He was the son of a long time B&O foreman in the repair shops in Martinsburg, West Virginia. He started working part time cleaning up around the rail yard. Eventually he became a helper in the passenger station, and after a succession of jobs there he joined a train crew. After several years as an assistant, he was given the responsibility of running a train as a conductor. The conductor is responsible for the operation of the entire train, including supervision of the engineer and the entire train crew. He must account for the comfort and safety of all passengers, and for a freight train, the care and proper delivery of whatever products are being transported.