In the spring of 1868, T. J. “Tommie” Wright and a small band of Illinois Central Gulf conductors formed the first conductors’ union, known as “Division Number 1 Conductors’ Brotherhood” at Amboy, Illinois. Word spread quickly, and by November 1868, the union’s first convention was held in Columbus, Ohio, where conductors from the U.S. and Canada adopted the name “Order of Railway Conductors of America.”

In 1885, the ORC directed its leaders to aid in negotiating agreements with carriers, a revolutionary idea for the time. In 1890, the ORC adopted a strike clause and began a militant policy of fighting for the welfare of conductors.

In 1942, the Order of Sleeping Car Conductors amalgamated with the ORC, and in 1954 the organization was renamed the Order of Railroad Conductors and Brakemen to reflect its diverse membership.