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Post Info TOPIC: 'Once a railroader, always a railroader'


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'Once a railroader, always a railroader'
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'Once a railroader, always a railroader'

(The following story by Tammy Malgesini appeared on The East Oregonian website on January 6, 2010.)

HERMISTON, Ore. Connie Maret was born to be a railroader. The 75-year-old Hermiston man, who retired from Union Pacific Railroad after five decades, could almost hear the whistle blow on Jan. 18, 1934.

"I was born in a boxcar in Enid, Okla. My parents lived in a boxcar - two side-by-side," Maret explained. "They say once a railroader, always a railroader."

Even today, Maret lives and breathes the railroad.

Mostly a labor of love, Maret and fellow retired railroader John Spinden, along with a few others, keep things on track at the Maxwell Siding Railroad Museum in Hermiston. The brainchild of John Bennett, a former municipal judge in Hermiston, the museum charges no admission fee.

"We keep the museum open and we pay what bills we've got," he said. "If people leave a dollar or two, that tickles us to death and if they don't, that's alright."

Maret said he has no idea what piqued Bennett's interest in trains.

"He really was Mr. Railroad, but he never worked for the railroad in his life."

The museum includes more than a dozen motor cars, a telegraph office, a 1913 heavyweight dining car and two Union Pacific rotary snowplows - including the oldest snowplow in the United States, built in 1910, and the last steam-powered snowplow.

The museum also features railroad artifacts and antique communication devices, including old typewriters, telephones and Western Union telegraph equipment.

Maret moved with his family to Hermiston when he was a teenager.

"We got hungry and had to find a job," he said.

Maret's father worked on the railroad at the Umatilla Chemical Depot. Maret, too, got a job - handling munitions.

"I_had to lie about my age, but I was working at the depot when I was 16," Maret said with a laugh.

Things with the railroad fell into line for Maret a few years later when he was laid off. While playing pinball at a local watering hole, Maret ran into a siding foreman who was looking for drivers for an extra gang.

"He told me to show up in two weeks and I stayed 43 years," Maret said.

Retired for the past 15 years, Maret doesn't plan on "counting the ties" anytime soon.

He stays sharp by sharing his railroad knowledge, both at the museum and teaching Oregon Operation Lifesaver classes, which includes train safety information.

"If you sit down or don't stay busy, you're not going to be around," Maret said. "It's a job without pay, but enjoyment is by far better than pay sometimes."

Wednesday, January 06, 2010



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Wow, Ive met that dude. I will have to tease him about growing up in a boxcar next time I see him.

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