Robert Plageman

My love of trains began at an early age 3 -4. A woman who rented an apartment from my folks would draw pictures of locomotives for me while I sat on her lap . Her brother was an Engineer for the Canadian National. She would drive me to the station to watch the train traffic. I was lucky, our house was about a quarter of a mile from the SP/SF LA main line. A daily parade of East and West bound passenger and Freight trains ...Daylights, the Lark, the Coaster, OVERNIGHT FREIGHTS, COMMUTES AND "Sad Sam, the LA-SF mail train. I often road the Mail from San Jose to Burlingame after school. Three of us would walk the mile from our high school to San Jose to catch the Mail. She left San Jose a few minutes before the regular commute. She flew between stops and made the 28 miles in 40 minutes.

My love affair with model trains started at age 5 with my first Lionel set. I acquired more Lionel equipment over the next few years. Had a nice 3 rail set up in my basement. By the time I was 12 or so, I built my first Varney HO kit. Thru high school and college I did some building and collecting and built a couple of HO layouts, one in our quarters in Germany and one in my garage in San Mateo. In 1976 I switched to O scale . Had a switching layout and in the mid nineties started the layout that I have today .

My love for the prototype was very strong during college. I thought I wanted to be a civil engineer, but after a year and a half I realized I should persue a career in business. During the summer between my freshman and sophomore year, I hired out to work on a MW section gang. Quite an experience! I learned to operate jack hammers, pick, shovel and other tools used in track laying. I always wanted to be and engineer, so the summer of 1956, I hired out as a fireman. That summer I was a student fireman for 15 trips and after my student time they put me to work for real. I fired 5 steamers that summer and many diesels. The last steam engine on the SP worked a commute out of SF mid January 1957 and then they were gone. I worked on the diesel the rest of the year until I got laid off in October.

After graduation in June of 1958 there were no opening jobs for low seniority fireman, so since I had a commission in the U S Army I started my Army Career. I had a commission in the artillery so naturally I went to Officer's Basic at Fort Sill, OK.. After basic, I got orders for Helicopter flight school. After flight school, I was posted to Germany. I spent 3 years there and then back to the states for advanced officer training. Late December found me assigned to an artillery battalion at Ft. Riley, KA. for a year of ground duty. By mid 1964 both my wife and I decided we had had enough of the Army, so I resigned my commission and left the army December of 1964, and returned home to San Mateo.

So, I started looking for a job and found one with a whole sale paper distribution company in South San Francisco, CA I started March 1965 and retired August 1997.

During the November 1964 election, the voters in California voted out locomotive firemen with less than 10 years seniority. We were entitled to another job with the railroad or a severance package. I took the severance and after taxes received enough money for the down payment on a house. We moved in April 1, 1965 .

The Southern Pacific Railroad has been a part of my life since I was born. It gave me excitement, thrills, occasional scary times, joy and happiness. Even though the SP flag doesn't fly over #1 Market St. anymore, and the Gray and Red has changed to yellow, I will always remember with a gratefull heart how wonderful it was and how fortunate I am that the SP was a part of my life.