Famous IAM District 19 Bell Receives a Machinist Makeover

The much-loved IAM District 19 bell – often kidnapped and held for ransom as a fundraising tool at various Grand Lodge Conventions and district and transportation conferences – was recently refurbished by members of IAM Local 165 in Roanoke, VA.

An important piece of IAM history received a much-needed makeover thanks to dedicated IAM members from across the country. The much-loved District 19 bell – often kidnapped and held for ransom as a fundraising tool at various Grand Lodge Conventions and district and transportation conferences – was recently refurbished by members of IAM Local 165 in Roanoke, VA.

Click here to watch “The Refurbishment of the IAM District 19 Bell” on the Machinists News Network.

“The bell was showing its wear from many, many years of being utilized as an icon for the IAM,” said Brian Orwan, General Chairman of IAM Denver District 19, where members have painstakingly taken care of the bell since 1994. “District 19 made the suggestion that, with the cooperation of the Norfolk Southern Railroad, we could get the bell refurbished by our members in the Roanoke Locomotive Shop.”

Norfolk Southern has an excellent reputation for refurbishing old bells and the Roanoke Locomotive Shop has the awards and business to prove it.

“I guess in the past seven years, we’ve really picked up as far as bell production,” said Local 165 member Robbie Hepler. “We used to get one bell every six to eight months. Now it’s gone from that to three or four bells a month.”

Getting the 300-pound bell from Denver was a challenge. It takes four people to move it. In a sort of relay, six members moved the bell, first to Kansas City, then Chicago, and through Ohio and Pennsylvania before arriving in Roanoke.

Once there, Hepler, along with fellow Machinists Randy Walker and Bill Aldrich, spent three months machining and polishing each piece.

“There’s a lot of different pieces in the process to make sure the thing’s complete,” said Hepler. “We tested and made sure everything worked. If it didn’t, we went back to find out why. For an old bell, it was in decent shape. It just needed a little TLC, a little polishing, a little tender love and care.”

The kind of care only a Machinist could give to such an important piece of history.

Watch “The Refurbishment of the IAM District 19 Bell” by clicking here.