As a youngster in 1936, Jim Fredrickson took his first railroad photo of a class A-2 locomotive at Butte, Montana. Soon, railroad men in Tacoma, Washington, were regularly seeing the “kid with a camera” in the rail yards and along the tracks. In 1943, the chief dispatcher at Tacoma’s Union Station told Fredrickson, yet a high school student: “You’re hanging around here all the time, you might as well go to work.” Fredrickson became a callboy. It was his first job in a 38-year career with the Northern Pacific’s telegraph and transportation departments.
Today, Fredrickson can reel off unique stories about telegrapher R.B. Lewis, the “King of the Green River,” at Lester, Washington; Pearl Jacobson, the Morse operator who taught school in Saskatchewan; President Harry Truman coming through Auburn on the Ferdinand Magellan in 1948; and the NP foremen with wonderful names like Mike Mola at Ravendale, Pucci Sabatini at Lester, and Louis Gagoush at Yakima.
The station at Nisqually is captured in one of Fredrickson’s lyrical photos taken in 1944. Posing by the train order signal is telegrapher Frank Emerick. Only Fredrickson would remember that before Emerick went to work for the NP, he was a circus comedian and vaudeville dancer who knew Al Jolson and Will Rogers. Only Fredrickson would recall how Emerick, who lost his right arm in a train accident, could tie a loop in a train order string. Fredrickson’s pictures and yarns tell of locomotives, depots, diners, cabooses, sidings, yards, shops, turntables, bridges, canyons, tunnels, wrecks, and crossings. Today, whether it is a BN freight train loaded with containers, or a silvery AMTRAK passenger train, the engineers all know Jim Fredrickson.
Illustrations / photographs / 160 pages (2000)