A Railroad Lyon
September 03, 2013
“I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” is still popular American folk song, and it was sung to me all through my childhood. But Eldon Lyons, my husband’s great-uncle who was a Union-Pacific engineer, lived it almost all his adult life. Born April 12, 1921 in Glasgow, Missouri, Eldon started his career with the Missouri-Pacific Railroad in 1946. He was what they called an extra-board, which meant he would get a call and work a post wherever they told him to go, and he said, "I never missed a day of work." He moved up to fireman on an old steamer until he finally got the opportunity to learn how to be an engineer. For the remainder of his career, he ran the Kansas City, MO to Falls City, NE route, from midnight to eight in the morning. He loved the night shift and had lots of stories about the railroad and weird things on the tracks. One winter, headed up north, he said the snow drifts were so high that they lifted the engine. Luckily, it landed right back on the tracks. He was also in a damaging train fire that burned him and killed another man. After suffering a heart attack and going through heart surgery in 1985, he was forced to retire.
Eldon saw a lot of changes during his time with the railroad. He was there when Missouri-Pacific merged with Union-Pacific, and he was there when the railroad retired all the old steamers and converted to diesel. With no children of his own, Eldon passed down all his train stories to his nephews and nieces before he passed away on September 16, 2011.
Kansas City has a rich and vast history in railroading with lots of great family stories surrounding it. What’s yours?
Midwest Genealogy Center