An Interview with Arthur J. Huneke  via email: Q&A on a Career with the LIRR

I contacted Arthur Huneke, noted LIRR Historian, to interview him about his LIRR career. I indicated "Iíve missed everything you have witnessed; sadly, and thus readers might enjoy reading from an experienced man on the scene". The following is Artís gracious response to my questions:

How is it that you became an employee of the LIRR?

Art: At 17, I graduated High School and was hired as a "Student Trackman", which implies I would go to college in September or eventually. I started in July 1954 at $1.55/hr.

Were there earlier interests in railroads and/or a major influence on your joining the LIRR?

Art: Yes, an intense interest in steam.

I missed everything you have witnessed, sadly.

Art: I have felt that many times.Many, many times!†† I missed the G53s, H6s, C51s, E6s, most of the K4s by only a year, three, four, and five years.

Might you describe your original position and the associated duties?

Art: Trackman in Hicksville Section Gang. My first day pulling weeds from ballast west of Charlotte Ave.

When there was a ballast train, we'd join the extra gang and other section gangs, climb on the hopper cars, with track or ballast forks in groups of four and men on the ground would open the hoppers with a tie or timber fastened in front of them to spread the stone. The train would move forward, and we'd push the stone from above. Anyone could lose his balance and fall thru the opening, but I never heard of that happening. No OSHA, yet.

How would you describe the attitude of the men and their work ethic, at the time?

Art: Most of them were Black and commuted from Brooklyn.They worked hard, but couldnít get promoted and receive overall acceptance. Many were from the South and knew legal segregation. I guess the experience they received in New York was better.

How did you view the overall influence of the parent PRR and management?

Art: All the management were PRR. Goodfellow, the Savior was PRR.

What prompted the decision to stay on at the LIRR?

Art: I didnít have the funds for college, but I had enough to buy a good camera.The LIRR still had steam for 15 more months.

What was your next job posting and how did you obtain the next position?

Art: I had friends who were Signal Maintainers, and with their assistance, I was able to transfer.

Please, describe your Signal Maintainer employ:

Art: Well, I started as a Helper as a learning position with an incentive to learn and advance toward becoming a Signalman/Maintainer. I earned twenty cents an hour more than a trackman!

If so, might you please indicate to me when you became a signal maintainer and the hourly pay rate?

Art: I transferred to Signal in December 1956 with an hourly pay rate at perhaps $1.95 - $2 and change. Many years later, back in LIRR towers, I eventually ended up as Train Director, JAY 2nd Trick (3:00-11:00PM), Jamaica, as no one with more Seniority wanted to work Saturday, Sunday and Holidays!

When did you retire from the LIRR?

Art: I retired July 1st, 1987

Note: I thank Arthur John Huneke for his cooperation and insight into his long and experienced 33 year career with the LIRR and his continued historical insights with his fabulous website: http://arrts-arrchives.com/