Many of us recognize the name: “Sugar” Cain, “Sugar”
being the well known and well-liked bar tender on one of the McHenry jobs until
his 1996 retirement.Here’s more of the Cain family story.
Leland C. Cain, Sr., with prior
service on the New York Central, started to work for the C&NW part
time in 1935 in the Dining Car Department and two years later, on 6/19/1937, earned a permanent
job as a dining car waiter.Over
the succeeding years, Leland
worked up to Waiter-in-Charge and was elected General Chairman of Local
351 of the Dining Car Employees Union.Leland retired in 1985
with 50 years of C&NW service.
son, Leland C. Cain, Jr.,
better known as “Sugar,”
started working for the C&NW as a 4th Cook during the
summer school break when he was just 16.4th Cook, in case you didn’t know, meant
Dishwasher.That was in 1941.His seniority date as a full time
employee is 1/5/1943,
shortly after which he volunteered for the army.Upon returning to the C&NW after the
war, he was made 3rd Cook.Subsequently working up to 2nd Cook, 1st
Cook, Chef and Head Chef, “Sugar”
worked all the name trains of his era, his first assignment being on Nos.
87 and 88 – The Challenger.Later,
he served on the Overland Limited, all four “City” trains, the Minneapolis
400, the Dakota 400, the Capitol 400, the Kate Shelly and the “Yellow
Dogs.”“Yellow Dog,” actually a
complimentary term, was the name the employees gave to the streamliners to
and from Milwaukee because
they were yellow, and because they made the trip so quickly.
“Sugar” was in the first dining car crew to work all the way
through to Los Angeles on the City
of Los Angeles under Chef William U. Brown and 1st
Cook McInerney.“Sugar” explained that the Union
Pacific would not let the C&NW crews work west of Omaha because the UP felt
only their own people could measure up to Union Pacific standards.It took a vigorous protest by the union led
by Leland Cain, Sr. to change that
and immediately following, the North Western men were watched like hawks.The UP was looking for slip-ups.There weren’t any!
Shortly afterwards, Chef
Brown went to his boss and told him
he wanted “Sugar” for his 1st
Cook.McInerney had more
seniority.Brown said:“McInerney isn’t
doing the job; “Sugar” is, and “Sugar” is the man I want.”It took a bit of doing but “Sugar” wound up as Brown’s 1st Cook.
Many high corporate
executives – CEO’s and Presidents – had their own private cars and “Sugar”
worked them in their travels over the C&NW.He also worked numerous Business Trains for Paul Feucht, Ben Heinemann, Larry Provo, Jim
Wolfe, Joe Alsop and Jim Zito.With changes in the industry over the years, private car owners were
allowed to furnish their own help and “Sugar”
received an offer to go to work for one of those private car owners.He thought about it, perhaps for about 2
minutes, and declined, saying the North Western was where he belonged.
After several years on
the Kenosha Club Run and following the retirement of “Big Al” Jenkins, “Sugar”
took over the bar car on the McHenry Club Run.At that time, he and Warren Sims
(on the Harvard Club Run) were the last two bartenders on the North
In mid-1984, Chicago’s
Regional Transportation Authority ran a contest – asking commuters throughout
service area to cast their votes for “the most outstanding, customer oriented
employee” from among the railroad people with whom they dealt.The contest went on for several weeks and
when the votes were counted, “Sugar”
won by a landslide.A few days later on July 12, 1984, “Sugar” received checks totaling $1,000 from the RTA and the North
Western, the North Western’s being presented personally by President Jim Wolfe who rode the train to McHenry that evening.
“Sugar” stayed on that McHenry job until he retired on February 23, 1996 with 53 years of
C&NW service.“Sugar” told us the best advice he ever had was from his father who
told him:“When you get mad at the chef, and you will – sooner or later,
just go out in the vestibule or in the washroom, quietly cuss him out, and then
go back to work with a big smile on your face!”
“Sugar’s” son, Leland C. (Charlie) Cain III started
in the B&B Department during summer vacations in 1976, going full time
in that department in 1978.One of
the officials paved the way for Charlie
to move into train service on the Wisconsin Division in 1980.Charlie’s
B&B supervisor was so mad about that he didn’t talk to Charlie for several months.Charlie
became an engineer in 1988 and right now is working out of Waukegan.
Bessie Brown, worked at the
California Ave. Coach Yard from 1976 to 1996, a total of 20 years.
Richard Cain, worked for the
C&NW as a 4th Cook from 1955 to 1957.
And, Kenny Wright,
“Sugar’s” nephew, spent 10
years on the section gang working at Proviso and 40th
That’s about 164
years of service for the Cain
family and still counting!
“Sugar” on the rear end of Jim Zito’s1981business train to the Powder
“Sugar” shakes hands with Joe Pedajas
on Joe’s last trip in September
1982.You don’t suppose that J&B
is for Joe?
“Sugar” was there when “Waxy” Wilcox retired in August 1983.
“Sugar” and Illinois Division
Engineer Rex Hauser, CPT, February 25, 2005.
“Sugar’s” retirement plaque
certifying 53 years of service.
“Sugar” fills us in on his service
with the C&NW at the CPT on February
“Sugar” in the galley of Jim Zito’s
1981 business train to the Powder River.“Sugar’s”
skills went way beyond bartending; he was on board to do the cooking on
almost all the business trains of that era.“Sugar’s” retirement marked
the end of bar car service as there were no replacements for him.
Our sincere thanks to Mark Llanuza who provided all the
photographs on this page.
is the dining car crew on the November 1990 Retirement Train to LovesPark.“Sugar”
tells us in the back row (left to right) are George Jack, then Jerry
Williams.Front row left is Mims.All the others are contract help, hired just for this trip.