John Milenbaugh Shares his #AmtrakStories

John Milenbaugh Shares his #AmtrakStories


What’s the secret to our success? Our amazing employees. Every day, 20,000 Amtrak conductors, engineers, technicians, police officers and customer service representatives (just to name a few that make up #TeamAmtrak) keep America’s Railroad running 24/7, 365. Some have even worked at Amtrak since our founding in 1971, and they have some amazing #AmtrakStories to share. Read John Milenbaugh’s story below, and then check out  for even more stories like John’s.

“Railroading is one of the greatest industries. I love being a railroader,” says Carman John Milenbaugh. He was hired at Beech Grove in January 1975, just two and a half months before Amtrak purchased the facility from Penn Central. Initially he worked as a coal passer—shoveling coal into boilers at the facility’s power plant—but within three months had become a carman helper; a year later he was promoted to a carman.

For more than three decades, Milenbaugh has worked in the trim shop on the southeast end of the sprawling property. There he paints cars for Amtrak and the various railroads for which Beech Grove performs contract work. Asked about improvements over time, he cites “modernized spray guns, protective gear and scaffolding.”

Over Milenbaugh’s career, he has worked on five official paint schemes, officially referred to as “phases.” Most of the paint schemes have included the patriotic colors of red, white and blue. The same year Milenbaugh transferred over to Amtrak, the company introduced Phase II which features wide red and blue bands outlined with thin white lines. The current Phase V used on locomotives employs blue and silver and was unveiled in 2001 as part of a company-wide rebranding campaign that also included the service mark now in use: three undulating lines that recede into the distance and provide a sense of movement.

Regarding the most interesting projects he has worked on, Milenbaugh mentions the five heritage locomotives and the Veterans Locomotive. As part of the Amtrak 40th Anniversary celebration in 2011-2012, four P-42 diesel-electric locomotives were repainted in the historic paint schemes used by Amtrak between 1971 and 2001.

The friendships and memories of four decades shaped Milenbaugh into the person he is today. He credits mentors at Beech Grove who “taught me to be a better man” and handed down the knowledge born of years of experience. Speaking about the next generation starting their careers at the shops, he gives this advice: “Take care of your job, and it’ll take care of you. Amtrak has provided my family not only a good life, but my children’s education [too].” Milenbaugh emphasizes the importance of being a good teacher and mentor—following the example of those who helped him throughout his career at the shops.