About nine months ago, workers at Union Pacific Railroad’s heavy freight car repair shop here adopted a black-and-gray striped cat as their mascot.
It never left until Wednesday, when freight car welder Barrie Bennett took it to his 20-acre farm near Riverside. All the human workers will leave the shop on Friday.
That’s when the transfer of nearly 200 Pocatello car repair workers to Texas and Missouri takes effect. Bennett, 47, hated to see the cat left homeless when the shop was vacated, so he decided to pack it up with him.
“He was screaming and yelling, carrying on in that cage,” said Bennett, who has been employed by Union Pacific for about 25 years.
For Bennett, the cat’s reaction to leaving the shop epitomized how many of his co-workers feel about leaving Pocatello. Because of his seniority, Bennett was able to stay. Thursday was his last day in the car repair shop.
On Friday, he starts as a lead man in a receiving yard tower, where he will help sort cars and assign them to trains.
Bennett estimates about 75 shop employees will remain in Pocatello, but eight to 10 will be left without jobs.
Union Pacific announced in April that 164 car shop jobs would be moved to DeSoto, Mo., and 33 to Palestine, Texas. Another 47 Union Pacific Fruit Express employees would transfer to Pocatello from Tucson, Ariz., and North Platte, Neb.
Union Pacific has decided to delay sending up to 50 maintenance-of-way workers from Pocatello to Denver for about a year, Bennett said.
Three local blacksmiths also learned that their jobs will be eliminated, he said, describing the mood of many railroaders and their families as depressed.
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