The long road to Trains was even longer than I recalled

Posted by David Lassen
on Thursday, February 15, 2018

We all leave a paper trail. This particular segment came as a surprise. (Photo by David Lassen)
So we’re doing some reshuffling of office space here at Kalmbach, which means a lot of people are going through their desks and tossing out stuff that they don’t need to cart down the hall. (Trains ‘ relocation is still in the future, so my office is just as cluttered as ever. The 37 bobbleheads on the window sill are safe for now)

One of the people who did make the move this week was former Trains editor J. David Ingles, senior editor at Classic Trains. During his cleaning process, he walked into my office, grinning, and handed me some papers: My cover letter, resume, and some clippings from when I applied for an associate editor job at Trains.

In 1987.

Funny thing: I don’t even remember applying then. The cover letter (which, in retrospect, is way, way, way too long) indicates that Dave and I had talked about the job at Winterrail in Stockton, Calif., a few days earlier. It also indicates that I included some photos, and that the clips included “two of the few rail-oriented articles I have written.” (I was, at the time, a sportswriter at the Thousand Oaks, Calif, News Chronicle.) While a couple of sports article are still with the cover letter, the rail-related clips in question are not. It’s been suggested that they may be somewhere in our legendary David P. Morgan Library, but since I don’t recall the subject matter, I’m unable to search for them. Perhaps I'll stumble across them one day.

Dave also had a copy of his initial response, which returned my photos and indicated the position would be filled within the next month.

The fact that I don’t even recall applying for the job in 1987 suggests that I did so mostly out of curiosity. At the time, I was barely a year into the job in Thousand Oaks, and it proved to be a good spot for me — I lasted there, or at the successor Ventura County Star, for 25 years.

In retrospect, I think things worked out pretty well. As a few of you may recall from the blurb in Trains when I was hired, I had a decent run as a sportswriter. I covered five Olympics for the Star and the (now defunct) Scripps Howard News Service, and had at least a taste of most other major U.S. sporting events — including a World Series, a couple of Stanley Cup Finals, three NCAA Final Fours and a bunch of NBA finals, with a stint as a Dodgers beat writer. I look back fondly on all those things.

And when things started going south in the newspaper business, I sent off another resume to Trains. Given a second chance a mere 27 years later, they hired me.

I suppose there are a couple of morals: Just because someone says no once, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try again. And things do indeed tend to happen when the time is right.

Now, while I’m pretty happy with how things turned out, you’d have to ask Dave Ingles and the folks at Kalmbach if they feel the same way. Consider the ne’er-do-well they hired instead of me.

It was a guy named Kevin P. Keefe.

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