A Prayer for Railroaders

Posted by Steve Sweeney
on Monday, May 29, 2017

In the past couple of years, I've read plenty of comments on Facebook and heard stories over beers from train crews and dispatchers about mergers, layoffs, and work policies they disagree with. Or that day they remember when they hit a trespasser. Or the way the schedule works, they'll be away from home for awhile — but at least they're making a trainload of money. Ha.

Long story short, I asked a railfan pal, Michael Murray, if he would conjure or cajole a kind of prayer for today's railroaders and the tough times they're living through right now. Michael found "A Railroader's Prayer" online that was supposedly published in 1895 in the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers Monthly Journal. He based what you see below on that, much shorter prayer. I'm presenting his version today, on Memorial Day, to honor railroaders past and present, especially those who've served and died in military service.

 Let us know what you think:

“Almighty God, after creating the world and everything in it, you challenged us to subdue the earth – to ready the road of the Lord, to make straight God’s paths, to fill every valley, to conquer every mountain, to straighten the crooked and to level the rough.”

“Once again, I report for duty in my unique way of continuing the ongoing work of salvation. Just this day, be it as a life-long engineer, a conductor in training, a track inspector, a dispatcher, a signal maintainer, a shop mechanic or a road foreman, bless me with the gift of situational awareness at each and every present moment. Help me learn when to throttle out – help me learn when to throttle back. Guide me in my attempts to manage the inevitable slack in myself and others that is part and parcel of life.”

“Give me the intuition I need to anticipate hazards before my eyes can see them. Give me the fortitude to deal with the hazards that no one could have seen coming. Help me to be respectful of both trainmen and trespassers alike. Assist me in my attempts to operate both safely and efficiently as I move commodities and consumables that enhance human flourishing.”

“Be my fire in ice. Be my warmth in snow. Be my calm in wind. Be my dew in heat. Be my guide in the noonday sun. Be my refuge on a moonless night. Where possible, line up my route with clear indications. When necessary, help me to endure the inevitable stop signals, slow orders terminal delays, separated air hoses and pulled knuckles that come with the job.”

“At the end of the day, help me to be grateful for the people I have met, the things I have moved, the circuits I have restored, the signals I have maintained and the false partial activations I have repaired. Remind me to leave the bulletin in the lead locomotive, to secure the reverser and to leave the cab clean for the next crew. After I mark off, give me restful sleep - help me to mark on tomorrow with renewed vim, vigor, and a sense of purpose.”

“At the end of my run, I hope to meet the Superintendent and shake his hand. I hope to hear him speak the words, 'Well done, good, faithful, safe and dedicated servant.' I hope to see many of my colleagues and friends who made my journey possible, who have enabled me to see many wonderful things and places along the way and who have helped me arrive safely at my home terminal.”

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