Timothy Smith Tsmith@sbcglobal.net
For Your Information...
This letter was written by a dear friend of the deceased Metrolink Conductor
Tom Ormiston. I have received permission from the author, Mr. Larry A.
Fredeen from Bakersfield, CA. Please use this to inform all who are
Timothy L. Smith, Chairman
California State Legislative Board
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen
Teamsters Rail Conference
610 Auburn Ravine Rd., Suite C
Auburn, CA 95603
Tom Ormiston - SP / Amtrak / MetroLink Conductor - R.I.P.
I HAVE JUST heard (well, actually early this morning, but I can finally
bring myself to type a few words) that the MetroLink Conductor killed in
yesterday's collision was Mr. Tom Ormiston.
Sorry for the delay, I just told my wife about the news, and then I broke
Here goes. Tom was a great person, and also a very good rail. He hired out
with the Southern Pacific in the mid '70's in Los Angeles. At that time, and
several years to come, he and his wife lived in Glendale, Ca, not too far
from Taylor Yard. Countless times I worked with him. He had a little more
sense than me, so I usually worked as a Brakeman for him. I always knew it
would be a nice trip working with Tom. He usually worked the "Butcher Board"
(Conductor's Extra Board) for the variety of the types of calls. Sometimes,
he would bid a "West-End" job, L.A. to West Colton. When he did that, he
would always give me a call to invite me to join him to work as his
Brakeman. Sometimes I would get the bid, sometimes not, because a lot of
fellow rails also enjoyed working with Tom.
Tom collected knives. Very ornate ones. He would often come to work with his
latest find. Tom also collected some RR items, which lead him to meet my
father who lived a few blocks from Taylor. Tom would come by my folks house
all the time. At that time, my father was retired, and a hobby of his
(besides the RR) was making ceramic cups, dishes, and other Southern Pacific
glassware. Tom would come by and check out my Dad's latest creations. They
would just B.S. about the RR. My father (and Mom) really enjoyed Tom's
Tom was always concerned about safety on the job, and attended all the local
Union meetings. Since, I was the Local's L.R. (Safety Committee Chairman),
Tom and I would discuss safety concerns. He was always very involved.
I can remember, very vividly, a minor derailment we had while taking our
power to the Roundhouse at Taylor one hot summer day. A miss-aligned
cross-over switch was missed as we moved up A-yard #8, towards Fletcher
Drive ("Top-End-A Yard). We got thru it, and side-swiped a car of lumber. We
had a couple of wheels on the ground, and it was quite embarrassing. No
injuries, but the "suits" wanted someone to "pay" for the miss-hap. Tom
stepped up, told them it was his fault as Conductor, and got a 5 day
suspension. They wanted to give the Engineer a few days off, also. Tom made
a deal with them to take all the heat. So he had the Engineer's 5 day's
added to his.
A real "class act", as our Female Engineer was a divorced Mom and couldn't
afford days off without pay. Tom told me that he didn't mind a few "extra
days" added because "it is Summertime, and I'll go fishing!" I think he
spent the time working on his knife collection!
He left the S P when Amtrak took bids from the ranks of operating employees
to run their trains. (Prior to that, the RR's supplied the crews for their
trains) That would make the year 1987.
It was easy to continue to "talk" to Tom even though he was on Amtrak. You
knew when he was out there with you, nearby, or within 50 miles, because he
had a bit of a "Texas accent". We would have short conversations over the
radio. We would talk on the telephone every once-in-awhile.
During every call, he would bring up the "Safety Factor" of the "Cab-Car"
operation. He would call it the "Bad News" of passenger operations. He felt
it was very un-safe to RR that way. He was concerned of the lack of
crash-worthiness and it's ability to stay on the rails ... he had seen a lot
from the cab of a freight locomotive to know the difference in design and
weight makes all the difference in a collision.
When I heard of his death, I remembered our many conversations about
How ironic ... and so, so, sad.
I know this for fact, he's now taking care of his passengers who joined him
yesterday, and has greeted my Dad. Now, once again, they can discuss coffee
cups and knives.
When his service is announced, I will post. I had heard that the news
reports put his age at 62, Tom was only a few years ahead of me, I belive
more like 58. For now, I'll have to stop pecking ... I can't see my screen
for the tears.