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George Odion - Railroader - "It's up to you every minute."

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Taking It Easy After 55 Years of Railroading

By John Forssen

George E. Odion is relaxing at his home at 420 E. Pine St. these days after 55 years and 10 days of railroading. For the past several years, he has been engineer of the crack North Coast Limited, sitting in the comfortable cab of a diesel locomotive, but things weren’t always so soft. Matter of fact it was kind of tough in the first years after he went to work on Oct. 6, 1906, as a callboy in the Missoula roundhouse. He wouldn’t tell about it, but his record at division headquarters here contains a citation he earned for “decorating” a freight train he was firing when it ran away out of control on Oct. 3, 1908, while descending the east side of Blossburg Hill, as the railroaders call the Mullan Pass crossing of the Continental Divide west of Helena. With other members of the crew, Odion ran over the top of the train, setting brakes by hand to stop the 60-mile-an-hour race with death on the curving route. The high point of Odion’s career, however, came the next year when he fired the train that carried several hundred head of buffalo from the loading point at Ravalli on the first leg of the trip to Canada. The Canadian government had purchased the Pablo and Allard herd and Odion watched as the big animals were loaded. Some of them smashed the wooden cars of the day. The train had 31 cars when it pulled away with Engineer Mickey McCann at the throttle and Odion firing. He had advanced from callboy to fireman Sept. 23, 1907, and moved to the other side of the cab in 1917. During 54 years, he has been in the cab of virtually every type of locomotive the NP has operated and says that while diesels are more comfortable he really misses the steam locomotives. He liked several types of steamers, including the huge type Z8 articulateds, but his favorite was 2607, one of the NP’s famous type A passenger locomotives, named the Northern in honor of the NP. “She was the finest engine I ever sat on,” Odion said. “The steam locomotives all had personalities of their own. One would be more peppy than another of the same class.” During the year of the big forest fire, 1910, Odion was called to fire a train carrying refugees out of St. Regis. “We were still six miles from the fire, but we could hear it roar – a terrible noise,” he recalled. Odion was never in an accident which resulted in a fatality, and he never was involved in any serious labor trouble. He had a kind word for the NP. “The officials have been very good to me,” he said. “I can’t complain at all. Most of them are practical men.” Odion, facing a future with plenty of time for hunting, fishing and yard work, said that if he had it to do over again he’d spend another career in railroading. “It’s interesting,” he said. “When you’re running one of those engines, it’s up to you every minute.”

The article above appeared in The Missoulian on October 29, 1961.



Last Updated on Tuesday, 30 January 2018 15:11