JOHN MONTEREY “JACK” HOLST, an autobiography

I was born in Dallas, Oregon on May 13, 1934, exactly one year to the day after discontinuance of passenger service on the Oregon Electric Railway.

There have been no railroaders in our family although both my father and grandfather were forestry men and as such spent much time in the woods in and around logging trains.

I was raised in Bend, Oregon in the heart of Oregon’s pine logging country. The tracks of Brooks-Scanlon, Inc. and Shevlin-Hixon Company’s logging railroads could be seen from our kitchen window. I used to leave for school each morning as soon as the Brook’s log train passed. I think my first train photo was one of a wreck which occurred one morning as I watched from the window. A light helper locomotive backed into a log truck on a crossing, derailing the tender and killing a brakeman.

I was given an American Flyer “O” gage train when I was six. This small toy train gradually grew into a rather extensive model railroad using Lionel and Flyer equipment. This eventually filled our basement. When the decision to move to a new house was made, it had to go as the new home had no basement. I sapped much of the “O” for “HO” and have been modeling in “HO” ever since.

I can’t recall when my interest in the prototype started. I hung out in the yards and local roundhouses from the time I could be trusted away from the house alone. In 1950 I was a delegate to the National Boy Scout Jamboree at Valley Forge, PA. One of the big thrills of this was the chance to cross the country on our own chartered train. The following summer I went, again as a Scout, to the World Jamboree in Austria, again crossing the country by rail and traveling extensively throughout Europe by train. Following all this rail travel, it was little wonder that I became permanently “hooked” on trains of all types.

During these high school years, I discovered a classmate with similar interests. Jerry Lamper and I spent a lot of time together model railroading and chasing trains. It was Jerry who went with me on our first “solo” railfan adventure. We were both 16 at the time and spent our entire spring vacation driving about the state visiting logging and short lines. It was a good thing we did, for this was about the time that a large number of lines were dieselizing or going out of business in favor of log trucks.

Actually seeing some of these lines in operation lead me to attempt to find out more about their history. Up until this time I’d read a few issues of Railroad Magazine and Trains, but hadn’t really discovered that anyone other than working railroaders and historians were interested in trains. Through the Railroad Magazine “Camera Club” ads I met Doug Richter who was a major influence in my continued interest in railroad history. Another historian who I “met” through the Camera Club was Mallory Hope Ferrell. We were both beginners at the time, but we swaped data and photos and helped to developed each others interests and collections.

Railfan activities were pretty well shelved during the 1952-1956 period while I attended Oregon State University. I went to school, steam was everywhere, when I got out, it was gone. After recovery from the shock, I set out to see what remained, this time with a couple of good cameras.

After graduation from Oregon State with a BS in Natural Resources, I obtained my first job as a Planner with the Multnomah County Planning Commission in Portland. I met my wife Shari (Connell) shortly after moving to Portland. I met her through another girl who lived in my apartment building. It was a typical love at first sight affair and shortly afterward we were married. Shari has tried to build an interest in my railroading, going with me on many trips to ride and chase trains. She has built some structures for my model railroad, but her attitude about railroads can best be described as tolerant. Shari’s interests run towards art and crafts and animals. She is a talented sculptor and also works in ceramics, painting & drawing, sewing, knitting and beadwork. Shari and Suzi, our 14 year old daughter, also enjoy skiing. Sports cars are a family sport. We own two, a bug-eyed Sprite and an Alfa Romero. We all enjoy watching races and participate in rallys. I also work in the pits for race driver friends as their mechanic. Suzi now navigates for me in rallys and even managed to lead us to a trophy in one large event. Shari’s fondness for animals is reflected in the large number of assorted pets we have had…a skunk, guinea pigs, turtles, mice, goats, a rabbit, fish, and our current pets, three pedigreed Basset Hounds named Sam, Freckles and Humphrey. Plans are to have lots of little Bassets once Freckles is old enough. Humphrey is quite mechanically inclined and spends hours looking over my shoulder as I overhaul the sports cars or work on locomotive parts.

I am presently Planning Manager for Robert E. Meyer Engineers, Inc. My work involves the preparation of comprehensive development plans for cities and counties throughout the Northwest. I greatly enjoy my work which basically involves helping communities to adequately prepare themselves for the future. By doing so, I hope I have helped to make the future a little bit better for everyone. One of my principal gripes is the unreal national priorities which place such items as war, the SST, and the space program ahead of such items as adequate housing, rehabilitation of our cities, and education.

As to my personal appearance, I guess big is the best description. I stand 6’4 ½” tall and weigh about 250. My hair is brown and my eyes grey. My dress is usually not too neat. After all day at the office in a suit, I love to scrounge around home in a tee-shirt and Frisco jeans. My old red jacket and red sweatshirt have become sort of a trade mark wherever steam runs in the west. I’m overweight, but do little about it. My principal exercise is working on steam locos, sports cars, or running through the woods in chase of a train. I smoke quite a bit, drink lots of good beer (little hard stuff though), and live on five to six hours of sleep a night. In spite of this I’ve only seen a doctor a couple of times in the past ten years and seldom even have a serious cold. My eating habits run to steak, hamburgers, and pizza. Politically I’m a conservative Republican. I am a protestant, but feel that the organized church has little to offer having largely failed in its mission to keep up with changing times.

Our home is a typical suburban split level. Only the lower levels show that a railfan is in residence except for a small locomotive-shaped sign with our name on it on the porch. The double garage somehow manages to hold three cars, three dogs, three bicycles, a work shop, and nearly enough parts to build a locomotive. My only piece of operating railroad equipment, a former NP “Fairmont” speeder is stored at a friend’s house. My den is something else. In addition to my roll top desk and an old walnut library table which I type on, the room is cramed with file cabinets, wall to wall bookcases, a stereo, TV, locomotive bell, whistles, lanterns, tropheys (from sports car ralleys & Shari’s bowling), and assorted railroadiana. Just outside the door is my data processing center with key punch, sorter and printer. A 12 X 20 foot model railroad, the Sugar Pine Ridge, and HO scale logging railroad, fills the basement. The basement walls are covered with photos and locomotive builders plates. Nearly all of my railroadiana is from logging lines and all was legitimately acquired at the time steam and the railroads themselves were disappearing.

I have extensive files of locomotive rosters and builders lists as well as a large collection of photos and negatives of western lines. My favorite railroad, the former Klickitat Log and Lumber Co. line is well represented by some 300 black & white negatives, a couple of hundred slides and 600 feet of 8 mm movies which I’ve taken. Someday I hope to do a book on the line. To date my efforts in writing on railroads have been in the form of articles for Pacific News and the NRHS Bulletin. As a joint effort with a couple of other NRHS members we have just completed a small book on the Spokane, Portland & Seattle. The book, to be published by Chatham Publishing Company in the near future, is a brief history of the company and the various lines and a detailed motive power roster.

For nearly ten years I’ve been working on a history of the Heisler Locomotive. This has been a tough project due to the lack of existing records of the company, but with the cooperation of Walt Casler and hundreds of helpful fans it is finally falling together. While working to prepare a list of firms using Heislers, I developed the technique of using electronic data processing equipment for storage and retrieval of information concerning locomotives. My pioneering efforts in this field have been written up in detail in the NRHS Bulletin and Pacific News. I also seem to have discovered a virtually untapped source of information on locomotive ownership in the form of sales contracts recorded in the archives of many county courthouses. This has unearthed a vast amount of information that otherwise would have been lost to history.

I belong to the Pacific Northwest Chapter of NRHS which I’ve served as VP, President, & Director. I’m now Mechanical Chairman and Chairman of the Publication Committee. I also belong to the Pacific Locomotive Association, the National Model Railroad Association, and the Puget Sound Railway Historical Association. I’m also Western News Editor for the NRHS Bulletin which involves reading the newsletters of 12 western chapters and reporting on their activities as well as covering current events as best I can. As a contributing editor of Pacific News I keep them up to date on happenings in this area and write a major feature history at least once a year. I also write many of those “tounge in cheek” stories for the Trainmaster of the PNW Chapter which poke good natured fun at railfanning, Trains, and Railroad Magazine each April. The famous Coopey Falls and Gribble Creek Railroad with its rawhide powered incline to the Columbia River Salmon Mines and the Professional Isosceles column are examples of this.

I read everyting I can lay hands on. Railroad, Trains, Model Railroader, X2200 South, Locomotive Notes, Pacific News, NRHS Bulletin, NMRA Bulletin, Oregon Historical Society Quarterly, Life, Business Week, Yankee, a pile of professional journals, and a railroad book a month pretty well occupy my reading time. With all of this reading, I seldom read a newspaper but keep up with current events via my car radio while commuting to work. I watch some TV, leaning mainly towards comedy-westerns and sports. My music tastes vary greatly, leaning toward folk music and county and western, but I also enjoy classical music. I have no musical talent myself, in fact I’m noted for my monotone renditions of songs which sound good to me and drive my companions to drink.

While I’ve never worked for a railroad, I’ve spent so much time around them and on locos that I’ve become knowledgeable and fairly proficient at most railroad jobs. As one of the founders of the former Vernonia, South Park & Sunset Steam Railroad I’ve learned a lot about how to build a railroad & how to operate one. In working with a top notch master mechanic on the Vernonia line I’ve learned a lot about steam and how to keep it going. In our current restoration of a shay we’ve learned a lot more and now feel competent to tackle anything on a steam loco. My big handicap is that I’ve never learned to weld. Whenever time permits, Shari and I will both take welding courses as she wants to do metal sculpture and I want to repair trains.

One of the biggest thrills of my railfan career was my first opportunity to operate a Heisler on the Klamath and Hoppow Valley. After writing about Heisler for years, I was afraid I’d never get the chance to see what one could really do. The K&HV with its switchbacks and eight percent grades gave me tht opportunity. It is meeting people like Gus Peterson, the owner of the K&HV, and many other fans I know that has made the hobby so enjoyable to me. I now go on fantrips primarily to get together with my wide spred acquaintances. The annual bull sessions at McCloud and Klamath which enable the California gang to meet with the Oregon gang have become the social events of the year. Any session that combines such fans as Duke, Loenig, Staff, Ranger, Richter, Hanft, Hungerford & Labbe is bound to be exciting.

My adventures chasing after locomotives could fill volumes. I’ve broken trail into a snowed in logging camp, forded streams where the car floated, driven all night many times to see a steamer, eaten in the world’s worst restaurants, rerailed trains, derailed trains (I put a ballast car on the ground twice in one day on the K&HV while running), ridden on railway of every guage from 18 inch to 5’3”, and in general had a hell of a good time.

(Note: this is the original text as typed by Jack Holst, no changes have been made. This autobiography was prepared at the request of Freeman Hubbard of Railroad Magazine for his Interesting Railfans series; it probably was written in either late 1971 or early 1972, the original is not dated. It is believed that Jack was intended to be Interesting Railfan #28 but the series was discontinued. This document is part of the Pacific Northwest Chapter, National Railway Historical Society archives.)

John Monterey “Jack” Holst, May 13, 1934 – August 26, 1972 – 38 years.


Jack M. Holst Memorial Award Winners

At the Chapter’s first annual banquet held in January 1982, Chapter President Ben Fredericks announced that member Mary Lou Weaver won the award-naming contest with her entry of the Jack M. Holst Memorial Award. The award is intended to recognize an outstanding Chapter member. A committee composed of the immediate past three years award winners nominates members. If multiple nominations, the Committee asks members to vote at a membership meeting. The award is made at the Chapter Annual Banquet. The winners have been:

1981 Charles W. Stortz, Jr. 2001 Maxine Rodabaugh
1982 Irving G. Ewen 2002 Cora Jackson
1983 Edward E. Immel 2003 George N. Hickok
1984 Walter R. Grande 2004 Glenn E. Laubaugh
1985 John D. Holloway 2005 Arlen L. Sheldrake
1986 Mary Lou Weaver 2006 Keith L. Fleschner
1987 Bob Slover 2007 Allan B. “Al” Hall
1988 Marilyn L. Edgar 2008 Charles W. Stevens
1989 Peter M. Rodabaugh 2009 Ronald J. McCoy
1990 Bob Hoffman 2010 Jean Hickok
1991 Roger A. White 2011 James G. Long
1992 Bob Weaver 2012 Steve Hauff
1993 Gerald K. Webb, Sr. 2013 T. Trent Stetz
1994 (no award)
1995 James A. Loomis
1996 Frank J. Weiler
1997 Darel H. Mack
1998 George N. Hickok
1999 Gerald A. Schuler
2000 Richard A. Carlson