NRC To Induct Railroad Construction Veterans Bud McGrath and Jon McGrath into Railroad Hall of Fame

January 3, 2023

The McGrath Family Legacy

The McGrath family is deeply rooted in the U.S. railroad industry. Their story spans more than 150 years, six generations, and miles and miles of railroad track. It began in 1865, during the westward expansion, when John Joseph McGrath, along with his father, worked on the Transcontinental Railroad, starting on the Chicago, Quincy & Burlington Railroad (CB&Q) (now part of the BNSF) from Burlington, Iowa, toward to Rocky Mountains. McGrath and his crew built down the eastern slope of the Rockies to Ft. Worth, Texas, and proceeded into Indian territory to reach the coal deposits at McAlester, in southeastern, Oklahoma. The McGrath Transcontinental Railroad Gang disbanded at McAlester in 1890. Harry Gibson contacted John Joseph McGrath and convinced him to move his family and settle in Webbers Falls, about 150 miles east of Oklahoma City, 15 years before Oklahoma became a state.

Since 1865 the McGrath family has worked on railroad projects all over the country, most notably 30 transit, mainline, short line, and industry railroad projects, as well as amusement park rail-based projects involving ballasted, direct fixation, and embedded track.

McGrath Rail Locomotive

McGrath Construction Locomotive

Joseph Milton "Bud" McGrath Jr.

Joseph Milton “Bud” McGrath Jr. 

the fourth generation of McGrath railroaders, was born in Webber Falls, Oklahoma, and led an interesting life highlighted by service in the navy, in professional baseball, and in the railroad and construction business. He was an industry leader who built up the family business as well as the NRC.

After graduating from Webbers Falls High School, Bud went to work on a steel gang for the Missouri Pacific Railroad (MoPac) for one semester making $1.27 per day. He then earned a baseball scholarship at the University of Oklahoma. In 1941, Bud was drafted by the Brooklyn Dodgers and received a letter to report to spring training with wages of $300 per month. Later that year, with WWII raging, Bud joined the U.S. Navy and was selected for the NavyV5 Pilot Program.

Bud was charter member of the NRC and served as secretary at the first conference in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1972. Charter members contributed three years of dues in advance to get the association started.  Bud took on the duties as the Chairman of the Safety Committee and wrote the first NRC Safety Manual. He also served as president of the association in 1984.

Bud was the first railroad contractor to come up with an innovative way of stabilizing subgrade for track installation. His company was also the first contractor to install concrete ties in a railroad mainline when they completed a test section for the Santa Fe Railroad.

Bud and other charter members are responsible for not only forming the NRC but shepherding it through its formative years. Their contributions helped to solidify the NRC’s influence, financial stability, and longevity.

Jon M. McGrath 

A fifth-generation railroader, McGrath started working for his father at the age of 14 during the summers on a railroad track crew. Eventually moving up to equipment operator, track foreman, superintendent, vice president, and president. McGrath also worked on the Washington DC staff of US Congressman and United States Ambassador James R. Jones. Since joining the family firm in 1973, McGrath has provided management, engineering, consultation, and construction on numerous rail projects across the United States including 30 transit projects in San Diego, Long Beach, Los Angeles, San Jose, San Francisco, Sacramento, Portland, Dallas, Galveston, Washington DC, and Baltimore.   The McGrath firm designs, constructs, inspects, and maintains railroads for short lines, military,  industrial railroads, and the amusement park industry.  A native Tulsan, McGrath was educated at Bishop Kelley High School, Crowder College, The University of Oklahoma, Tuck Business School at Dartmouth College, and the Corp of Engineers Waterways Research Station, Vicksburg, Mississippi.

In 2020, McGrath was awarded the “Citizen of the Year Award” by the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office.

McGrath formerly served on the Tulsa Industrial Authority for 18 years and on the Board of Directors at the MidwayUSA Foundation.  Jon M McGrath also served as Vice Chairman of the Tulsa Port Authority Board of Directors, the most inland navigable river port in the United States. McGrath currently serves as Chairman of the Google AERO Games, a STEM competition for high school youth teams across Eastern Oklahoma based at Rogers State University in Claremore, Oklahoma.  In 2021, McGrath received the Commanders Commendation for Outstanding Public Service from the US Army Corp of Engineers. Jon M. McGrath is a voting member of the Cherokee Tribe and Nation.  In February 2022 McGrath was elected to the Global Ukraine Rail Task Force and will serve as Task Force Lead on the post-war reconstruction.