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Practically growing up with a camera in hand, Jim Fredrickson of Tacoma, Washington took his first picture of a steam locomotive in 1936. In a few years, railroad men were regularly seeing the "kid with the camera" alongside the tracks and in the rail yards.
Then one day in 1943, one of the men said, "You're always hanging around here, kid, you might as well go to work."
The chief dispatcher at Tacoma's Union Station hired the sixteen-year-old high school student to serve as a "callboy," telephoning conductors, brakemen, engineers, and firemen an hour-and-a-half in advance of when they were scheduled for duty. Thus began Fredrickson's thirty-nine year career with the Northern Pacific Railway's telegraph and dispatching departments.
Fredrickson continued to take exceptional photographs - his many pictures depict the last great glories of the steam era as coal-fired locomotives were replaced by diesel engines in the 1940s and 1950s. His photots and yarns tell of the NP's men and women as well as the steam engines, depots, diners, cabooses, sidings, yards, shops, bridges, and tunnels. Today, whether it is a BNSF freight train with containers or a silvery AMTRAK passenger train, the engineers all know Jim Fredrickson.
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