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La Junta General Office Building - Santa Fe Railway

Remembrances of Delbert"D. K." Spencer


Prior to 1972 in this history, when employee names are listed in towns or offices, we realize that all clerks on the Colorado Division Station roster represented by the (BRAC) Brotherhood of Railway and Airline Clerks were eligible to qualify at any station on the division. Most had found their niche in a certain area, or community, and stayed there whenever possible, however their names may appear in multiple listings.

Likewise, members of the (ORT) Order of Railroad Telegraphers had a separate division seniority roster, and could hold telegrapher positions anywhere on the Colorado Division.

After 1971 the BRAC clerks and the ORT telegraphers merged, with seniority being dovetailed, into one roster.

The General Office Building clerks on the Superintendents Operating Department roster had their own seniority district, but were still members of BRAC. Their seniority allowed moves mostly within the building itself.

La Junta General Office Building
Assistant General Managers

La Junta in 1941 was the headquarters for an Assistant General Manager, who I remember as G. R. Buchanan. With the AGM here, the Colorado Division Superintendent J. E. Lester was located in Pueblo, and he was in office when I hired out in 1944. In later years the AGM's office in La Junta was eliminated, and La Junta became HQ for the division. Both of these officials had passenger rail cars, known as "business" cars assigned to them. I believe the AGM was numbered 4, and the Superintendent 17 (?). When I was working for Fred Harvey in 1941-42 we provided food for both cars when they were in town. In 1956 T. J. Anderson was AGM in La Junta.

While I never actually worked in this 3 story brick building, I was there frequently on errands, and later as Treasurer of the Brotherhood of Railway Clerks local, knew most of the personnel.





In each section of the building were areas set aside for a certain department, or combination of departments, where the non-official staff labored. The sections were: Division Superintendent; Trainmasters; Special Service, Claim Agents; Engineering; Dispatchers, Roadmasters, Signals, Communication, Bridge and Building, and Motor Car Maintenance. It also housed the Chief Dispatcher, and his trick dispatchers, and in later years the Radio department.

It was located on the corner of 4th and Santa Fe, four blocks from the rail yard, and was staffed by the below listed roster of BRAC clerks, that could move from office to office as vacancies occurred and their job qualifications and seniority allowed.

The Engineering department, however, had their own staff that were considered as officials. They were not under the clerks schedule, and were available to work where ever needed during such times as strikes, for example.

Colorado Division Superintendants

Of all the Superintendents, I remember Mr. C. B. Kurtz the best. When Topeka officials chaired La Junta meetings, they used his middle name of Burns, but I never heard anyone in La Junta address him in any way but Mr. Kurtz, even after retirement when familiarity seems to prevail. He stayed in La Junta, and served on the city council and was dedicated to the community. He was a real gentleman and fair in all his dealings, and most of all, he remembered your name and was concerned about your welfare.

Others besides J. E. Lester, were H. A. Tice (1928) , J. P. Spears (1956), B. O. Bernard, G. E. Young, J.K. Hastings, D. D. Didier, and Dennis McDougal, to name a few. There may have been a man named Agee, for we had a track by that name at Rocky Ford that was supposed to be named for him.

I had a slight knowledge of Mr. Lester. As a Fred Harvey worker in 1941, I knew his business car steward better, but had a few chance meetings. In 1945, I was going with a lady telegrapher working at Swink. She later was agent at a desolate one person agency called Caddoa just south of the John Martin dam, and the only telegraph office between Las Animas and Lamar.

The station, because of its desolation, had a rail owned residence within walking distance. The area also had a terrible rattlesnake problem. She had been raised near Hasty (north of the dam), and was used to snakes. With a club she would kill a snake nearly every walk she made, and sometimes several. She then would hang the carcass over the barb wire fence. She had a lot of spunk!

I was working nights, and she was working days. With our weird hours, my only time with her was during her work hours. One hot Sunday, much to her concern, I took the waiting room bench outside into the breezy shade of the depot walls to sit. She was afraid some official might come by, but I said "what official works on Sunday?." Shortly after, a motor car came around a sharp bend, bearing Mr. Lester and the track maintainer!

With the bravado of youth I gave them a candy bar and a cold drink that I had brought with me, and we sat on the bench and talked railroading. He talked a bit with Mary, and went on his way, and we never heard another word!

My only other memory of him was seeing him one evening in a light gray suit, walking along side of the steam locomotive, when the blow off valves blew oily steam all over him! I, and several of my co-workers thought at the time that a certain engineer did it on purpose, but it may have been just fate, as automatic blow off valves were common on engines.

After I assumed the Agency at Rocky Ford, I had a run in with a superintendent. During beet season, an seasonal employee making a morning yard check mentioned that he had bumped his head on the side of a car, but did not want to go to the doctor. Most of us had done this at one time or another, so I assumed he was OK. Later in the day, he began to complain about the injury, and I sent him to the Santa Fe approved doctor and called the super's office.

A few minutes later, he exploded in my ear for nearly 15 minutes as to why I did not call him in the morning, right after the injury. He finally hung up, and I was a mess wondering why there was so much concern. The phone rang again, and away we went again for another 15 minutes! It seems there was a pre-existing problem between the employee and the carrier that I knew nothing about, and had I known of this, as Agent I would have been more cautious. I have been chewed out before, but nothing like this! However, once it was over, he never mentioned it again in any of our dealings.


Trainmasters were one step below a superintendent, and was the official that a station agent usually had to deal with. I have worked under several, but the one I most remember was Delbert Miller out of Pueblo. He was a real gentleman. He would come to Rocky Ford occasionally, but never with a chip on his shoulder. If I had messed up, we talked it over and he was always amicable.

There was a trainmaster assigned to a certain railroad area, and in some cases there might be two trainmasters with offices in the GOB. They were usually the ones who notified the agent of an impending change in office staff, usually a job abolishment, but sometimes a new position when business was good enough. When a trainmaster came to your office, we were always apprehensive as to why he came!

We had a dread about getting your depot painted. In later years it seemed like a depot painting crew would come in, and a few months later they would close the depot for good. It seemed like the trainmaster was usually the bearer of those bad tidings!

However, my personal opinion is, this trend was part of someone's master plan. A case in point is the General Office Building itself. Just a few short years before they closed the building, a major overhauling took place costing what was rumored to be about $300,000.00. It stands to reason, if a rail building showed more expense than the income it was supposed to generate, it would be grounds for closure. The old adage is, you have to spend money to make money, so if you spend a bunch on a building that you want to close, you will save a lot of money in the long run!

Some trainmaster names I remember are H. J. Briscoe, W. R. Henry, E. B. Jones, M. E. Shewmake (Pueblo), B. Y. Steele, L. P. Heath, W. R. Hopper, and T. E. Auge.

Chief Clerks

I do not remember if there were Chief Clerks in all the offices. If there were, they were probably considered to be officials. I know those in the Superintendent's office were officials, and included Bill Bidall, Clarence Cox, and Barry Henry to name a few.


The BRC clerks that were listed on the Superintendent's Operating Department seniority roster in 1980 included: Dean Sommers; Bernie Carroll; Frank Bissey (Pueblo); Marge Sommers; A. L. Moore (Amarillo) Lois Springer; Burch Ritter; Lloyd Hinderliter; Richard Hinderliter (Chicago) ; Elsie Horn (a classmate from Lamar Colo. H.S.); A. G. "Brownie" Wynne; Connie Rogers; Judy Karney; Linda Hinderliter, (Chicago) ; C. A. Barnhart; Dorothy Schultz; Marilyn Ritter; Nell Morgan; Charlene Sims (Pueblo); Andy Amparan (Agent when I retired); Muriel Brown; J. L. Clark (Raton); Sachi Fujimoto; E. Jo Foste; Bonnie Carlile; Tammy Davis; Jeanine La Fever; Linda (Lowman) Smith; Duranna Crosswhite; K. C. Melchoir; Bob Buller; H. L. Verne, and Jody Hansen.

Prior to 1980 were Trudy O'Leary, Hiawatha Griffith, Fern Bell, Frank Wyowadzic, and John Bickel to name a few retirees.

Claim Agent

Charles Fitzpatrick seemed to be always on the go, investigating the many different accidents or claims made against the carrier. These ranged from livestock deaths to rail and auto accidents to personal injury problems, and everything in between!

Engineering Department

In 1956 W. R. Rees was District Engineer. Later members of the Engineering department that I knew from my job distributing paychecks were J. B. Miller, Don McClure, R. E. McIntyre, Larry Stotts, Chuck Moore, Charlie Tucker, Mike Berry, and Dan Duff.

Chief Dispatchers

Being a clerk from the beginning, I was not acquainted with the dispatching department until later in my career. When I passed the rule book to become agent at Rocky Ford, the Chief Dispatcher was W. N. Willis, and later Jack McAtee. Another earlier man was Jack Barnes.

Trick Dispatchers as of 1985

Les Anderson, Leonard Stephan, Gene Spoonemore, Don Deaton, Bill Abel, Randy Holiman, Ron Yergert, Doug Harrison, Sherril Taylor, Lyle Japhet, J. J. Garza, Doyle Elyea, and Ron Hiner.

Safety Supervisors

T. G. Corbin, and Dick Weakley

Signal Department

John Bagwell, Supervisor (1971), G. H. Sette and J. F. Sulier, Assistant Supervisors (1971), and in 1986 Paul Barnes, Supervisor; Mert Turner, Assistant Supervisor; and Signal Inspectors King Bullard, and Jerry Sitton. Maintainers Ralph Prather, Paul Fritz, Howard Norris, Bob Malden, Bruce Baublits, Mike Casper, Bill Blecha, and (Bill?) Mitchell, to name a few.  


In 1971, C. C. Garret Jr was Assistant Engineer. When I retired Howard Luehring and John Mullaly were Radio men, and in the Telephone Department was Gary Hines.

Bridge and Building

Albert Matt, was the head of the department. He was a WW 2, refugee from Europe, and had been an apprentice to a carpenter since his childhood days. He was a master carpenter and builder. Tom Coffield was the B&B foreman. Bridge Inspector was Dee Quicksall (after retirement, Federal Bridge Inspector)


Clyde L. Conley was the first I remember, in 1944. His son Frank was one of my best friends in La Junta high school. M. C. Pannell and W. C. Popham Jr were roadmasters in 1971. I cannot seem to remember who else were roadmasters.


I am sure that I have missed some names in this article, and probably will come to mind in the days ahead. My apologies to anyone I have slighted. If I hear from anyone with changes of spelling, or additions or subtractions, to this story, I will be glad to submit an addendum, probably by the end of the year.

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