Larry Jensen wears a lot of hats in his off-time, from gardener to woodworker to traveler. So it figures that in the railroad industry, where he spent 40 years, he’s worn a lot of hats, too.
Jensen, now 60, has been in the same position at Watco since he came on board March 1, 2007, but throughout his career, he’s done it all. He retires this month as a senior vice president and chief mechanical officer.
Jensen started that career as a fireman/oiler in the steam engine days in North Platte, Nebraska, where the locomotive shop there held 68 locomotives indoors and Bailey Yard — the world’s largest classification yard — saw 120 trains a day.
By 1984, he had become an electrician. Furloughed when the Union Pacific and the Missouri Pacific merged, he headed to Omaha, where he landed a job as a lineman for the communications department with the UP.
In 1986, he started his short line career with Kyle Railways, and in the years that followed, he spent 10 years in Arizona on railroads that served the copper mines, some time on the Kiamichi Railroad in Hugo, Oklahoma, and in Paris, Texas, where he was CMO and the director of locomotives for States Rail.
Jensen was attracted to Watco, he said, because he wanted to become part of a company that was looking for growth, wanted to do things the right way, and focused on the Customer service side of things. He counts among his accomplishments helping Watco to standardize locomotive care.
“When I came here, there wasn’t much rhyme or reason to it — everyone did it a bit different,” he said.
Jensen put together an extensive maintenance program that included monitoring those assets using internal technology an a portal system — a tool that everyone uses now.
Today, Watco can track inventory and maintenance and has an online failure reporting process that is unique among short line companies.
It’s difficult to walk away from the industry, he said. The internal workings of his department at Watco is what he’ll miss the most in retirement.
“You build relationships with a lot of people, and I’ll miss feeling like part of a Team,” he said. “You just hope the legacy you leave behind sticks. I think for the most part, what me and my Team accomplished was good and I think it will last. That’s what I hope, anyway.”
Watco will hold a retirement party for Jensen on March 16. Congratulations on your #WatcoMilestone, Larry, and thanks for your years of dedicated service!