|Southern Pacific Rotary Plow, Portola, 2012|
I had three basic careers during my tenure at the SP. I started out as a switchman, gave up my seniority, and then I went on the road as a brakeman. After a couple of years on the road, the SP opened up positions for apprentice engineers. I gave up my seniority again, and went into engine service. Career wise, those were good moves. I could see the handwriting on the wall, and it said that there were to be significant changes in how the railroad used its employees.
The first clue came when the railroad closed Mojave Yard sometime around nineteen-seventy. The San Joaquin Division included Fresno Yard, Bakersfield Yard, and Mojave Yard. All SJ switchmen had seniority that was good in all three yards. I do not recall how many guys came over to Bakersfield from Mojave, but I estimate about a dozen men's positions were affected. When they moved to either Bakersfield or Fresno, they had the right to "bump" anyone with whom they had seniority over. I think everyone that came to Bakersfield had seniority over me, and so I had less to pick from at my home terminal.
That alone was enough to make me think about asking if I could go on the road. I inquired, and was granted permission to transfer over to the brakeman's extra board. I did not have to take any student trips since I was knowledgeable with the rules of the road.