Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Juanita Campbell, 74

Written by  Dan Cupper, for Railway Age
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Juanita Campbell, 74 Nick Pettit

A Norfolk Southern locomotive engineer with whom I occasionally traded greetings at crew-change time died at home in Virginia on Oct. 31. That’s not the news. The news is that Juanita Campbell was a 74-year-old grandmother who broke all stereotypes of railroad locomotive engineers.

As related by another NS engineer, Nick Pettit, Juanita hired on with NS in 1998, after shuttling NS crews around for Cimarron, a former contracted van service. At the time of her death, she was based in Shenandoah, Va., running to Hagerstown, Md., via NS’s former Norfolk & Western “H Line” and sometimes on to Harrisburg, Pa., via NS’s Lurgan Branch/District.

Earlier this year, on May 9, Juanita had the honor of operating the very last Blue Unit move of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus Train, from Shenandoah to Hagerstown.

When NS acquired 58% of Conrail, and some of Conrail’s locomotives with desktop controls instead of a conventional AAR control stand began to show up, she made no secret of her distaste for them.

“I spent nearly two years working with Juanita as her conductor, taking trains from Manassas, Va., to Hagerstown, and it was during this time that I took this photo of her while we were stopped at ‘Marsh Run,’” Pettit recalls. “She loved doing crossword puzzles and recycling things, and most of all, she loved to talk.” She was widely known on NS in the areas she ran.

On Pettit’s Facebook post announcing her death, 353 people acknowledged reading the piece and 155 commented on it.

In a day when most railroads find it difficult to hire and retain many women in Train & Engine Service, Juanita stood out. She loved working on the railroad, and once said she would retire when she couldn’t get up on the engine any more. One friend described her as “one tough cookie.”

“She was tough as nails,” says Pettit. “One thing is for sure: There will never be another Juanita ‘Nee Nee’ Campbell.”

Dan Cupper, railroad historian and Norfolk Southern locomotive engineer, crossed paths with Juanita Campbell from time to time in the course of changing crews, usually at Hagerstown, Md.

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