Writing the rails

Graydon Meints ’55


Winter 2013

As a Calvin student, Graydon Meints ’55 didn’t consider himself headed for a future as a historian or a writer.

“I had great respect for Earl Strikwerda; he was so engaging,” Meints said of the history professor. “And the other teacher that made an impression on me was [English professor] John Timmerman.

“But I didn’t realize I would be spending so much of my life combining those two areas,” he added.

Meints prepared to be a high school English teacher at Calvin, but he never pursued that vocation. His avocational interest in railroads, started as a young boy, took over and changed the direction of his life.

He nurtured his interest in railroads by working for the New York Central Railroad in the summers of his Calvin years. Upon graduation, instead of teaching, he signed back up with the railroad company.

“I worked throughout Michigan, from Constantine to Mackinaw City, for about 10 years,” he said. “Mainly I worked in small towns, relieving station agents who were on vacation.”

Meints married, and in 1964, his father—a lifelong banker—told his son about an opening at a Kalamazoo savings and loan. Perhaps it was time to settle down in one place for a time.

He applied for the job and was hired as a clerk for Fidelity Federal Savings and Loan. Meints worked for the company for 32 years, rising to the position of vice president and corporate secretary of the business (eventually called Fidelity Savings Bank). He is now retired.

Although his vocation became finance, the love Meints developed in railroads continued, blossoming into research, writing and speaking on the topic of Michigan railroad business history.

“In the mid-’70s I was president of the Kalamazoo County Historical Society, and I started writing historical articles,” he said. “Naturally, I wrote about railroads. I pursued the topic further, started giving a talk or two, and found more and more that was new to look at.”

In the 1980s he served on the board of the Historical Society of Michigan, another step that broadened his interest in researching and writing history.

In all, he’s published six railroading books—five on the Michigan rails and one about Indiana railroading. His articles have appeared in numerous railroad and history publications, including Michigan Historical Review and Railroad History.

 “Railroading has always been a fascinating business,” said Meints. “With corporate records, newspaper accounts and government reports, no other industry has so much source material available about its past. I don’t expect to run out of things about which to write.”