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Thu Feb 28, 2019, 02:35 PM

For Erie, an end of an era

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Eastern Railroad Discussion > Erie-Times News: End of an Era
Date: 02/25/19 19:05
Erie-Times News: End of an Era
Author: RuleG

Interesting information in this article:


For Erie, an end of an era

By Jim Martin

Posted Feb 24, 2019 at 12:01 AM
Updated Feb 24, 2019 at 6:24 AM

That connection to General Electric is due to be severed Monday as GE Transportation becomes a subsidiary of Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corp. ... For years, the sprawling property on the city’s eastern edge was known as the Erie Works of the General Electric Co. ... Later it would become GE Rail, and then GE Transportation. ... But for generations, old-timers in Erie would tell you simply that their brother, uncle, father, mother or other relative worked at “The GE.” ... Clarence Onorato, 82, of North East, was one of those GE employees.

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He went to work for the company as a draftsman at a time when GE was almost exclusively selling locomotives to foreign buyers. The domestic market at the time belonged to General Motors, he said. ... “We had a hell of a time getting people to buy our locomotives,” said Onorato, who spent 40 years with the company. “If someone had said we could drive GM out of the business, I would have said they were too big, too competitive.”

While massive layoffs were common at the time, the company treated its employees well, he said. .... “It was good,” he said. “It was really good. They had a daycare center. People would drop their kids off. They had hot food in two or three of the buildings. It was like a restaurant but the food was so cheap.”

If his memories of the company are warm, his memories of the work are even better. ... It’s not by accident, “that they write songs about locomotives,” he said. “We used to go down and look at them. It’s not like designing baby furniture. It’s a great big monster and it makes a lot of noise. There is a lot of romance in that.” ... Everyone knew someone at GE.

That connection — to the inventive genius of Thomas Edison, to a company that made everything from toasters to television shows, but also to a company that’s been in a dizzying decline in recent years — is due to be severed Monday as GE spins off GE Transportation into its own company that will become a subsidiary of Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corp. ... It’s hard to know what that will mean for the future of the Erie plant.

Jim Martin can be reached at 870-1668 or by email. Follow him on Twitter at https://www.twitter.com/ETNMartin.

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