AT A CROSSROADS -- The BNSF Railway yard in Gainesville is pictured from the tracks Tuesday. According to a railway spokesman, several jobs are expected to be transfered from the Gainesville yard to a facility near Alliance Airport.

Several Gainesville-based train workers expect to be transferred in October, and have been talking about it since rumors started about the move years ago.

According to Joe Faust, public affairs director for the BNSF Railway out of Fort Worth, a tentative date has been set to move some of the employees from the Gainesville train yard, which is between Belcher Street and U.S. Highway 82, to similar positions at an Alliance Airport yard.

BNSF is an acronym for Burlington Northern-Santa Fe, a merger of the two former railroad companies.

“The tentative date of implementation the new interdivisional run-through from KC (Kansas City) to OKC (Oklahoma City) to FTW (Fort Worth) to Temple is mid-October,” Faust said. “However, that is not firm.”

Faust said the move is being made for both economical and logistical purposes.

“The new interdivisional run will provide better velocity on high priority trains, which provides economic advantages,” he said. “A portion of the interdivisional traffic that currently runs from Gainesville to Ark City (Kansas) will be re-routed via the new KC-OKC-FTW run-through.”

He said labor unions, including the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen and the United Transportation Union have been involved in negotiations regarding the possible transfer of workers.

“The employees transferred will be trainmen and enginemen,” Faust said. “... Gainesville will retain local and roadswitcher work, as well as short pool service between Gainesville and Oklahoma City.”

Faust did not say whether rail traffic in Gainesville would be affected, or how many jobs would remain in Gainesville.

BNSF employees contacted by the Register declined to comment for various personal reasons.

Former employees, however, were more willing to speak, though did not know the details.

At a meeting of the X-Rails Thursday night at the Smokehouse II restaurant, several former trainmen and engineers gathered around the dinner table with their spouses and reminisced. They meet on the first Thursday of each month at 5:15 p.m. at the Smokehouse II.

“It won’t work,” commented Franklin “Skeeter” Wallace, of the X-Rails, who spent 40 years as an engineer. “We’ve done that before and they can’t get the work done.”

He said he could not recall what year it was when Santa Fe attempted to transfer Gainesville workers to Fort Worth.

Wallace said his retirement through BNSF (then Santa Fe Railway) has been good to him.

“The railroad was a good job,” he said, noting though his work schedule often varied his job was dependable.

Billy Smith, who sat at the table next to Wallace, agreed his experience in the railroad was worthwhile.

“Thirty-four years, seven months and six days,” he said, when asked how long he worked for Santa Fe.

In all, they said, the railroad was a fairly safe and profitable employment.

The railroad has been a part of Gainesville’s heritage since the rail line was laid through town. The historic Santa Fe Depot was restored for use as an AMTRAK station and a museum in recent years, and the city’s Depot Day celebration continues Oct. 14 on the downtown square.

The Frankie Schmitz Express Memorial Mini-Train and an accompanying train tunnel is testifies to the children about Gainesville’s rail heritage.

Not all the memories are happy ones, however. There is one overpass traversing the BNSF Railway tracks, on Highway 82 —which at times makes intra-city difficult on other thoroughfares such as California Street.

But despite the frequent wait at the tracks, the railroad has been relatively safe.

The last BNSF derailment in Gainesville was around 8:30 p.m. Aug. 14, when seven cars off the track prevented a train from moving near Highway 82 for a couple of hours, according to an update on the BNSF Web site. No one was injured.

On the Net:

BNSF Railway updates may be read at www.bnsf.com

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