Jump to Content

Collection Guide
Collection Title:
Collection Number:
Get Items:
Guide to the California State Railroad Museum Craft Seniority Roster Collection MS 866
MS 866  
View entire collection guide What's This?
Search this collection
Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Conditions Governing Access
  • Accruals
  • Arrangement
  • Related Collections
  • Preferred Citation
  • Scope and Contents
  • Conditions Governing Use

  • Contributing Institution: California State Railroad Museum Library & Archives
    Title: California State Railroad Museum Craft Seniority Roster Collection
    source: California State Railroad Museum Library & Archives
    Identifier/Call Number: MS 866
    Physical Description: 5 Linear Feet 5 record cartons
    Date (inclusive): 1896-1985
    Abstract: The craft seniortiy roster files is a collection of seniority rosters published by railroads to establish a list of employees, listed by their hire date. The craft seniority roster list was used by railroads to promote existing employees into available jobs within specific crafts.
    Physical Location: Big Four Building, Sub-Main Room
    Material Specific Details: RESTRICTED Materials: Contact CSRM L&A for a public copy
    Language of Material: English .

    Conditions Governing Access

    Collection is open for research by appointment.


    Future additions are expected.


    MS 866 is arranged first alphabetically by railroad, then chronologically.

    Related Collections

    Additional seniority lists may be found in the following collections:
    MS 43 Western Pacific Railroad Company Records
    MS 49 Inventory of the Pacific Fruit Express Company Collection
    MS 437 George E. Hammond Papers (Pullman)
    MS 559 Howard Hobbs Thompson Papers (Southern Pacific, Sacramento Division)
    MS 625 Isaac Ike Henry Brokaw Papers
    MS 690 John Jack C. Davis Papers
    MS 729 John Medich Collection (Southern Pacific, Sacramento Shops)

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], California State Railroad Museum Craft Seniority Roster Files, MS 866, California State Railroad Museum Library & Archives, Sacramento, California.

    Scope and Contents

    A Railroad Craft Seniority Roster, also known as a Seniority List, contains the names of individuals who work within each craft or department. They are listed by their hire date, with the individual who has been in that craft longest, listed first. Each subsequent individual is listed by their hire date. Each of the various crafts will have their own roster. The rosters can be part of a printed booklet or individual sheets of paper. The individual sheets were often posted on specific bulletin boards for the various crafts.
    A Seniority system is simple way for determining employment advantages based upon length of service. Seniority is the concept of a person or group of people taking precedence over another person or group because the former is either older than the latter or has occupied a particular position longer than the latter. A railroader's seniority is established by/on his or her hire date. An individual's employee number determined their seniority in the overall roster of employees in the specific type of service. Individuals with lower numbers can displace workers from their current position. The recently displaced worker can then displace or bump other workers with a higher number.
    For example, to become a Conductor, an individual would need to start out as a Brakeman. A Brakeman was the entry level position and they would establish a "date" (their date of hire for that position) on the Brakeman's Roster. With time and sufficient training, an individual could bid on an open position for a Train Conductor. Once promoted to Train Conductor, that person would have a "date" on the Train Conductor Roster. This process was similar for the various crafts, such as Locomotive Engineers, Signalmen and others.
    It worked in reverse if a department needed to lay off employees. If a signal foreman's position was eliminated from Class 1, that person could bump any person his junior on Class 2 or the Signalmen's Roster. If that bumped person had no place to go on the Signalmen's Roster then he could bump a person off the Assistant Signalmen's Roster. At which point the last person on the Assistant's Roster would be laid off from work. Individuals who had been laid off would be the first one called back to work before additional people were hired.
    Conductors and Brakemen Seniortiy Rosters were published in accordance with Rule 36 of the Conductors and Trainmens Schedules. Some examples of a railroad craft are Conductors, Brakemen, Engineers, Firemen, Trainmen, Yardmen, and Telegraphers.
    When employees were conscripted into military service, the were entiltels to kept their names on the seniority lists. These individuals were noted with either (MS) or (Absent in Mil SVC) next to their names.
    Los Angeles Commissary lists include jobs for: Lounge and Club Car Attendants, Stationary Pantrymen, Lunchcar Attendants, Waiters-In-Charge, Chefs, Second Cooks, Third Cooks, Fourth Cooks, Waiters, Stewards, and Train News Agents. The Train News Agent, also known as the news butcher, sold passengers magazines, newspapers, novels, cigars, candy, soda pop and other confections on the train.
    Key terms found on the lists: Note about the (L) symbol found next to names on the rosters. At one time, towermen were members of the signalmen's union. Towermen were responsible for throwing the (L)evers that moved the switches and signals. If they also copied train orders they were members of the telegrapher's union instead.
    When towermen were moved from the signalmen's union to the telegrapher's union (ORT), those men retained a preferential right to hold the former Leverman jobs. These men are identified by the (L) symbol. A Leverman had a preferential right to a former towerman position that did not copy train orders. Dayton Ave Tower (California) was one of those locations. Burbank Jct. (California) was not. Thenard Tower (California) was another (L) preference location. Over the years, the (L) men retired and the preference went away.
    Note about the (RD) symbol found next to names on the rosters. (RD) stood for Retired account Disability. These individuals were still on the roster for seniority purposes, but not yet 65 years of age. If they were able to return to work before turning 65, they would enter back at that level of seniority. If they were not back at work and turned 65, they would be removed from the seniority list.
    (TBM) Train baggagemen could not handle public mail, which was federal and the individuals needed to be a federal employee. The TBM handled the company mail. (MS) Absent in Military Service (BR) L/A [leave of absence] Account Bill of Rights under Servicemen's Educational Roadjustment Act of 1944 (#) Disqualified for Train service
    RESTRICTED Materials: Contact CSRM L&A for a public copy

    Conditions Governing Use

    Copyright has not been assigned to the California State Railroad Museum. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the CSRM Library & Archives.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company
    Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad
    Sacramento Northern
    Seniority, Employee
    Seniority List
    Seniority Roster
    Southern Pacific Transportation Company
    Union Pacific Railroad Company
    Western Pacific Railroad Company
    California State Railroad Museum Library & Archives