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Duane Giffen Memories


I started my career on the railroad at Noyes,MN with BurlingtonNorthern Inc. I took my instructional classes at Grand Forks,ND with instructorGordon Drown, passed my Operator's test and became qualified as an Operatorat Noyes,MN , April 6, 1979. The man who trained me was my father-in-lawand good friend Wilmar Surface. 

Noyes depot was a hotspot for traffic even in 1979, withmany Class I railroads switching traffic to each other. These railroadsincluded, CN, CPRS, SOO, BN, & BNML (Burlington Northern Manitoba Limited).My job was to take train orders using the typewriter and deliver to BN &SOO Line crews so they could have authority to move their trains from Noyesto Thief River Falls on the SOO Line and from Noyes to Grand Forks, ND onBN.

Just starting out as an Operator was nerve wracking forme. At times when several different train engines occupied the tracks surroundingthe depot, the whole building would shake and I would feel like crawlingunder the desk. 

The dispatchers came in different temperaments also andyou had to deal with some aggressive individuals at times as they were incomplete control while you were on duty and you had to comply.

It's kind of funny when you think back on all the trainorders you typed up over the years and you could count on your hands thetimes you mis-typed an order and had to do it over. It's not much fun tohave the train crew standing around you and the dispatcher yelling at youto get it right this time or find someone that can!!

The train order paper I used was like onion skin paperbut we used heavy carbon and mostly just copied "three" or ifa work order was involved copied "six". I think I still have ahoop stick to hoop up the orders. Some people called them "Banjo's".

The old depots are very nostalgic. I heard when they tookout the depot in Hallock a lot of old coins were found under the walkway,and also other railroad memorabilia was found.

I think I worked every depot from Hallock to Warren. Donaldsonand Argyle were pretty quiet. One morning in Hallock in 1980 train 124 washeading north to Noyes and I was waiting to hoop up the orders, I heardthe engineer put the train in emergency. The train was about 100 yards awayand going approx. 20 mph when I saw it lurch into the elevator siding switchand come to a halt in the elevator siding. After the investigation it wasfound that someone had tampered with the switch and lined it for the elevatortrack. It was an eventful morning!   

Some of the other people I worked with at Noyes were OrlandOlson, Chief Clerk; Willis Finney, Cashier and General Clerk; Steve Skjold,Clerk; Richie Steenerson, Clerk; Gordon Short, Operator; Darrell Warner,Clerk; Wim Surface, Operator; Wayne Margerum, Clerk; Jack Brandt, Operator;Larry Turner, Clerk; & Darryle Zimmerman, Agent.

The only remaining people are Steve Skjold and Richie Steenerson.They still take care of the customs and brokerage papers. 

My career took me away from Noyes in 1980 and into GrandForks,ND as an extra board clerk/operator. Grand Forks was my home terminaland I was called at all hours of the day to work for people that had layedoff sick or were on vacation.

My territory covered from Grand Forks to Cass Lake,MN,on the Bemidji line and from Grand Forks to Noyes,MN on the Noyes line.I also covered territory out to Lakota,ND and branch line from Grand Forksto Walhalla,ND. I worked in may depot's on those lines and would stay inthe depot instead of a motel at several locations to save money.

I remember putting a pot of cold water on the stove beforegoing to bed so I would have warm water to wash with in the morning. Roseau,MNwas the only depot that had a shower so that was a plus! I once stayed inthe depot at Blackduck,MN for 2 weeks and never saw a train the whole time!Needless to say the railroad closed that depot about a month after I left.Consolidation was the factor in the late 70's and early 80's.

After working the extra board at Grand Forks for 14 years,I moved to Ft.Worth,TX to get a chance to work stable hours and have weekendsoff!! My dream came true in September 1993 and the Texas winters were easyto take! 

After 4 years in Texas I received a promotion and movedto Topeka,KS in July of 1997 and am presently Manager of Customer Servicewith BNSF.

Railroading is definitely different than most occupations,but it has been interesting & fulfilling for me.



Duane Giffen

2843 SW. Maxfield Rd. 

Topeka,KS 66614