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Leslie Savoye

Director and Membership Secretary

I grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We rode the Super Chief and El Capitan to Chicago twice a year to visit my grandparents.  When I was three years old, watching the mars lights on the covered wagons snake through Apache Canyon in the snow, I developed my love for trains. My relatives were deeply immersed in the history of the Santa Fe.  My godfather (great uncle) was an agent in Albuquerque, New Mexico for 50 years, and my great grandmother was a Fred Harvey girl in Rincon, New Mexico.


We briefly moved to Chicago while my father went to law school. I would sneak out of the apartment and walk a block and a half to the Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad to watch the trains.  It was then I knew in my heart that I wanted made to become a locomotive engineer.  At the age of 15, I moved to Chicago to live with my grandmother.  For two summers, I worked as a tour escort for American Rail Tours (a division of Amtrak). That experience was an intricate part of the foundation of my railroad career and passion of railroading.  Out of that experience, my love affair with the Southern Pacific began.


I attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville to major in Transportation.  During that time, all I could think of was the railroad. In 1976, I started at the Chicago and North Western Railroad as a brakeman after begging the women in the Personnel Department to hire me.  That allowed me to become a conductor, fireman, and locomotive engineer.  I was the second female locomotive engineer in the United States.


While on vacation to the Bay Area in 1979, I stopped in at 1 Market Street in San Francisco (Mecca on Southern Pacific) and applied as a promoted locomotive engineer at the Southern Pacific. And the rest is history. I was hired in Oakland.


In 1987, I began working for Amtrak out of Oakland as the first woman road foreman of engines in the country.


I subsequently relinquished my seniority at Amtrak and moved to Olathe, Kansas to work for Burlington Northern as assistant  manager of locomotive engineer training. After a family crisis, I returned to the Bay Area, after which I worked in intermodal and automotive operations at Consolidated Freightways, APL (American Presidents Lines), and Pacer Stacktrain.


At that time, my future husband was living in Michigan, and I moved there until we could return to the Bay Area. I worked as a consultant starting a Class III switching railroad in New York, an intermodal project for Nova Scotia, and a shortline in Texas.


We moved back to the Bay Area where I was hired as a locomotive engineer for Sierra Northern until I was approached by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to consider being involved with the C3RS (Confidential Close Call Reporting System). It is a program funded by the FRA and administered by NASA to study human factors incidents and accidents to improve railroad safety. I became project manager at Moffett Field, California until I retired January of 2020.


I continue to work as a consultant teaching train handling, operations, and rules for various shortline railroad companies. My husband Chip and I reside in Lafayette, California, as well as Santa Fe. We have five children and two grandsons between us. Our interests include railroad photography, tennis, hiking, biking, activities with our dogs, and international travel. We raise, show, and do field work with our four wire haired Dachshunds who are gracious enough to let us live with them.

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