southwest DIVISION NEWS
Awareness saves the day
Nothing short of heroic, the actions of Eric Richardson boy’s eyes shifting to the left, toward an older man with his arm
helped authorities catch a criminal Dec. 31 in Los Angeles clenched around the boy’s shoulder.
Union Station. The father of three teenage sons,
“I was just doing my job that day,” he Richardson immediately knew some- Daily awareness
said. “I’m glad I was able to help.” thing was wrong. Don’t forget to check your
Assigned to Red Cap that day, “He looked awfully nervous,” e-mail for daily crime
prevention tips from Amtrak
Richardson walked around the station to Richardson said. “That’s what raised Police.
update passengers on the status of Train 2, the red flag. He looked like he was
which was stalled by a mechanical problem. frightened to death.”
He noticed a nervous look on the face Richardson asked the minor whether the older man was
of a woman he met in the special assistance a relative. After a long silence, the minor replied “a friend,”
area. Her eyes were moving back and forth Eric Richardson while the adult said he was the child’s father.
from the passenger on her left, an unaccompanied minor. The inconsistency led to further questioning from
As Richardson began to talk to the minor, he noticed the See Richardson, Page 2
Snow no match for Flagstaff
Each winter, station agents in Chester is joined in Flagstaff by
Flagstaff, Ariz., wage a turf war fellow station agents Fred Colmenero,
against Mother Nature’s snow and Justin Connors and Carol Perez.
ice. More often than not, they find Located 7,000 feet above sea level,
themselves on the winning side. the Flagstaff area receives an average of
“That’s our area — it’s our job,” 130 inches of snow each year — but that
said Gary Chester, station agent. “We total can fluctuate significantly.
keep things straight, clean and up to For instance, in December 2009, the
snuff. It’s good for the company, and territory was battered by four consecu-
it’s good for us.” tive snowstorms in one week. From a
Tuesday to a Friday, approxi-
mately 80 inches of snow fell.
Another storm several
years ago delivered 48 inches
of snow in a 48-hour period.
Station agents work Above: A clean platform benefits employees
and customers. Left: Flagstaff snowstorms
in two eight-hour shifts can leave several feet of snow in a short time.
See Flagstaff, Page 3 Photos courtesy TrainWeb.com.
Bekkelund wears many hats
S outhwest Division congratulates
Gaye Lynn Bekkelund, recipient of
the Amtrak’s Presidential Award for sus-
She worked in commissary, as a
B&A clerk and ticket clerk.
In 2001, she returned to the unas-
responsible for accounts payable and
“There’s never a dull moment,” she
tained excellence. signed board, working in Longview and said. “It’s hard work and it’s constant. I
Based in Fort Worth, Texas, Texarkana until October of that same don’t like to sit around and twiddle my
Bekkelund serves as a lead commissary/ year, when she was assigned to commis- thumbs.”
ticket clerk. She appreciates the recog- sary responsibilities in Fort Worth. Bekkelund relies on two cell phones
nition from the company she loves. In July 2009, the commissary me- and her office phone to stay connected.
“I’m very proud,” Bekkelund said. chanical building burned, destroying the “I can talk to three people at once,”
“My work ethic is my life. I’m so glad I entire food supply. she said.
came to Amtrak when I did.” “I lost everything,” Bekkelund said. Bekkelund serves as forklift instruc-
Her Amtrak career began in May Working in a small room without tor for Fort Worth, San Antonio and
1990 in Fort Worth on the unassigned electricity, she reached out to her food Houston, while leading Move Smart
board. She spent time in other Texas representative — and, by 10 a.m. the training for new employees and trans-
towns, including Texarkana, Longview, next day, a trailer containing food had fers. Through Move Smart, employees
Marshall, Dallas, Temple, Austin, San arrived. learn proper lifting techniques for boxes
Antonio and Houston. Stationed in the T&E crew room for and suitcases, and how to push carts.
“Wherever they needed me, that’s nearly a year, she overcame the less than She also serves as safety coordi-
where I went,” Bekkelund said. “I wore ideal situation through creativity and nator for the Fort Worth and Dallas
out three cars.” perseverance. areas, leading safety meetings and
Though things have not yet fully re- helping to resolve potentially unsafe
turned to normal, Bekkelund maintains a conditions.
positive outlook. “When someone brings me a con-
She stands responsible for the cern, I get it fixed,” she said.
Oklahoma 821 and 822 trains, also If she cannot resolve the is-
known as the Heartland Flyer, and serves sue on her own, she seeks help from
as support for the Texas Eagle 21 and 22. management.
In emergency situations, she helps with A committee member since 1990,
the Sunset. Bekkelund has been involved in Move
Bekkelund orders supplies neces- Smart since 1995 and became a forklift
From left, Gaye Lynn Bekkelund stands with fellow sary to stock trains, working directly trainer in 1999.
Southwest Division employees and Presidential with three LSAs to ensure correct and “I had to just keep adding to it,” she
Award Winners Andy Saucedo and John Bernal. accurate paperwork. She also stands said. “I have to be busy.”
Richardson helps nab criminal
Richardson, from Page 1 may have abducted the boy if Richardson had not intervened.
Richardson, which caused the man to become visibly agitated. The event has caused him to look after his own children’s well-
Rather than turn a blind eye, Richardson acted in accor- being with a more critical eye.
dance with his Amtrak training. “We’re safety conscious,” he said. “I tell them, ‘don’t let
“When you see something suspicious, say something,” he anyone distract you from going from point A to point B.’”
said. “Under the circumstances, I had to do something.” Richardson joined Los Angeles Station in November
He left the special assistance area and found a security 2008. He also has worked in Santa Barbara, Van Nuys
guard. Upon returning to the area where the boy was sitting, and Oxnard.
Richardson and the guard discovered that the man had fled He has heard passengers traveling through Los Angeles
down the stairs toward the purple line train. comment that they feel unsafe while the train is stopped there.
Richardson went to the metro platform and notified the “They think of Los Angeles as still back in the 1980s,”
sheriff of the incident. Richardson said.
The suspect, who had stolen the boy’s wallet and made He makes a point of communicating otherwise.
unwelcome advances, was found on the purple line train and “I’ve seen how the L.A. area has evolved into a safer
arrested. place,” he said. “It’s a family-friendly place.”
Richardson did not fully realize the gravity of the situation Richardson is a member of the Southwest Division Coast
until he discussed it with his wife. She speculated that the man Safe 2 Safer committee.
Safe 2 Safer makes debut
With the full support of the work asks employees to look out for them-
force behind it, the selves and their co-workers. Employees
Safe 2 Safer pro- must identify risk and unsafe behaviors. will be held in the spring.
gram can succeed “It’s a matter of owning your work Drogan will celebrate her 20th year
where initiatives of environment,” she said. with Amtrak April 1. Prior to becoming
the past have not. The program was introduced on a facilitator, she served as a conductor on
“As employees, Southwest Division in August after first the Surfliner out of San Diego.
we have a tendency appearing on the East Coast in early The Safe 2 Safer message spoke
to listen to each 2010. to her.
other with an open A 12-member steering committee “I agree that you have to be respon-
mind,” said Laura Laura Drogan has been performing field observations sible for your own safety,” she said. “If
Drogan, Safe 2 since November. During the holidays, something can hurt you, then you need to
Safer facilitator. “Everyone’s willing to the team averaged 80 observations per find a way to do it safely.”
make a change.” month. From wearing PPE to practicing safe
People once hesitant to speak up The group reached a new high-wa- walking techniques, employees empow-
have found their voices, according to ter mark in January with more than 120 er themselves to be safe.
Drogan. They can talk openly about observations. “There are a lot of things that are
their safety concerns without fear of “We’re getting out there and spread- within our control,” Drogan said.
reprisal. ing the word,” Drogan said. For circumstances beyond their con-
“When people talk and their bosses In November, she and steering com- trol, employees can reach out to man-
listen, it helps reinforce the message,” mittee members visited each location agement. For example, they can report
she said. “As far as I can see, the man- on their territory, including Metrolink. unsafe conditions and offer suggestions
agers have been very supportive. The During the visits, the team discussed on processes.
potential for success is very high.” the new program, introduced some of Drogan has relished the opportunity
Assuming the facilitator role in the processes involved and distributed to be on the ground floor of an exciting
October, she stands responsible for im- cookies. new program.
plementing the program on the coastal The first new observers’ class was “This has been great,” she said. “It’s
portion of the Southwest Division. held in January when the program took been an awesome experience for every-
According to Drogan, Safe 2 Safer on 10 new personnel. A second course one involved.”
Flagstaff fights snowstorm
Flagstaff, from Page 1
corresponding with the morning train and night train, usually “We don’t talk about the record a lot, but it’s some-
one employee per shift. thing we’re proud of,” Chester said. “We try to be as safe
When weather conditions dictate, the team brings in an ex- as possible.”
tra employee for each shift to help with snow removal. Employees constantly talk about wearing proper clothing,
The agents stand responsible for clearing the platform and including coats, hoods, gloves and snow boots. They do not
the north entrance, while the city clears the parking lots and hesitate to call one another when they need help.
front drive. “We look after each other here,” Chester said. “It’s like
“It can get pretty rough,” Chester said. “But everyone a family. It’s a good station. We have some good people and
works really hard to make sure we have the platform cleared they’re very customer oriented.”
for our customers and our crews.” Rather than shoveling the snow, the team pushes it using
They time their work to ensure walkways are clear when super scoopers. Not allowing the snow to build up, employees
trains arrive. The eastbound Southwest Chief No. 4 train ar- begin the removal process once the snow reaches 2 inches.
rives at 5:36 a.m., while the westbound No. 3 train arrives at “We’re on it early,” Chester said.
9:51 p.m. At every step, employees strive to prevent injury or over-
A 9.5-horsepower snow thrower and four shovels aid in the exertion by mechanical or low-impact means. Their commit-
process. Each year, Chester orders 1 1/2 tons of snow melt. ment to safety and productivity has won accolades.
Safe walking conditions contribute directly to the team’s “The Flagstaff station agents do a great job of work-
excellent safety record — a longstanding source of pride for ing together to clear the snow,” said Jesse Padilla, district
employees. station manager.
Amtrak Police deliver smiles :-)
A holiday visit to a local children’s rewarding thing to do. You feel
hospital led to a realization for two good in your heart.”
Amtrak police officers. This marks the second year
“It’s the quality, not the quantity Samalya has been involved in the
of life that’s important,” said Yasmine event. She was accompanied by
Samalya, an 18-year Amtrak employee Alfredo Arenivas, Amtrak Police
based in Los Angeles. K-9 officer.
Members of the National Latino Arenivas, who has young chil-
Peace Officers Association, includ- dren of his own, became emotion-
ing Samalya, gathered at the hospital al at the sight of the terminally ill
Dec. 16 to present a collection of gifts children.
valued at $600 to children suffering from “You can’t describe it in Amtrak Police Officer Yasmine Samalya, right, delivers
a toy during the City of Hope toy giveaway.
terminal cancer. words,” Samalya said.
Ranging from just a few months old The children were intrigued Ventura Police, Downey Police, South
to age 12, each child received four to by the sight of a uniformed officer and Gate Police and Union Capital Police
five toys. excited to talk to the police and ask about were in attendance.
“This makes their lives a little hap- their job. Samalya and Arenivas also partici-
pier,” Samalya said. “It was a very “We made some little kids happy pate in various other NLPOA fundrais-
for a few hours,” ers and activities throughout the year.
she said. “You see Founded in 1972, the NLPOA seeks
the joy in their eyes. to honor family, education and commu-
They’re so happy.” nity through service and membership,
In addition to according to its website.
Amtrak Police, rep- With local chapters throughout the
resentatives from U.S., its membership includes chiefs
the United States of police, sheriffs, police officers, pa-
Marshall Service, role agents and federal officers, who
Amtrak Police Officers Yasmine Samalya, front row, third from right, and
Alfredo Arenivas, back row, fourth from left, prepare to distribute toys with United States Army, are employed at the local, state and
other volunteers during the City of Hope toy giveaway. Inglewood Police, federal levels.
Employees chip in for a new bike
The generosity of Los Angeles Amtrak employees helped Coleman’s family members also made donations.
4-year-old Ronald Carter experience the simple joy of riding a Ron Ramirez, sheet metal worker, offered to help assem-
bike for the first time. ble the bike, which Ronald received a week before Christmas.
The son of Tamia Coleman, third-shift coach cleaner, “It brought tears to my eyes,” Coleman said. “I really ap-
Ronald suffered a stroke at 11 months that caused tem- preciate the support.”
porary paralysis. He eventually regained control of his Ronald has enjoyed tooling around their neighborhood.
upper body. He rides, while she walks next to him.
However, he still cannot walk without assistance. “I try my best to keep him out of the street,” she said.
When Coleman learned of a special bicycle that Ronald Ronald has communicated his gratitude to those who
could pedal using his hands, her co-workers offered to help helped make his dream of riding a bicycle possible.
purchase the bike. “Ronald says ‘thank you’ to you all,” Coleman said. “I
Marcel Perez, track operator, placed a tip jar for Ronald feel truly blessed. Words can’t describe it. I appreciate each
near the barbecue pit at a company celebration. and every one of my co-workers.”
Got a great story? Let us know!
For news coverage, contact Nathan at the newsletter office by phone at 402-475-6397, fax 402-475-6398, e-mail email@example.com or mail information to 1845 S. 11th St., Lincoln, NE 68502-2211.
This newsletter appears under the direction of the general superintendent. This material is intended to be an overview of the news of the Southwest Division. If there are any discrepancies between
this newsletter and any collective bargaining process, insurance contracts or other official documents, those documents will govern. Amtrak continues to maintain and reserves the right, at any time, to
alter suspend, discontinue or terminate all plans and programs described in this newsletter. This newsletter is not an employment contract or any type of employment guarantee. Any photo
submitted may be used. Anyone who submits a photo retains all rights to the image. However, by submission you give the newsletter permission to use your photo(s) in all related media.
Thank you to everyone who contributed to this issue of the newsletter, including, but not limited to, Ginger Brown, Gary Chester, Laura Drogan, Eric Richardson and Yasmine Samalya.