Valley Voices from the Past: Alma Floberg: Ravensdale’s female Station Agent

Agent, Alma Floberg at her desk in Redmond, WA station in 1967. Courtesy of Jim Fredrickson and the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association.

They called it a “mans’ world. And she lived in it. She wore a man’s hat and she wore that Northern Pacific R.R. uniform cap 7 days a week.

The year is 1920 and Alma is working as a station agent at Ravensdale, the only woman station agent on the entire Northern Pacific system.

Alma Floberg standing on the pulpit at the Borup Station ready to hoop up orders, circa 1914. Courtesy of Jim Fredrickson and the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association.

Alma was born Alma Rivett in 1892 in Prior, Big Stone, Minnesota to English born John William Rivett and Canadian born Sarah Jane Anderson. She was the third of five children. As a 15-year-old, she watched her older sister, Clarissa, marry Glen Dawley. After the ceremony Clarissa decided to quit her job as a clerk, or third trick as they called it then, for the Northern Pacific Railway in Mapleton, ND. Alma would take her place.

Alma worked in that position for 10 months before the railway had to reduce their staff and Alma was laid off. That didn’t stop this courageous lady. She marched right over to the Great ­­Northern railway and within a week was employed by the railroad. She would them be promoted to operator which paid her $45 a month. Not satisfied, Alma would go west where wages were higher.

By 1911 Alma was employed by the Northern Pacific. She would spend the next 6 years working at Weston, Thorp, Borup, Kanaskat and Ravensdale. It is in Ravensdale that she would meet and marry her husband, Joe Foberg. She, however, worked at Kanaskat station at the time.

Alma Floberg and Jimmy Warren, NP operators, pose in front of the Weston Station circa 1914. Courtesy of Jim Fredrickson and Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association.

She would make the 14 and ½ mile commute every day to Kanaskat from Ravensdale, a route that went through dark, dense and wild wilderness. Unlike her older sister, Alma wanted to continue working. Even after her son, Joe Jr., was born in 1922, Alma didn’t quit. She would become the only female station agent on the entire Northern ­­Pacific.

If raising a son and being a station agent wasn’t enough, Alma also took care of her husband when he became ill in 1935. She lived above the railroad depot and her husband lived across the tracks in a one room house. By 1946 Alma would transfer to Redmond where she would work until her retirement at the age of 74 years old.

Bob Bailie, reporter for the Sammamish Valley News, asked Alma if she would recommend this field for other young people. Alma stated, “The era of going to work for a living at 15 like I did is gone forever. I think the future for a young person in railroading is very bleak unless you are an electric engineer. Though, I wouldn’t give anything for my experience the past 58 years. “

Agent, Alma Floberg hooping up orders to engineer Larry
Wheir on GP-9, 217, at the Redmond, WA station in 1967. Courtesy of Jim Fredrickson and the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association.

Bailie also reported that when asked about what she would do now that she is retired, Alma said she would spend time sewing, visiting her granddaughters and working with fiberglass, her favorite hobby. She notes that she has seen a lot of this country by train and she would never live anywhere else but the Puget Sound. She is happy to retire in the Pacific Northwest.

  1. Bailie, B. (1967, March 29). After 58 years working for the NPPR Alma Floberg, leaves man’s world. Sammamish Valley News, pp. 1-2.
  2. This woman never changes hat styles: Wears same headgear daily. (2014, March 16). Retrieved April 07, 2019, from https://blackdiamondhistory.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/this-woman-never-changes-hat-styles-wears-same-headgear-daily/