Juanita 'tough as nails' Campbell dies at 74

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Engineer Juanita Campbell
Nick Pettit
SHENANDOAH, Va. — Norfolk Southern railroaders are remembering a "tough as nails" woman who became a locomotive engineer at an age when others might consider slowing down.

Co-workers say that Engineer Juanita Campbell died in her Virginia home on Oct. 31, she was 74. NS engineer Nick Pettit says Campbell hired on with NS in 1998 in her 50s, after shuttling NS crews around for Cimarron, a now-bygone contracted van service. At the time of her death, she was based in Shenandoah, Va., running to Hagerstown, Md., via NS's former Norfolk & Western "H Line" and sometimes on to Harrisburg, Pa., via NS's Lurgan Branch.

Earlier this year, on May 9, she had the honor of operating the very last Blue Unit move of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus Train from Shenandoah to Hagerstown.

When NS acquired part of Conrail, and some of Conrail's engines with desktop controls instead of a conventional control stand began to show up, she made no secret of her distaste for them.

"I spent nearly two years working with Juanita as her conductor, taking trains from Manassas, Va., to Hagerstown, and it was during this time that I took this picture of her while we were stopped at 'Marsh Run,' " Pettit says. "She loved doing crossword puzzles and recycling things, and most of all, she loved to talk. She was tough as nails. One thing is for sure, there will never be another Juanita 'Nee Nee' Campbell."

She was widely known on NS in the areas she ran. On Pettit's Facebook post announcing her death, 353 people acknowledged reading the piece and 155 commented on it, so far.

In a day when most railroads find it difficult to hire and retain many women in train and engine service, Juanita stood out. She loved working on the railroad, and once said she would retire when she couldn't get up on the engine any more. One friend described her as "one tough cookie."

"I didn't know Juanita personally, but we would say hello to each other from time to time at Hagerstown," says Kent Kline, local chairman of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen Local 74 in Harrisburg. "When she hired, it was much tougher for a female to survive out here."

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