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Rider's Almanac Blog

On Off The Clock

On the Clock/Off the Clock: Jon Christopherson, commuter rail mechanic

| Sunday, March 14, 2021 10:01:00 AM

Mechanic Jon Christopherson tapping maple syrup at his home in Monticello.Lives: Monticello Township

Years of service: 12

Family: Wife, four adult sons and three grandchildren.

How did you come to work at Metro Transit and what do you do? 

I had been through a series of layoffs from Northwest Airlines in 2005 and Hutchinson Technology in 2009. Then, I read an article about Northstar starting up, and I went online and filled out an application. I was among the first employees who started here in June 2009 when we were getting the Big Lake shop set up and learning how to work on locomotives, perform air brake tests and conduct daily inspections.

What do you like the most about your work?   

I have liked learning about the equipment, how trains work and how to operate them. Jobs always come down to the people, though. I like learning from the diversity of experience and knowledge of my co-workers and the BNSF crews.

What are your favorite activities when you’re “Off the Clock”? 

When I was laid off in January 2009, I had a lot of time on my hands while I was looking for work. I decided to experiment with making maple syrup after seeing a former co-worker’s demonstration and watching YouTube videos. I tap the 10 silver maple trees on our one-acre property just outside Monticello to keep my family supplied with syrup, not to sell. I turned a barrel stove into a homemade evaporator and boil the sap outside, using a hydrometer to determine when the sugar content is right to make syrup. You can’t boil it down inside because your ceiling would get sticky, but I do finish it in a stockpot on the stove. It’s the freeze-thaw cycle of the spring weather that makes the sap run for a couple of weeks. The sap started running the last week of February this year. It takes about 40 gallons of sap to get a gallon of finished syrup. When I’m finished, I usually have two to three gallons of light amber-colored syrup. We use it on our oatmeal, and my wife uses it in place of sugar to make breads and muffins.

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