Family is at the core of Track Inspector Lino Ramon-Villafuerte’s value system.
Taking care of his six children drives him, but so does seeing the family he’s cultivated at the Belt stay safe and grow. He has a strong sense of tradition and history that he hopes help him guide the future progress.
“My dad and those who trained me would say to the employees they trained that they are their legacy, and that’s what I say to the people I train now,” Ramon-Villafuerte said. “The industry has being going for hundreds of years. We have a family atmosphere here, and one generation teaches the next. I had great teachers.”
His father, Ramon, is still remembered by veteran employees, including Ramon-Villafuerte’s partner, Trackman George Guzman.
Each of the Belt’s three track inspectors is paired with a trackman. He and his partner cover the west end of the yard, but fill in on the mainline and the east end of the yard. His new post as a Safety Committee member allows him to communicate the safety needs of he and his colleagues, one of the primary reasons he joined. He credits Chief Engineer Mark Ferguson for working with him hand and hand and being open to a dialogue that will enhance safety and ensure potential issues are addressed.
With more than 20 years on the job, Ramon-Villafuerte has now trained and guided many up and coming co-workers himself, including present roadmasters. He’s made learning the job accessible to his colleagues.
“I have a no Three Stooges rule,” he said.
Ramon-Villafuerte explains that Engineering employees frequently carry things that with quick turns can turn into hazards, and that anyone who may have seen the Three Stooges carrying a long board or pipe on their shoulder might recognize the danger posed in toting things the wrong way. That’s why anything that extends beyond a person’s posterior is to be carried with special care and never on one’s shoulder, he said, hence the Three Stooges rule. It’s natural that Ramon-Villafuerte has taken to teaching.
“I was taught to value education from my dad,” he said. “I tend to promote education and hard work to my kids.”
The patience to train well also comes from an appreciation for his own mentors and those who have contributed to his training. Ramon-Villafuerte notes that Car Foreman Tom Sipple has helped him identify the causes of derailments and the best way to re-rail cars. He notes he’s had many “sensei,” as he refers to them, including retired Track Inspector Leo DeLeon and his “main sensei,” retired and departed Track Inspector Ernie Antillon, both friends and contemporaries of his father, as were many of the people who trained him.
“There are so many I could name who helped me,” Ramon-Villafuerte said. “My hat is off to them all.”