Bill Martin - Railroad Man

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By E. B. Radovich
( A true story about a great railroadman)

Someday soon another great railroad man will step off his train and walk away, leaving behind him a spirit and legacy that only a real railroad man is allowed to leave. This is somewhat of a tragedy for those of us who love railroading and the railroad, because whenever a honest to goodness railroad man or railroad woman leaves, we lose yet another link to our railroad past, when this poor excuse for a railroad was just that, a railroad.

As time goes on, we begin to realize that soon, all we will have left for railroad role models will be politically connected, pasty faced weasels who couldn't find a single ounce of railroadman's blood in their veins if their life depended on it.
Soon Conductor Bill Martin will be retiring. I can see hints of relief in his eyes when he speaks of his approaching retirement. He feels so very fortunate that he's getting away. Far, far away from this mess before things go from bad to worse, but in his soul, Bill Martin-Railroad Man may still regret leaving what's left of his railroad.

When it was a real railroad, a railroader never really left, at least in spirit, because a bit of his railroad spirit always lived on. Nowadays, we may openly doubt that, because nowadays this pseudo-railroad doesn't feel, look, smell or even act like a railroad.Do keep in mind though that this Amtrak is not really a railroad at all. It's merely a tenant, just here to operate the hardware of a railroad, but never occupying the hearts or the souls of the railroad people, like Bill Martin, who are the railroad.

Bill Martin-Railroad Man, like all real railroaders, may have many a railroad tale to tell, but there is one story that all railroaders should be told about this great man.Several years ago, on a grey December morning, in the deep dark confines of the tunnel leading into Back Bay Station, a horrible train wreck occurred.

Amtrak #66, The Night Owl, crashed into the tail end of MBTA #906, sending bodies and steel crashing and smashing, and all living hell did break loose.

Bill Martin was working #66 that day.

Miraculously, amongst all the screaming and crying and twisted steel and broken bones and toxic fumes and smoke and flames, not a soul perished on that fateful morning, but thank the blessed Railroad Gods that the likes of Bill Martin were on that train this day.

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While rescue personnel, fully equipped, with lights and oxygen masks, and protective gear, were falling from exposure to the toxic fumes and heat of the fires,through the smoke and flames and all the living hell one could ever imagine, came Bill Martin, dodging fires, breathing the dark poisonous smoke, broken bones and bruised body, carrying victims to safety in his arms, never once concerned for his own well being.

Bill Martin could've easily ran for his own safety, but like his fellow crew members, he chose to risk his life for the sake of other people.

His heroics have been ignored, and he could probably care less, but it is his brave spirit which will live on in the minds of the people he saved, who no doubt still thank the good Lord each night that the likes of Bill Martin were on board their train that day.

Bill Martin is not just a hero for his heroics at Back Bay. Look far beyond that fact. Look at the sacrifices he, and all real railroaders make so many times during their careers. Look at their sweat. Look at their pain. Look at the miles of working man wrinkles around their eyes.

Some caused for sure by streams of tears, the disappointment of seeing life so rapidly passing them by, catching all their trains but missing so many birthdays, little league games and graduations and so many a Christmas Day. Before they know it, the hellish train of railroad life comes to a grinding halt, leaving them with just enough time to get off, a baggage car full of memories, and no regrets that they chose a railroad way of life. Deep inside their heart and soul, each and every one may regret that it's over, but even though their name may be erased from the roster, and even though their lanterns will no longer shine beneath the railroad stars on a railroad night, their spirit will remain, almost as if etched in stone, to live on in the kingdom of railroading, forever.

The railroad spirit of railroad men, such as Bill Martin, will live on forever, because fortunately, Amtrak is not, and never will be "the railroad." "The Railroad" is a state of mind and spirit which lives in our very own hearts and souls, far removed from the grasp of those phony little bureaucrats whose biggest claim to real railroading is dreaming about the train pictures on their office walls, as if they had to prove some sort of stake in our railroad life, and whose biggest railroad challenge has been avoiding paper cuts from their silly little memos and bulletins which, just like them, will be ignored and soon forgotten.

When you stand by the main line on a warm summer late afternoon, and you watch the twilight sun set along the shiny rail, and when the thunder of a roaring train blasts through the land with raging railroad fury, and as little boys throughout the world dream themselves to sleep, thinking about great trains and even greater railroaders, the railroad spirit of Bill Martin and all the great railroad men and railroad women who served before him will be there, forever. That's one thing this poor excuse for a railroad will never take from us.


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