Last Run: Division 404's Paul Fessenbecker retires

Brother Paul G. Fessenbecker, former Local Chairman of Division 404 in Chicago, retired on February 1, 2007.

He completed his Last Run as a Union Pacific Locomotive Engineer on job PRCBA on January 30, 2007, a through freight assignment between Proviso and Clinton, Iowa. He deadheaded home the next day.

"As UP bought the Chicago & NorthWestern, it was nice to make the trip on two repainted C&NW SD40s," he said.

Brother Fessenbecker hired out on the C&NW in Milwaukee, Wisc., as a brakeman on August 6, 1966, and was promoted to conductor in June of 1970. He worked local way freight, through passenger, commuter passenger and through freight.

He transferred to Chicago on the Galena Division and had a fireman's date of May 6, 1971. Brother Fessenbecker earned promotion to Locomotive Engineer on May 30, 1972. He worked local and way freight, switch runs, through freight, switch engine, through passenger and commuter passenger.

He joined BLE Division 404 on December 13, 1990, and was elected local chairman in December of 1991. He held that position until December 31, 2006.

"I loved railroading, but even more, I loved being a local chairman," Brother Fessenbecker said. "Serving as local chairman was the most personally fulfilling and exhilarating experience of my life."

He and his wife, Margie, were married on August 27, 1966. The couple has two children, Kim and Steve, and two grandchildren Stacie and Emily.

Brother Fessenbecker reports that his only hobby at the present time is hot rodding.

"I am currently hot rodding a 1934 Oldsmobile that has a Corvette engine and suspension and I plan to tour it when completed," he said. "Plans are also in the works for a V8 powered Miata."

He plans to continue building cars and traveling during his retirement.

"I have met some outstanding union people over the last 15 years that have helped me accomplish many fine things," Fessenbecker said.

During his long and distinguished railroad career, Brother Fessenbecker helped with the development of a safety program for the UP's Chicago Service Unit; joined in the BLE's mobilization fight with the UTU over the single craft issue; developed student engineer and engineer training programs; and trained local chairmen.

"I am proudest of my representation of engineers on certification issues," he said. "With the help of my union brothers we accomplished a lot. It is disheartening that the BLET has not reaped the full benefits and leverage of our Locomotive Engineer Certificates.

"Some meaningful words of wisdom passed on to me that I will pass on are: the job of the union is to lead in the struggle for control of the work place; an injury to one is an injury to all; all union officers work for the membership; and we, the BLET, are governed and organized from the bottom up and not from the top down. It's all about the membership. Too many union officers forget who they work for.

"When I decided to run for local chairman all I wanted was to make the railroad a better place to work. Unfortunately, change is slow, but with the help of many fine union people we may have made a start. The work is never done and the struggle will never end."

Friends may write to Brother Fessenbecker at: 393 Grandview, Glen Ellyn, Ill., 60137.

Just because former Local Chairman Paul Fessenbecker (left) officially retired, don't think for a moment that he's not still participating in BLET activities with Division 404. Incoming Local Chairman Dick Crow (right) says Paul's 40 years on the railroad, with 15 of those as Local Chairman, "makes him a great source of information, ideas, and advice." And that's not limited to union topics, either.

Paul's former position supervising the locomotive simulator makes him still much sought-after by young engineers looking for help on rules compliance and safe train handling. BLET National Vice President and Director of Arbitration Rick Radek (center) said, "Paul Fessenbecker will remain a great resource for years to come." For all of us who have had the chance to work with him, and will do so in the future, we say, "Thanks, Paul!"

(Photo and caption submitted by Brother Dave Hawley, a member of BLET Division 404 in Chicago.)



© 2008 Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen