Saturday, April 22, 2023

AJ McFarland

Guest post by Dave Sprau. 

I'll add that I met "AJ" (or "Mac" to his railroad coworkers) when he started to work at the Ephrata Walmart. He told some great stories. I will miss him.

Dave had kept up with him after he moved back to the Centralia area, and would occasionally pass on to me an update on how he was doing.


Sometimes we have, in our midst, a few guys who were "boomers" without having to quit and re-hire very much. A very large Great Northern Ry. family, "McFarland," first appeared on the scene at Red Lake Falls MN circa 1900. Following that, a wave of them worked their way west until they were all over the place. But let me tell of one of them, Arnold "AJ" McFarland. He was GN agent at Merritt, WA in 1954 and was a telegrapher at Scenic just before that, during tests by Joe Gaynor preceding installation of a door on the Cascade Tunnel preparatory for replacing Electric locomotives with diesels. "Mac" afterward went to the NP and promptly bid in a permanent assignment at Stampede. 

GN Chief Dispatcher W.B. Jones, a friend of the entire family, later had a conversation with Mac during a social event. He asked, "Well, how is that wooden-axle outfit treating you? "Good," replied Mac. "I just bid in a job at Stampede." "Stampede," Jones asked? What d'ya get, third trick?" Came the reply: "No. First trick; day shift. - There is no agent there so the first trick operator is in charge," Jones blinked. "Well what are your days off; Tuesday and Wednesday or something like that?" Mac replied, "Saturday and Sunday." To which Jones jumped up and said "YOU HAVE BETTER HOURS AND DAYS OFF THAN I DO ! ! " A few years later Stampede station was closed and Mac bumped into to Sumas, then to Cle Elum and Easton, Two 1967 photos here depict him handing up orders to the engines from a Dead Freight West returning to Easton after doubling its first cut to Lester. Next, Mac is OS'ing this train to the dispatcher; panel on his left is the combination Easton interlocking for end of double track , and CTC between Martin and Stampede with an eastbound train showing on the "approach" to Stampede. Next image shows Mac about 7 years later; in 1968 he became an NP dispatcher at Tacoma in 1968 and six days after getting his seniority date,, he bid in a permanent dispatching job. In the photo are L. to R., dispatchers; Dick Leary, Chuck Stillman, John Ackley, Pius Fettig, Cam Galbreath, Duke Tone, "MAC,", & Dave Steinhoff, all gathered in front of Tacoma-to-Vancouver CTC machine, for some reason or other. 

The former NP dispatchers' office at Tacoma WA and the former GN office at Seattle were consolidated into one office at Seattle on June 6, 1982. Later that month. a gala retirement party attended by 125 persons honored five dispatchers who received separation allowances as a result. This photo depicts the portion of guests present at this gathering who then, or at any previous time, ever worked as a train dispatcher. Many had achieved company officer status, some resigned to enter other fields, and others were either active or retired BN train dispatchers.

Oh yeah, a story about that: His older brother, C.C. "Charlie" McFarland first became a GN train dispatcher in 1951 but due to scarcity of work had to knock about between Havre, Spokane, Seattle and Klamath Falls on the extra board much of the time, for about ten years, before successfully getting a regular permanent position. Charlie had "fit" (good-natured of course) upon finding his younger brother did something in six days that had take Charlie more than ten years. + Arnold's next move was bidding in Second trick dispatcher job in the former Pacific Coast RR office at Maple Valley, where he was on duty March 15, 1980 when the final Milwaukee train passed thru town enroute to Chicago after which the Milwaukee road was kaput (See Clearance Form). Maple Valley was closed shortly after that and Mac Bumped into the ex-GN train dispatchers' office at Seattle. Shortly after that, he had enough "whiskers" to take the day shift Assistant Chief Dispatcher position on the Pacific Division. One day in about 1988 he just up and quit the dispatchers office -- and bumped into a telegraphers job at Wenatchee, -- a sort of "retirement" job, which he worked until retiring. 

His wife's medical bills kind of put him behind the 8-ball. and Mac could have simply ignored them as many do, and got away with it, but instead he then chose to work as a Wal-Mart greeter at Ephrata and later Centralia until every last bill was paid. That's the kind of guy he was. Thereafter Mac lived in a little house at Vader WA, one block up from the "Little Crane Cafe" -- "Where the train crews stop to eat." Today (12-15-22) at 4pm in that little house Mac, age 89, came to the end of the road and passed away in his sleep. Farewell Mac, R.I.P.