me in a car.




Like any good party, there was private goings on behind the scenes.  After noon, Wayne Baker asked me to join him to visit with Darrell Hart, Foreman General 1 Transportation, in his office.  Mr. Hart then introduced me to J.S. "Steve" Lee another Foreman General 1 in Projects & Contracts.  Just regular Steve Lee, not the well known UP steam engineer.  Steve Lee explained to me the reasons for Family Day.  The 2004 Family Day at Commerce was successful and employees kept that success on their minds so long that management felt a repeat was necessary.  Family Day events are a good excuse to improve morale.  Families get to see what their family member does for work at the railroad.  A committee included Team Leader Steve Lee, Darrell Hart, Manuel Rodarte, Wayne Baker, Terry Katherman and Roy Magdalena.  These guys worked hard to put the event together and they deserve a lot of credit.  Special thanks go to the men and women who volunteered at this event.  The UP Family Day volunteers were rewarded with nice caps and golf shirts.  Recently, the Commerce diesel facility was removed from the Los Angeles service unit.  Now, instead of being run by the operating department, they work independently and answer to the Mechanical Department.  Lee shared information on the preparation of the Family Day event.  They figured about 400-500 attendees for the day.  Lee had involved the vendors and received donations of prizes to be raffled off, including shirts, hats, tool boxes, and a grand prize 32" television.  While in Darrel Hart's office, I happened to notice a Katy system map framed on the wall.  Having read about a former Katy bridge in a small Texas town in the news recently, I asked about the map.  It turns out that Darrell Hart was a former land surveyor for the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railway and he was familiar with the bridge in Boonville.  He shared that the survey equipment used by Katy surveyors in the 1960's and 1970's dated from the previous century.  I enjoy pouring over maps and hearing surveying stories and visiting with Darrell Hart was a highlight of my day.  For example, the Katy sent the surveyors to work in southern Texas during the summer and north during the winter. Seems backwards to me.  Of interest on Darrell's map were certain east-west MKT rail lines formerly part of the Rock Island system.  Steve Lee said all railroads in Texas wanted to acquire those Rock Island rails due to various reasons.  Steve Lee, of course, had been a longtime Southern Pacific employee. 


The Commerce facility has an infirimary on site.  Two of the nurses, Judy and Joy were there along with various friends and family to dispense blood pressure tests and cholesterol tests.  I took a blood pressure test and weighed myself after emptying my pockets.  After a hotdog and hamburger, my weight was up and blood pressure down.  My cholesterol was....a bit up there.  I am sure that the homemade tomales will help my cholesterol level.  LOL.  Judy and Joy have the personality type perfect for being nurses.  They are friendly, quick witted and professional.  I would hope that all railroad employees stay safe without injuries, but having to deal with Judy or Joy or both in such a situation would be good for the employee.

The railroad has instuted a Total Safety Culture program or T.S.C. which is employee owned, employee empowered, and employee driven.  Three facilitators amongst many involved are Linda Butler, Manuel Rodarte and Beverly Washington.  I took the opportunity to read the "Los Angeles Basin T.S.C. Newsletter" from cover to cover.  Employees are the ones who can make the difference in other employees lives by abiding by basic rules and watching out for one another's safety.  An associated program at UP is C.A.T.S. or Changing Attitudes Towards Safety.  The P.A.W.S. program also promotes safety.


As a footnote to this event, about one week later, I received a call on my cell phone as I was wandering around a home improvement store.  The caller identfied himself as Darrell Hart from Union Pacific and said I had won a prize at the Family Day.  I explained who I was and reminded him of our conversation about land surveying.  The next day I went back to the Commerce facility to pick up a UP umbrella.


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