Fun Railroad History That Just Showed Up

Came into the Union Station archive this morning to find Chief Archivist Lee Witten almost drooling over a pile of old books, photos and railroad gear that he was lovingly sorting out on the table.

IMGP1614 All of it was donated to the archives by Donna Forbes, Midvale, whose dad started as a telegrapher for the Union Pacific Railroad in 1942 and worked as a dispatcher and rules examiner until he retired in 1983.

He was a saver, even preserving the original flimsies for telegraph orders on his first day at work. His notebooks are filled with carefully handwritten notes on promotions and tests of guys working to be promoted to conductor, train orders and all sorts of other stuff.




There’s a couple of telegraph keys and a practice key, complete with tapes of signals to be translated so he could build his speed or keep his skills honed. There’s a nice pile of pictures of old steam engines.

Mr. Forbes worked in Las Vegas and then Salt Lake City. I’m guessing he died since then — I will be talking to his daughter to get his full history — and all his stuff is the sort of thing that gets tossed out by children or grandchildren unless they think, as Ms. Forbes did, that they should be preserved.

So she brought them to us and they will be saved, with extreme care and gratitude.