Edgar M. “Jack” Godwin, Jr., served as station agent at the Western Pacific Railroad’s Carbona depot from 1954 until his death in 1974. Ten years after he arrived, wife and children in tow, the WP renamed the stop “Tracy” on their timetables, as well as on the station’s roof-top nameboard.
The Ted Benson photo featured above shows Jack in a classic railroader’s pose, fingers on the telegrapher’s key, carrying on a conversation with his colleagues down the line in well-timed dots and dashes.
In the July-August 1966 edition of Western Pacific Mileposts, the railroad’s in-house magazine, Mr. Godwin was profiled in a “WP Is Willing People” feature article, which spotlighted key employees serving in various roles for the company:
When those who know him refer to E. M. “Jack” Godwin, Jr., as a “good scout” they mean what they say both figuratively and literally.
In an area of miles around Tracy, Calif., where Jack is agent for Western Pacific, that goes for shippers, receivers, employees, civic officials, and many others who know him as a great guy.
As a 25-year veteran Scouter, there must be hundreds of Boy Scouts who will vouch that, as a “good scout,” Jack is tops!
We have to go back to June 23, 1923, to begin Jack’s life in Hazleton, Indiana, where he lived for only six months before being brought to Nevada. He had the very rare distinction, when graduating from Alazon (Nevada) Grammar School, of being the only member of the 8th grade class! He was not alone, however, when he completed his high school education at Wells, Nevada.
Jack spent several summer high school vacations working on the Southern Pacific section at Alazon and as a track walker at Elburz. He first went to work full time for Western Pacific as agent at Elburz, Nevada in 1942. His first office was a small shack along the right-of-way, complete with dirt floor, one three-legged stool, a board along one wall for a desk, and a 50-gallon barrel stove.
He later worked from work trains to about every station on the eastern division, and held a relief job at Shafter-Wendover and Wells when he transferred to the western division in October, 1954. He worked the Oroville first trick, Greenville agency, and Greenville-Mason relief job before bidding in the agency at Tracy (then known as Carbona) where, if possible, he hopes to retire.
Jack served with the U.S. Marine Corps in the South Pacific during World War II and was in on “D-Day” at Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima. He also served with occupation forces at Sasebo, Japan, and was honorably discharged in December, 1945.
He began his Scouting career as a member of Troop 51, Wells, Nevada. After World War II, he formed a scout troop at Wells in 1946, and since that time he has continued working in scouting in one capacity or another. He is an Eagle Scout and Brotherhood Member of the Order of the Arrow. At present he is Committee Chairman of Post 510 and Lodge Advisor of Order of the Arrow. He has worked on all travel committees for the Scout’s National Jamborees.
A highlight of his scouting was a special patrol formed for him by the scouts in the Tracy area. “They started me, the sole member, as a Tenderfoot Scout in the Peacock Patrol and each year at Camporee I was advanced until I became an Eagle Scout of the Peacock Patrol,” he is proud to relate.
“My neckerchief, a half bed sheet, was embroidered with a Peacock in scout hat and combat boots, and fringed with black tassels, presented to me by my wife. One of my scout masters presented me with a hand-carved, foot-tall Eagle slide.” Jack deems this honor above all others he has received.
He has also held the president’s chair in the Lions Club, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Chamber of Commerce.
Jack married his high school sweetheart, the former Helen Murray, and they have four wonderful children.
David, 22, is now with the U.S. Marines in Vietnam where he participated in Operations Deckhouse 1, Nathan Hale, and presently in Operation Hastings. He is a brakeman for Southern Pacific.
David is an Eagle Scout and Brotherhood Member of the Order of the Arrow. He served as President of the Explorer Post 510, Chief of Sumi Lodge, O.A., and as Assistant Advisor to Post 510 and Troop 511. He has been in scouting since 1951, and on January 29, 1966, was married to Gail Winters of Galt, California.
Mike, 19, graduated from boot camp on July 29 and expects to serve the U.S. Navy at sea after his leave. He is a Western Pacific brakeman. Mike, with 10 years in Scouting, is an Eagle Scout and Brotherhood Member of the Order of the Arrow. He has served as President of Explorer Post 510, Chief of Sumi Lodge, O.A., and Assistant Advisor.
Bonnie, 16, will be a junior at Tracy Joint High School, and eight-year-old Teri, their “caboose,” will be a fourth-grade student at Jefferson Elementary School.
The Godwin family enjoys camping out, hunting with bow and arrow, fishing, and boating. All but Mrs. Godwin water ski, and weekends are spent at an island north of Tracy. Their hobby is hunting for Indian artifacts and they have a very fine collection displayed at the WP station at Tracy.
“School groups and Cub Scouts visit me all year long. They combine two trips into one when they visit the office, however – they learn about railroading and Indians of the West.”
Jack’s daughter, Bonnie Godwin Parker, spent a good portion of her childhood at Carbona depot, along with her mother, sister and two brothers. Bonnie takes the story from here, in her own words:
We came to Carbona in 1954 from Wells, Nevada (Population: 500). We moved there via the California Zephyr. The prior agent was single so the place was a mess when we arrived. We stayed at the Mission Motel in Tracy for almost three weeks while my parents got the depot livable.
My parents loved California. No snow, and things grew there. My Dad even watered the weeds just to watch them grow.
It was pretty neat living in a train depot. My grandfather lived in the Southern Pacific depot in Fallon, Nevada, so being in depots just seemed natural to us.
When we were kids and the trains would come to switch out the gravel pits, we would get to ride in the engine and ring the bell and blow the horn. We all learned to drive by sitting on my Dad’s lap and steering while he wrote down the numbers on the cars.
My Dad was a telegrapher/agent. He would transcribe incoming telegraphs, type them up and then attach them to the hoops, and then he would stand out as the train went by and one went to the engine and one to the caboose.
As you can see there are two different kinds here. The first (with loop) had the disadvantage of going with the train. With the second one (Y-shaped) just the message and string went and the loop stayed with the depot. This was before radios, etc. He would also send outgoing messages via the telegraph.
As I stated above, his father lived in the Southern Pacific Depot in Fallon; his cousin was the agent for Southern Pacific at Hazen, Nevada. They lived in a railroad house across from the depot, and his brother worked for the Southern Pacific as Crew Dispatcher.
When people would come to our home and a train would go by, they would panic because it shook the depot — some went by at 70 MPH just a few feet from our living room, and then we had tracks that ran right in front of our house where they would set out cars at some times.
Jack Godwin had begun working for the WP in June 1942, assigned initially to their Elburz, Nevada, outpost and later to other stations along the way in rural Nevada and Utah.
Mr. Godwin was felled by a heart attack in 1974 that took his life at only 51 years of age, having worked on the railroad for 32 of those years. The Western Pacific’s old Carbona/Tracy depot survived another decade before it, too, was felled.
These days, nearby in the Linne Estates housing subdivision just off the tracks east of the Carbona Curve, you’ll find Jack Godwin Way and Jack Godwin Court. They’re located off Depot Master Drive, a block down from Zephyr Drive.
Not coincidentally, the railroading that was in Jack’s blood was passed down to yet another generation, as two of his sons, Dave and Mike, continued their family’s heritage by also working, respectively, for the Southern Pacific and Western Pacific.
For more about Carbona and the Western Pacific’s operations there, please click here.
Editor’s Note: a few errors in the original text of the Western Pacific Mileposts article from July-August 1966 were corrected; specifically, Mr. Godwin’s initials (he was E.M., not F.M.) the spelling of his birthplace (Hazleton, not Hazelton, Indiana) and the removal of an extraneous plural “s” on Operations Hastings in reference to his son’s military service. No other significant changes or corrections were made.
Special thanks to Bonnie Godwin Parker for providing the photographs included in this article, including the Ted Benson photographs of her father and of the two Western Pacific trains passing the Tracy depot. (Bonnie lost her valiant battle with cancer in December 2020.) Articles and images from Western Pacific Mileposts magazine are archived by the Feather River Rail Society on their amazing website at WPLives.org.