Bio: Kenyon, Lester (Retired RR Worker - 1974)
Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon
Surnames: Kenyon, Staege
----Source: Tribune Record Gleaner (Loyal, Clark Co., WI) 8/29/1974
Kenyon Lester (Retired Railroad Worker - 1974)
Mingling with Mary (By Mary Woods)
During the Spencer Centennial held earlier this summer, Lester Kenyon, (kneeling), spent a few moments with Jack Staege, Soo Line Agent, Freight Service Center Manager at Marshfield. Staege is also from Spencer.
The hands of Lester Kenyon look a little rougher than the average man’s hands at the age of 65, and his face shows signs of a man who has stood the heat of summer, the cold of winter, the freshness of spring, and the drying of fall. But after working on the Soo Railroad Line for 44 years, a man is almost destined to show the age of time, and on June 27, Lester Kenyon finished that many years on the Soo Line and in an interview, he reflects back.
Born and raised in Unity area, Kenyon began his life on the railroad at the age of 17, when he began working on the section in Riplinger. He states that his day consisted of working for 30 cents an hour for eight hours a day, with his main responsibility being that of laying ties, and raising the track. After working on the section for two years, and learning the trade, he was told that he was too young to work on the railroad and sought employment elsewhere.
In 1930, after working in the Glenwood area as a barn whitewasher, he returned to the Riplinger area, and worked on a farm. He recalls that at the end of the winter the farmer gave him $50 for a “job well done,” and in the spring, after adding a few years to his age, he was called back to the Soo Line, and began his 44 years of hard work and dedication.
“The times have changed the railroad to a completely different picture than it was when I began,” states Kenyon, as he reflects on the changes that have occurred. “It used to be that all the work was done by hand, and now everything is done by machines. I can recall the days of driving spikes in by hand, and it used to take me a half a minute to do one six-inch spike.
“The days of the old steam engine trains have long passed,” continued Kenyon, “With diesel engines being the only trains in operation. The trains used to be smaller than they are now with some of them having as many as 150 cars, compared to many years ago when a long train was considered one having 40 or 50.”
Another interesting point noted by Kenyon, is the fact that six or seven passenger trains used to stop at the Spencer Depot daily, and now the only trains that are seen in the Spencer area are those carrying goods to different parts of the state … and they don’t stop at Spencer.
Asked about the weather conditions that he either enjoyed or dreaded, Kenyon states, “Many nights were spent working overtime due to the bad weather conditions. I worked many hours shoveling the snow from the tracks in order for the rains to go through. Many hours were spent in the cold, and likewise in the heat, but after working on the railroad for a few years, you learn that the weather stops for no one, and you don’t stop because of the weather.”
In reflecting on the days past, Kenyon also recalls the wrecks that delayed trains, and meant a lot of overtime work. “I can recall wrecks, or derailments that took hours to clean up, and one derailment that took over two days to get the train rolling.”
“Forty-four years on the railroad as a section laborer has been an enjoyable place to work. It has given me the opportunity to meet a lot of people, some who you knew by their names, and then there were the conductors that just nodded their hats as the old trains rolled past.” Yes, Lester Kenyon has given his time to the past, and today his time is his own. He is now enjoying doing the things he likes to do at the age of 64. He enjoys walking down the streets of the Village of Spencer, and talking with the people, and no doubt some of them share the experiences of the railroad that he knows about.
When one looks at Lester Kenyon, the times are noted in those hands, and the face that stood the test of time, the cold winters, the hot summers, the freshness of spring, and the drying of fall … but for Lester Kenyon the years have been well worth the test of time.
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