Keep on Chuggin#8217;

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

SOUTH POINT — For more than five decades, Don Massie has called the cramped cab of a train his home away from home.

Massie celebrated his 50th year as an engineer with the Norfolk & Southern Railroad Monday, a milestone that only a few railroaders can boast.

The 70-year-old South Point resident started at the railroad — then known as the Norfolk & Western — after he graduated from high school. Even as a boy, Massie said he knew his destiny was to ride the lines. He worked his way up through the ranks until he was able to run a train solo, with the help of conductor.

Email newsletter signup

He has been traveling from Portsmouth to Bluefield, W.Va., for the past 30-some years on his regular route. The route winds through the area and about 100 yards from his house, which means he is always able to give a loving little toot to his wife of 33 years, Susan.

Massie said the railroad has seen many changes over the years, some of them positive, some negative. The biggest change has been the conversion from steam engines to diesel, he said. Another

is the way new railroad employees are trained. In years past, Massie said he and his counterparts learned on the job, now that doesn’t happen.

“I think they learn in a classroom in Atlanta,” Massie said with a laugh. “We just had to go out there and learn it.”

No matter what changes are made, he said has never dreaded going to work, although the job took him away from his family for long hours and during most weekends and holidays.

“It’s (the job) always something new everyday,” he said.

Massie’s railroad service has been interrupted two times; He was still employed by the railroad in the late 1980s, but was put on medical leave for a few years because of an immune system disorder. He has been off since January of this year with medical problems, as well, but he said his doctors have released him, he said, and has told him there is no reason that he can’t be back doing what he loves.

“I hope to go back June 1,” Massie said with a smile. “The good Lord gave me the ability to run the trains that’s what I want to do.”

He said a lot of co-workers tease him, some have even told him to retire so they can have his job. Massie said retirement is not in the near future.

“I like my job,” he said. “And I like to do it right, like it’s supposed to be done.”

In his free time, Massie enjoys gardening and working on gasoline engines.