Q&A: Union Pacific embarks on its 150th birthday anniversary in 2012

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This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Pacific Railway Act, establishing the Union Pacific Railroad Company. The Journal sat down with Union Pacific corporate relations directors based out of Roseville – Liisa Lawson Stark of public affairs and Aaron Hunt of corporate relations and media – to discuss the anniversary of the corporation and how its steel rails have woven tightly into the fabric of the Auburn community: What is it about the railroad that brings it close to communities like Auburn? Stark: The railroad is part of your heritage. You get used to hearing the sound of a train and it becomes part of your daily life. Living here, I could always hear that sound. One of the memories I have of going to Placer High School was Operation Lifesaver coming to school as part of the driver’s ed program, with railroad employees volunteering to convey how important it is to be safe around rail lines. How can people learn about Union Pacific and sesquicentennial celebrations? Hunt: Auburn is one of more than 7,300 communities across the western two-thirds of the U.S. along or near a railroad line. We want to be part of those communities. I’ve talked to a lot of people who have the railroad in a place in their heart. People can go to and see an interactive timeline (highlighting 60 milestones in Union Pacific’s history and featuring more than 100 photos from Union Pacific’s archives). How can people participate? Hunt: There’s a story section on the website for people to submit their own experiences and connections. For instance, as someone who is part of a multi-generational railroading family, I submitted photos of my grandfather, who was an engineer. Anyone can do it. The railroad has touched a lot of people’s lives and that’s certainly the case with Auburn. Name some ways Union Pacific has become engrained in the Auburn community? Stark: If you take kids to Recreation Park, you’ll see all the children walk over to the gate to watch the train go by. They’re so excited to see it. What many don’t see is the UP Foundation’s grant program that helps many organizations in the Auburn area. Over the years the foundation has established a good relationship with non-profits and many have been funded multiple times. The list includes Seniors First, the Auburn Chamber of Commerce, the Amgen tour, the Auburn Boys & Girls Club, the State Theater and Placer Land Trust. – Gus Thomson