February 2021 • The latest from the Pacific Northwest
Black History Month: BNSF Honors African Americans in Transportation
Andrew Jackson Beard revolutionized railroad safety with his invention of the Jenny automatic car coupler, which aimed to improve the knuckle coupler patented by Eli Janney in 1873. The knuckle coupler did the dangerous job of hooking railroad cars together, which previously was done by manually placing a pin in a link between the two cars. Beard himself had lost a leg in a car coupling accident. Unlike the vast majority of inventors who never profit from their patents, Beard received $50,000 for the patent rights to his Jenny coupler – almost $1.5 million in today's dollars. He also received two patents for rotary steam engine designs. Beard was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006 in recognition of the Jenny coupler. To learn more, visit the U.S. Department of Transportation website.
Elijah McCoy developed his first major invention while working as a fireman and oiler for the Michigan Central Railroad. After studying the inefficiencies inherent in the existing system of oiling axles, McCoy invented a lubricating cup that distributed oil evenly over the engine's moving parts. He obtained a patent for this invention, which allowed trains to run continuously for long periods of time without stopping for maintenance. McCoy received nearly 60 patents over the course of his life. While the majority of his inventions related to lubrication systems, he also developed designs for an ironing board, a lawn sprinkler and other machines. In 1920, toward the end of his life, McCoy formed the Elijah McCoy Manufacturing Company to produce lubricators bearing his name. To learn more, visit the Biography website.
William Thaddeus Coleman Jr. was appointed by President Gerald Ford to serve as the fourth U.S. secretary of transportation in 1975 and was the first African American to serve in that role. During his time at the U.S. Department of Transportation, Coleman issued the agency’s first official statement of national transportation policy and established the Materials Transportation Bureau to oversee programs for pipeline safety and the shipment of hazardous materials. Coleman also played an instrumental role in the development of Interstate 66, a major highway serving the Washington, D.C. region. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Bill Clinton in 1995.
The Pullman porters organized and founded the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (BSCP) in 1925. During the heyday of railroad travel, the Pullman Palace Car Company built, owned and operated the majority of the passenger trains and the Pullman porters provided service to the passengers. In the beginning, the Pullman Company hired only African American men for the job of porter. The wages and working conditions were below average for decades and the porters had tried to organize since the beginning of the 20th century. The BSCP was the first African American labor union to sign a collective bargaining agreement with a major U.S. corporation and the impact of Pullman porters stretched far beyond the railroad with lasting economic, social and cultural impacts.
A Pullman porter making up an upper berth aboard the "Capitol Limited" bound for Chicago, Illinois in 1944. Source: History.com
Update on BNSF’s Sandpoint Junction Connector Project
Work resumed on the second bridges over Lake Pend Oreille and Bridge Street, as well as the new bridge over Sand Creek at the marina entrance. Work this month will include additional pile installations at all work sites. For work at Bridge Street, activities will primarily occur Monday through Friday, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Pile driving is limited to the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. within Sandpoint city limits. Steel and precast fabrication for the three new bridges is under way at regional businesses.
Rail continues to be the most efficient land-based way to move agricultural products and BNSF has partnered with American producers for over 170 years. We met with BNSF’s Agriculture Ombudsman for the Pacific Northwest, Roger Hsieh, to learn more about him and what it takes to make the U.S. farming supply chain one of the most efficient and productive in the world.
Q: How long have you worked with BNSF?
Roger: I’ve been with BNSF for 21 years and counting. I started in Fort Worth, Texas, transferred to the Gulf Coast, and in 2014, I moved to the Pacific Northwest. I’ve served in various roles including forecasting and planning, systems development, economic development, and sales and marketing. These experiences were foundational for my current role.
Q: What does it mean to be BNSF’s Agriculture Ombudsman for the Pacific Northwest?
Roger: I am responsible for BNSF’s ag franchise on the West Coast along with Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Arizona. It’s a multi-faceted role. I act as both an internal liaison between marketing and operations as well as work with our commercial teams to ensure delivery of best-in-class value and service to our customers. I also serve as an account manager for key customers, pursue business development, in addition to serve as a liaison for Columbia River District ports.
Q: What is your background?
Roger: I have always had an interest in using data to better inform decisions and the optimization of alternatives as well as identify and implement process improvements. BNSF is the perfect place for data geeks! My relationship with agriculture goes back to my grandparents who were farmers. It is truly my privilege and BNSF's birthright to help move grain for our producers and customers given my history, personal connections and experiences.
Q: What’s it like to work for BNSF?
Roger: What we do is incredibly integral to the U.S. economy. We help feed the world with high quality products, enable global trade, and elevate standards of living. It’s an inspirational calling. Additionally, the people make it a great place to work. I have had amazing mentors, developed tremendous professional networks, and made so many friends at BNSF. My work with BNSF has been fun and given me opportunities, career progressions, and a life for my family. It’s awesome to marry a sense of mission to a fulfilling and balanced career.
Learn more about BNSF’s Agriculture Ombudsmen here
Best in Snow: Railfans Share Amazing Winter Shots of BNSF Trains in Action
In the midst of the many challenges people have faced in the past several months, it’s good to see that some things never change. BNSF trains keep moving freight, and railfans keep capturing magnificent images of them, even in cold winter weather. BNSF scoured the entries from this year’s Winter Photo Contest to find the 10 most un-brrr-lievable scenes! The annual contest is hosted on BNSF Railway’s official Instagram and Twitter channels as well as the Friends of BNSF Facebook group.
First Place Winner: Tom Danneman: "Northwest Montana’s Cabinet Mountain Range and a BNSF empty coal train reflect in the calm, cold waters of Trout Creek just west of Trout Creek, Mont., on January 27, 2020."
Try This French Toast Cook-Off for You and Your Butter Half
BNSF’s predecessors and their passenger rail dining services each had their own set of signature menus and dishes, depending on their geographical routes. Our series, Recipes on the Rail, takes you back to the days of dining car service and provides delicious recipes for your enjoyment. If you’re looking for a way to challenge your loved ones to a brunch cook-off featuring two French toast recipes served on our predecessor lines, Santa Fe and Northern Pacific. See which one you like better!
The BNSF Railway Foundation invests in the communities across the 28 states through which BNSF operates, and where BNSF employees live, work and volunteer. Recent donations include:
Bringing Hope to People Who Don’t Know Where to Turn
The Sandpoint Community Resource Center in Sandpoint, ID provides a central place where people in need can go to receive help. A $5,000 contribution from BNSF Railway Foundation supports the organization’s community connection center which has helped nearly 2,000 families, connecting them with over 450 providers.
Providing Services to Older Adults
The Klamath Basin Senior Citizens’ Center is a hub of activities and classes for older adults in Klamath Falls, OR. The center has continued to provide meal and transportation services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. BNSF Railway Foundation donated $5,000 toward the center’s roof and HVAC replacement.
Supporting Important WSU Initiatives
The mission of the Washington State University Foundation in Pullman, WA is to promote, accept, and maximize private support for programs, initiatives, and properties of Washington State University and its regional campuses. BNSF Railway Foundation contributed $10,000 to WSU Foundation’s Water to Wyam program.
Building Community Language Development
Formally known as the Lummi Nation Services Organization, the Lhaq’temish Foundation promotes advocacy and support for social services of the Lummi Nation community. A $10,000 grant from BNSF Railway Foundation helped to support Lhaq'temish Tixwlhs: From our Mother's Voice to Tomorrow, an annual native language conference.
Emergencies – Call 800-832-5452
To report a vehicle stalled on a crossing, suspicious circumstances, malfunctioning crossing gates and lights, or any other emergency, call 800-832-5452 immediately.
Have a Question for Us?
Do you have a question about BNSF or rail in the Pacific Northwest that you would like addressed in future issues of Inside Track? Send them to [email protected].