-SP IndexmmmmErnie Kiesel Collection of SP engineer photosmmmSP Railroaders' Pages

Communication: wx4org@yahoo.com xxxxLATEST ADDITIONS: 05-2023, 7-2-2023

Railroad Genealogy:

management & employee lists, seniority rosters & timebooks for
Southern Pacific & other Western U. S. railroads (plus a few other regions)t)

Note: Items are arranged by geographic area, not by railroad.

When meeting somebody for the first time, it is a common thing for the converstation to turn towards occupations. When I offer that I was a locomotive engineer, a surprising number of people have responded that one of their relatives worked for a railroad, although they frequently were unsure of company, or occupation. Statistically, I would guess that these sort of exchanges between folks must occur with everyday frequency, given that the industry that once held such a predominate spot in our economy and lives has fallen from the forefront of collective consciousness.

I first began posting the time book records and rosters on this page mostly for my fellow railroaders to puruse, looking for old workmates and relatives. It took awhile to make a connection between these and genealogy, for which I now judge they can be quite illuminatory. My thanks to Bob Melbo, John Signor, George Faithorn, Charlie Wherry and Chris Hart for their generous contributions.
E.O. Gibson

Jim Sponholz's Rootsweb associated website has a large listing of railroad genealogical materials in PDF form, including rosters from most regions of the U.S.

NEW 9-29-22: The Ernie Kiesel Collection of Southern Pacific Phorographs at History San Jose
This group of 180+ photos circa 1900-1975 hosted by Wx4 shows Coast Divison engineers and their charges, along with photos of other employees and managers. Includes an Index of Names + Biographical Information page. Many faces remain to be identified.

Southern Pacific, System-Wide

Washington & Oregon - all crafts, railroads

    Northern, Central California - all railroads


    NEW 9-29-2022: 1979-09-01 SP List of Western Division officers and their assignments


    1940-1962 Time books of SP Coast Div. Engineer Lyle H. Cleveland:
    • Lyle Cleveland was born in Michigan 0n September 8, 1898, went firing on the Coast Division on June 4, 1925, aand was promoted to engineer on July 19, 1941. He and his wife, Pearl, had three children - Dorothy, Wilbur and Lila Jean. He probably retired in 1964 and died on January 15, 1977. These time books date from his late fireman days in 1940 until 1962. The latter books are loose leaf, and many individual pages have been lost, but enough have survived to give a good indication of his progress up the seniority ladder. None of the books contain seniority rosters.

    Southern California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas - all crafts

    Other U.S. geographic areas

    deciphering R.R. rosters & time books
    for the uninitiated non railroader

    Railroaders were/are divided into two classes based upon the military model: Officers (aka officials or managers) and employees. On large railroads (but not on many small ones), the latter were union members. For an employee, everything revolved around his entry date into the craft (occupation), called a seniority date. Specific jobs within crafts were periodically placed up for bid and awarded to the bidder with the oldest seniority date. Candidacy for promotion from one craft to another, say fireman to engineer, was also based upon seniority, so keeping track of one's seniority standing was extremely important and the reason behind including rosters in commercially-produced time books.

    Company managers promoted from the employee ranks retained their union seniority and continued being listed on rosters until they retired. Until the mid-20th Century, railroaders were almost exclusively male. Absolutely no women served as engineers, trainmen and switchmen until about 1970. The large exception was clerical crafts, where a fair number of women were employed as secretaries and occasionally as station agents/operators.

    Seniority rosters were/are divided by railroad, craft and location, and are arranged by seniority top to bottom. Your likelihood of locating an individual is necessarily a function of your knowledge of these, along with a general idea of when the person was employed. It is also helpful to know the individual's middle initial, as rosters universally listed people by family name, followed by first and middle initials.

    Most of the rosters here are for the operating crafts - trainmen, switchmen and enginemen, but clerical crafts, as well as track and mechanical department employees are represented, as well.

    For the most part, seniority was established on a railroad division, or at a point within a division. Railroad divisions were semi-autonomous territorial units that comprised a railroad. An example is the Southern Pacific Coast Division, which once extended from San Francisco to Santa Barbara. Engineers and trainmen had seniority over the entire division, whereas switchmen at one time only possessed seniority, and therefore could only work, in one of either San Francisco, San Jose, Watsonville or San Luis Obispo. These seniority arrangements changed over time, and the particulars of seniority rights varied by craft

    Since these rosters are arranged by division and points within a division, you may wish to consult a valuable set of 1946 SP division maps hosted on a website run by Bill Roberts. These should aid in placing a location with a division. Division names and territories changed considerably over time, however, but their names are indicative of their locations. Of note, the Western Division gobbled up the Coast Division, and the Oregon Division was formed out of the Portland and Shasta Divisions in the 1960's.

    Yes, this all is very esoteric stuff, so before throwing up your hands, send me an email. I would be happy to help with your search.
    - Ed Gibson, wx4org@yahoo.com

    Vernon Frazier (photo below, left) entered his work history into a "Big Four" time book published by E.J. Elbury, a man who, some years prior, had been ejected from the Fresno Lodge of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen. He originally labeled his booklet as an "Official Time and Seniorty Record" - which it apparently was not - causing the BRT to cry foul. (click on the image for the sordid details)

    1978 SP Coast District prior rights switchmen

    Fireman Lyle Cleveland, Mission Bay, 10-4-38
    Ernie Kiesel Collection of Southern Pacific Photographs at History San Jose #1978-152-3-085

    Although "only" the #2 engineer in seniority on the Coast, Roger Trewick nevertheless set an SP record for longevity when he retired in 1926 by virtue of hiring out (probably as a call boy) at age 12 in 1869. See 1926 Coast engineers roster at left - Hanford Sentinal, 12-29-26