Former UP public relations chief dies

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OMAHA, Neb. — Joe McCartney, who ran public relations for Union Pacific through most of the 1980s, died March 3 in Omaha, Neb., following a long illness. He was 79 years old.

McCartney grew up in Omaha, and after college, taught journalism for 15 years at University of Nebraska-Omaha. He joined Union Pacific’s Public Relations and Advertising Department in 1978, and in 1982 became its general director.

McCartney continued to run the department until 1990, when he resigned to start his own PR company. Longtime UP spokesman John Bromley recalls that era as “the Camelot Years of our department."

McCartney was an enthusiastic user of Union Pacific’s historic steam locomotives and special trains. He launched the annual “River City Roundup” that ran behind 4-8-4 locomotive No. 8444 (now renumbered No. 844) that operated each September between North Platte, Neb., and Omaha, carrying both dignitaries and school children.

“The train became an institution that only faded away after he left the railroad,” Bromley says.

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