For this 50-year-old employee, overcoming challenges was part of the job

My railroad career began in 1969 as a South Pacific secretary in San Francisco, but 2 and a half years later I accepted a job as a guaranteed extra-consulting clerk at the Taylor Yard in Los Angeles on the 10th April 1972. The move was a very eye-opening experience.

At the time, women were not welcomed in the male-dominated railroad industry, and many derogatory comments with colorful language were made to make me feel uncomfortable. But not for this woman. I was there to learn and do a job.

One of these early jobs was to process incoming and outgoing trains. An IBM card had to be punched to represent each car entering or exiting the yard. Each wagon had a waybill indicating its destination which also had to be punched – a very laborious process. It’s amazing to see how far technology has come. Today, EDI (Electric Data Interchange) billing goes directly from the customer to the central billing department in Omaha.

Throughout my career, I’ve worked both inside and outside the office – in the rail yard. The worst job was being a “mud hop” – working in the yard checking cars on incoming and outgoing trains, rain or shine. In bad weather, it was unpleasant work. The men thought I would get discouraged and quit, but not this woman. I just put one foot in front of the other and continued.

I held several jobs in those early years, including as a weigher generating weigh tickets for railcar billing; a car distributor taking car orders from customers for certain types of cars to be placed at the customer’s dock for loading; and a damaged freight claims inspector at 8th Street Team Track.

In 1974, I tried my hand at “piggyback ramp” – also known as intermodal yard. The atmosphere on the ramp was the opposite of Taylor Yard – no “good ol’ boys club”, just down to earth employees. Fortunately, there were more female employees working in this facility than Taylor Yard. Entering this department was well received and this ramp has been my home for most of my career except for one major event: the Union Pacific-Southern Pacific merger.

Thank you, 50-year-old railwaymen

Watch how Nancy Brice and her fellow employees of 50 years are honored for their service at a special celebration held May 11 at the UP Center in Omaha.

Around this time I traveled to Omaha and received extensive training on Net Control, TCS and Oasis – intermodal software. I became a District Field Analyst responsible for training some SP employees on Union Pacific IT processes. I visited all the intermodal ramps in the system giving lessons. During this 12 year period, I also taught software to other departments including Locomotive and Car, Crew Dispatching and Maintenance of Way.

When the DFA jobs were cut in December 2007, I returned to my intermodal roots.

I have seen so many advancements in the way trailers are loaded onto flatcars over the years. At first this was done through a rolling process where the trailers were literally driven onto the wagon and locked in place ready to be moved. Then came the lifting equipment of the piggy-packer, and soon after, the arrival of gantry cranes (straddle).

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Today, outside trucking companies use automatic doors and process their units through a kiosk computer with no intervention from rail personnel unless they encounter a waybill or pickup number issue.

Over the years I have seen many changes in the rail industry, including more female employees working in the transportation and craft sectors. There has been a lot of progress and I can only imagine what lies ahead for us.

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