Jim Bruggere passed away on March 17, 2015, at age 82. He was still the acting Roadmaster for Roots of Motive Power. The Roots loop track and interwoven yard track is a product of Buggs’ incredible energy. He was raised on Arch Street in Berkeley, California, before moving south to Glendale, California. Soon afterward, he began a varied career working in the oil fields in Bakersfield, California. After a stint in the military near Yakima, Washington, he returned to the Bay Area to work for the East Shore Bus Lines in Oakland, California, and for Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART). Buggs was instrumental in the founding of the Bay Area Electric Railway Association at Rio Vista Junction, California, now the Western Railway Museum.
Most of us first met Buggs when he arrived in Willits in 1984 to maintain the passenger car fleet for Bryan Whipple’s Eureka Southern Railroad and their excursion between Willits and Eureka. Buggs seemed to have a magical ability to maintain the air conditioning systems on the aging Daylight fleet on the smoldering Eel River canyon route of the NWP. When railroading efforts were abandoned on the north end of the NWP, Buggs began to spend more time at Roots and thankfully took over our track laying efforts. In addition to his Roots activities, Buggs and Matt Monson were partners in Dieselmotive Company, Inc., of Turlock, California, which offered diesel locomotive maintenance for short line operators on the west coast.
We will all miss Buggs: not just the hard work and sweat, tamping ballast in the summer heat, repairing the switch that we “railroaders” ran through. Buggs had the ability to see things, even though all of us thought we were looking. His critiques of our performance as railroaders were often painful, but always honest and true, without malice. And, by all accounts, the women of Willits will miss the sparkle of his blue eyes.
Roots of Motive Power plans to hold a celebration of Jim Bruggere’s life at the Roots Annual Meeting on Sunday, August 16th, 2015. After the formalities of the annual meeting, guests can enjoy a BBQ lunch, attend the dedication of the Jim Bruggere Memorial Pit in the Work Building, and ride behind one of the Roots locomotives on the loop track that was Buggs’ creation. Please mark August 16th on your calendar.