The Rodell Lunch Bunch - A Life Chasing Trains



In 1966 I left the Navy and was hired by Southern Pacific as a Research Assistant in the Bureau of Transportation Research, a group in the Executive Department that did cost and financial analysis.  It was basically a summer job, since I was headed for graduate school, but one thing led to another and I was still there after grad school.  The BTR was a neat place to work.  Not only was the work interesting and a great way to learn the business fundamentals of railroading, but the BTR was also full of railfans.

The senior railfan was Bob Rodell.  Bob was a boomer who started on the Nickel Plate and rode dynometer cars behind the Berks when they were new.  He had been an Assistant Trainmaster on the DRGW and could tell us about riding a motor car through Moffat Tunnel, and transfers with household goods moved in a boxcar. And he ended up on the SP as a switchman and then cost analyst.  Bob liked trains, women in short skirts, good food, and good booze.  His wife Marge was a great cook and something of a mother figure to us young ones. Over time a group evolved around Bob based on our weekly lunches. Most of us were fellow analysts in BTR, but over the years we adopted some outsiders, mostly fellow railfans but even a few "normal" people.

Those beginnings were over 50 years ago, but to this day many of those same people remain close friends. We still have lunch occasionally and chase trains.  And the annual "railroad party" is a major event in our lives, with train slides to leaven good food and good drink.  Our wives have adapted to all this, and become an integral part of our social fabric.

Sadly Bob and Marge are longer with us, but for the most part our group has proven to be amazingly durable.