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Reachable Past — Part II

In previous columns I have discussed the reachable past of the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. There is a piece of that past that I would like to share with you. In the machine shop mounted on the wall is a circular addressed to ALL EMPLOYES. At first glance there is nothing special about that circular except for its date-May 1st 1922. The first line of the circular is, “Circular No. 63, January 1st, 1918 is canceled.

So for 82 years this circular has been mounted on the wall of the machine shop. It is the oldest circular that I have found that is still hanging on the grounds. Heck, it might be the oldest circular in the country still hanging on the wall for all we know.

So what did this circular cover? I suppose, you could think of it, as an early employee manual. For the second line of the circular explains, “Effective May 1st 1922, the following system of ‘Discipline by Record’will be placed in effect upon this line.” This is the method that the Nevada Northern used in relations with the employees. What follows is the entire circular, the spelling and the punctuation is from the original.



     Circular No. 63, January 1st, 1918, is canceled.

     Effective May 1st, 1922, the following system of “Discipline by Record” will be placed in effect upon this line.

     On that date each employe in service will start with a clear record. An individual account will be opened with each employe, in a book kept especially for that purpose in the office of the Superintendent; an entry will be make in this book for every case of neglect of duty, violation of the rules or of good practice, accidents, improper conduct, etc., with the discipline determined upon by the Superintendent.

     Reprimands, as well as suspensions, for a given number of days will be noted on the record, although actual suspension is not served by the employe at fault.

     Good judgment in emergencies, acts of heroism, loyalty to the service, and other meritorious conduct, will be made matter of record, and be given full consideration in determining the standing of the employe. The record will also be taken into account when the question of promotion in the service is under consideration.

     A perfect record will be one against which no unfavorable entry had been made. A clear record is one on which unfavorable entries have been canceled.

     Any employe may examine his own record, at the Superintendent’s office, during business hours, but the record book will not be open to others, except Division and General Officers of the Company. If not practicable for an employe to visit the office, a transcript of his record will be sent to him upon application.     A reprimand or suspension will not be noted against an employe’s record without written notice to him.

     A suspension will not be made for a period of less than five, nor more than sixty days.

     Reprimands and suspensions placed against the record of an employe will be canceled by satisfactory service for various periods, as follows:

(a) A reprimand will be canceled by a clear record of three months.
(b) Ten days suspension will be canceled by a clear record four months.
(c) Fifteen days suspension will be canceled by a clear record of six months.
(d) Twenty days suspension will be canceled by a clear record of nine months.
(e) Thirty days suspension will be canceled by a clear record of one year.
(f) Forty five days suspension will be canceled by a clear record of one year and three months.
(g) Sixty days suspension will be canceled by a clear record of one year and six months.

     Whenever there shall be an accumulation of suspensions against the record of any employe aggregating ninety days (after making allowance for cancellations as indicated above) is shall be considered as cause for dismissal from the service.

     Disloyalty, dishonesty, desertion, intemperance, immorality, insubordination, incompetency, willful neglect, gross carelessness, inexcusable violation of rules resulting in endangering or destroying company property, making false reports or statements, or concealing facts concerning matters under investigation will, as heretofore, subject the offender to summary dismissal.

     No change will be made in the existing practice of consideration of offences by the Superintendent, and ordinarily, no action will be taken until investigation is completed. In cases of intoxication on duty, insubordination, or of vicious conduct, employes will be taken out of the service pending final decision. All investigations and adjustments of discipline shall be in accordance with the established rules and agreements at present governing such matters, and employes are assured of the utmost consideration consistent with good service and company interests.

     Superintendent will issue bulletin monthly, posting on bulletin boards. These bulletins are intended to be educational. They will give a brief account of each case which had resulted in discipline, stating how the trouble or damage could have been avoided-omitting names of the persons at fault. Employes are enjoined to study these bulletins with care, that they may profit by the experience of others.

     This system of discipline, it is hoped, will prove of mutual advantage to the company and its employes; those guilty of offences not requiring dismissal, will not suffer lose of time beyond that required for investigation, and will be given an opportunity by subsequent good service to clear their records.

     The operation of the system should engender a feeling of security, in the confidence that faithful service is recognized and will be rewarded by uninterrupted employment, and the certainty that reward and promotion will not follow indifferent service.

     The company expects the system to promote harmony, and to stimulate employes to an earnest co-operation with its officers in attaining a more efficient service.

I have yet to find any of the Superintendent’s monthly bulletins reviewing any incidents that occurred and the results. This in itself would be of interest.

There is a piece of English language idiom that I would like to explain to you that has a direct bearing on this circular. I’m sure you have heard of the phrase, “being called on the carpet.” In fact, you might have used it yourself. Did you ever wonder where the phrase came from? One of my reference books explains the phrase this way. In the early days of railroading it was the practice to only carpet the offices of railroad officers. The rest of the floors were bare wood. Hence, if you did something wrong, you had to present yourself to an officer of the company and explain your actions. This action was known as “being called on the carpet.” And if you go upstairs in the East Ely Depot and view the office that Mr. Hickey, the General Manager, used. You will find it is carpeted and for the longest time it was the only carpeted office on the second floor of the depot.

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