Promoting passenger trains as a transportation alternative in Florida since 1983.  We are citizens who advocate for Amtrak, commuter rail, intercity rail and transit for Florida's future.

In Memory of Amtrak Conductor Tom Russell

03 Jan 2013 3:55 PM | Jackson McQuigg (Administrator)

Many FCRP members knew Tom Russell, who was a very colorful Jacksonville-based Amtrak conductor who worked well into the late 1990s. We learned only recently of his death last spring. 

Tom originally hired-on with the Missouri Pacific before World War II, served in an Army Railway Battalion during the War, and worked for the Seaboard Air Line and the Seaboard Coast Line in a variety of train operating positions before going over to Amtrak.

I think the most unique thing about Tom was that he completely understood where we were coming from as rail advocates. When not working on the trains, he lobbied for Amtrak on Capitol Hill and elsewhere as a private citizen with business cards that he had printed up with not only his name, but the Florida Coalition of Rail Passengers’ name and logo. He was also a mainstay at FCRP meetings around the state over the years.

Two things stand out as memories of Tom for me. For one, I interviewed him for my book on Tampa Union Station back in the mid-1990s and heard all about his railroad career and just about everything else he could think of, including his opinions of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad (which were harshly negative). I ran out of cassette tape well before the interview was finished, which was fine because about half of what he said was unprintable, anyway.

Another time, when I was a passenger on the Silver Star headed to North Carolina where I then lived, Tom refused to pull my sleeping car ticket. Tom explained that I should, “get by” for free because, “you do so much for the railroad.” Being scrupulous and not wanting to be accused of an attempt to defraud Amtrak (and subsequently being kicked off the train, no doubt in the middle of the night), I had another conductor validate the ticket later on.

At any rate, here is a link to the obituary for Tom online:

Sad news, but what fun it was to know Tom Russell, railroad man and passenger train advocate. We will all miss him!

--Jackson McQuigg

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