My Story and My Experiences
an introduction by Susie Gaglia
Through the years, I met new people, and we shared interesting conversations. It amazed them all when I told them I had been a railroad engineer—that, yes, I actually did run trains.
I had their full attention, and they wanted to hear more. I began to hear, “You should write a book.” I smiled whenever it happened, and that’s how it all started.
This book tells my story about my experiences and my life as a railroad locomotive engineer for ConRail/Amtrak from 1978 to 1993.
A BASEMENT MODEL RAILROAD
The years rolled on, and I turned seven. My dad wanted to build a small train table in the basement. I was all for that and wanted to help. It was HO scale, my very own first train set, but I think my dad really thought it belonged to him because he was in charge, he was the boss, he was the engineer (I think all dads know what I mean). It took awhile, but after hammering thousands of tiny nails into a piece of plywood, it was time to connect the transformer. That was Dad’s job. My job was to place the train on the track.
And then the moment of long anticipated joy. Dad pushed the transformer lever forward and the light on the locomotive came on, but the engine needed that first little push to get started. And wow! That was awesome! Our very own railroad! I wore my grandfather’s original conductor’s hat. I loved my grandfather, and I loved that black hat with a gold band. He worked for the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad. My dad said, “You got railroad blood in you, Kid.” I smiled and felt proud.
I didn’t know then that the little home railroad built by my father and me would remain with me the rest of my life.
THE ROAD TO ENGINEER
After going to work with ConRail on May 26, 1978, and working a year on several jobs as a fireman, I planned to prepare for the engineman training program about to begin in mid May, 1979 and run for seven weeks through mid July.
The syllabus included instruction in duties; identification of locomotive components; introduction to electricity, generators, and high voltage circuits; airbrake systems; low voltage systems; locomotive operation; troubleshooting; running gear; and inspections and reports.
This is what I’d been waiting for. This was the main reason I chose to be a railroader, to achieve my All-American Dream of becoming a locomotive engineer.
The day arrived. The only female and more than ready to get started, I went to class as one of fifteen candidates chosen.