JAMES T. RODDY has been named   the 2024 Railroad Person of Year. Mr. Roddy was born in 1947 to a railroading family, and he grew up a stone’s throw from the Durand roundhouse. His grandfather, dad, uncle and brother all worked for the railroads, and after graduating high school in 1965, Jim took a job as a brakeman with Grand Trunk Western. Jim put his career on hold to spend a couple of years in the Army’s railroad battalion at Fort Eustis, Virginia, before picking up where he left off with the railroad following the conclusion of his service to our country.

   Upon returning to civilian life, Jim crossed paths with the love of his life, Joan Marie Shippee of Owosso, in the fall of 1968. Four years later, in 1972, they exchanged vows, marking the beginning of a 52-year journey together. Their union blessed them with three children – Eric, Jamie and Kimberly – all of whom remain deeply connected to their parents to this day.

  Jim’s conductor career became a whirlwind tour of Michigan – Pontiac, Detroit, Bay City, Muskegon – you name it. On the railroad, Jim says he felt like a modern-day explorer, venturing through the industrial landscape across Michigan and watching it change over the years. Jim had a front-row seat to the changing scenery of both the countryside and the cities, flexible hours, good pay and a crew that felt more like family. It was a dream job for the lifelong railroader.

 But like any story, there were challenges along the way. Jim faced several close calls, such as nearly losing a finger due to a snagged wedding ring, and sustaining a back injury when he was unexpectedly knocked off a moving train during a snowstorm. Though he initially feared for his legs, it turned out to be a back injury instead.

 Despite the bumps, Jim stayed on track, riding out the changes in the industry as a seasoned conductor. From the rise and fall of Durand’s railroad hub to the ever-evolving technology, Jim saw it all.

  Now in retirement, Jim still has that twinkle in his eye when he talks about his railroad days. He is now enjoying his golden years surrounded by family, cheering on his grandsons at their sporting events and diving into his passions for history and health.

(Courtesy Photo)

2024 Railroad Person of the Year was last modified: March 26th, 2024 by Karen Elford