In April 2013, Heather Garcia, a University of La Verne graduate and sorority girl visited Orange Empire Railway Museum and became hooked on the Museum’s collection. “They are real and a snapshot of our history,” she said.
At the Museum, Heather Garcia has helped sand, grind and paint parts for the restoration of Santa Fe Railway 98 to its original appearance as ATSF 108. She has ground the caboose couplers of the Southern Pacific 020 and put crater grease on the trucks. Heather has also learned some track and machine shop work and spends time working in customer service.
“It’s all about volunteering and having fun,” she said.
Heather took the Museum’s motormen’s class so she could operate the restored vehicles. Now she is driving any of the Presidents’ Conference Committee (PCC) street cars, the streetcars. Under supervision, she has operated the 2954, the SP 3100, USAF 7441, and the Pacific Electric 418 and plans to become certified.
In October, she will take the brakeman’s class and work her way up to be an OERM engineer. Ultimately, she hopes to operate a diesel engine with passengers on the main line. Jeff Williams, Diesel Locomotive Superintendent and Restoration Project Manager for ATSF 108, says he can count on Heather to put in long and hard hours as a volunteer.
“I like her work ethic,” he said. “She’s not afraid to get her hands dirty.”
Heather said the operators and restorers have embraced her as a crew member. “Even though I hardly understood what they were saying when they spoke ‘train’, they were welcoming and took the time to break things down and explain everything in great detail.” Ken Schwartz, head of operations, said that Heather has also made her mark as an operations crew member.
“We’re really starting to attract a lot of younger people who are training alongside our many skilled older volunteers and technicians. I’m always happy when I see young people like Heather getting involved and enjoying the artifacts of history that some people might think irrelevant.”