Posts Tagged ‘Railroad history’

Howes Honored with R&LHS Award Category

December 30, 2022

Former railroad executive William F. Howes Jr. is being honored by the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society with an award named after him.

The society has created a seventh category to its Railway History Awards program that will recognize “excellence in magazine journalism devoted to past or present passenger rail service.”

It will be named the William F. Howes Jr. Passenger Rail Article Award with the winner receiving a certificate and a $250 honorarium.

Howes spent most of his career working for the Baltimore & Ohio and Chessie System railroads. This included a stint as vice president of passenger services for the B&O and Chesapeake & Ohio railroads.

Howes, who died earlier this year, also served as R&LHS president from 1994 to 2003.

In an unrelated announcement, the R&LHS has awarded two $2,500 research grants to the Center for Railroad Photography & Art and Chicago author Sandra Jackson-Opoku.

Based in Madison, Wisconsin, the CRP&A will use its grant to help sort, categorize, and conserve photo collections of longtime industry senior executives James McClellan of Norfolk Southern (1939-2016) and Railroad Development Chairman Henry Posner III, to make them accessible for public research.

Jackson-Opoku is a retired academic, literary scholar, and author of prose, poetry, and drama. She is working on research and revisions of Black Rice, a historical novel that explores centuries-long connections between China and people of African descent.

 “The role of Cantonese immigrants in building the Transcontinental Railroad is well-documented. Less recognized is their work on southern railroads, and the resulting contact zones that developed between the Chinese immigrants and African American communities,” she wrote in her grant application.

In particular Jackson-Opoku is interested in 19th-century Mississippi railroad culture.

Railroad Historian Thomas Tabor Dies

August 23, 2022

Railroad author and historian Thomas T. “Tom” Taber III died last Saturday at age 93 in Montoursville, Pennsylvania.

A life member of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, Tabor created a personal research library and assisted other railroad historians.

He specialized in corporate railroad history and the history of Northeast logging railroads.

With Benjamin F.G. Kline and Walter Casler, Tabor produced and published in the 1970s a 14-volume work about logging railroads of Pennsylvania.

Tabor was co-author with Casler of the 1960 book Climax: An Unusual Steam Locomotive.

He also wrote several books about and collected photographs of short line and minor railroads in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Tabor’s 1987 Railroads of Pennsylvania Encyclopedia and Atlas provided detail and corporate histories of every stretch of railroad line constructed in the commonwealth, as well as railroads chartered but never built.

His Tabor Index of the R&LHS Bulletin/Railroad History is considered the best index of the publication covering the period 1921 to 2009.

Along with his father, Thomas T. Tabor, the junior Tabor received the 1983 George W. and Constance M. Hilton Book Award presented by the R&LHS. The award recognized the Tabors three-volume history of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad.

He received the organization’s Gerald M. Best Senior Achievement Award in 2016 for a significant and longstanding contribution to the writing, preservation, and interpretation of railroad history.

This included overseeing and cataloguing the R&LHS’s artifact collection in 1992.

Tabor also produced a four-volume Guide to Railroad Historical Resources, United States and Canada, a listing guide of the holdings of various transportation archives throughout North America.

The Thomas T. Taber Museum of the Lycoming County, Pennsylvania, is named in his honor.

R&LHS Announces Award Winners

August 13, 2022

The Railway & Locomotive Historical Society has announced the winners of its 2020 railroad history awards. The organization said the COVID-19 pandemic delayed naming the winners.

The awards went to John P. Hankey of Omaha, Nebraskas, Gerald M. Best Senior Achievement Award; Brian Solomon of Center Conway, New Hampshire, Fred A. and Jane R. Stindt Photography Award; William L. Withuhn (posthumous), George W. and Constance M. Hilton Book Award; and Bill Leistiko of Wichita, Kansas, David P. Morgan Article Award.

The Morgan award for article writing for 2019 also was announced and went to Gregg Ames of St. Louis.

Hankey was honored for his half-century of professional involvement in railway preservation.

He is a former manager at the B&O Museum in Baltimore and has consulted for museums, historical societies, projects, and film/television/radio productions.

Hankey has written more than 100 articles on railroad history, preservation, or interpretation.

Withuhn (1941-2017) worked for 27 years for the Smithsonian Institution, much of it as curator of transportation. His book American Steam Locomotives: Design and Development, 1880-1960, was published by the Indiana University Press with the financial support of the R&LHS.

The publication is a comprehensive engineering study of the steam locomotive between 1880 and the end of steam operation in common-carrier service.

He died in 2017 at age 75 before the manuscript was ready. It was completed by his widow, Gail, and the late Peter A. Hansen, a former editor of Railroad History.

Solomon was recognized for having authored and illustrated more than 60 books.

His articles and photography have appeared in Trains, Railway Age, Railroad Explorer, Railfan & Railroad, and National Railway Historical Society Bulletin as well as several publications in Europe.

Leistiko was wrote a three-part series, “Silvis Shops” that was published in Remember the Rock Vol. 12, Nos. 1 and 2 (2018); Vol. 12, Nos. 3 and 4 (2018); and Vol. 13, Nos. 1 and 2 (2019).

The articles offered an overview of the shops of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad.

Ames wrotre “Mother Hubbards’ Bone of Contention: In Search of the ICC ‘Ban’ on Mother Hubbard Locomotives,” which was published in Railroad History No. 219 (Fall-Winter 2018).

The article sought evidence for the oft-mentioned but never documented Interstate Commerce Commission “ban” on the use of Camelback-type steam locomotives, which place the cab astride the boiler.

Ames said he found no ICC rulings or orders banning the locomotives.

Michigan Rail History Conference Lineup Set

July 17, 2022

The program schedule has been announced for the biennial Michigan Railroad History Conference to be held Sept. 16-17 in Ludington, Michigan.

The event is being held at the United Methodist Church of Ludington. The registration fee is $70 if received before Sept. 1 and $75 if paid after that date.

The fee includes morning coffee and refreshments on the Saturday or the conference, and lunch that day.

Scheduled presenters and their programs include Railroad Logging in Manistee Co. & Mapping Abandoned Lines, James Hannum, physician/mapmaker; Technological Evolution of Lake Michigan Carferries, Art Chavez, historian/author; Life and Times Aboard the Carferries by former carferry employees; Lake Michigan Carferry: Vision for the Future, Sara Spore, general manager, SS Badger; Geocaching along the Manistee and North Eastern Railroad, Kevin Springsteen, geocacher; Renaissance for Passenger Trains? Kay Chase, rail passenger advocate; Getting It Done at Ludington, Sean Atteberry, engineer/conductor; James F Joy: We Finally See You, Nick Marsh, biographer; Eber Brock Ward: Michigan’s Forgotten Steamboat, Railroad, and Iron King, Mike Nagle, biographer; Last of the Mohegan: Michigan’s First Logging Locomotive, Jeff Seaver, historian; Epworth Heights/Ludington & Northern Railroad, Paul Trap, historian.

Other events scheduled during the conference include a tour and social hour aboard the S.S. Badger on Saturday night.

That event will feature a tour of the public spaces aboard and a brief presentation of its history. Light refreshments will be provided with a cash bar.

On Friday there will be a field trip to the terminal of the Mason & Oceana Railroad. Attendees will view artifacts from the line at White Pine Village, and trace sites and right-of-way related to the Pere Marquette and its successors.

Lunch will be provided at the Mason County Historical Society Research Center.

Following that will be a tour of the Epworth League/Ludington & Northern to Epworth Heights and its hotel/museum and Hamlin Lake and return. The Friday tours are limited to 40 participants.
For more information and updates see Questions contact

Michigan History Conference Seeks Presenters

February 23, 2022

The Michigan Railroad History Conference has issued a call for papers for its 2022 conference to be held in Sept. 17 in Ludington, Michigan.

The conference is seeking six presenters to talk about various aspects of Michigan’s railroad heritage.

Each presentation should be 30 to 45 minutes long and be content oriented rather than simply a collection of  photographs.

Interested individuals should contact Doug Johnson, chairperson, by March 15 at or at Chair at MRHC, P.O. Box  16235, Lansing, MI 48901. 

Presentation proposals should include a suggested title and brief description of the topic to be covered. The conference committee will review submissions and select presentations to provide a well-rounded quality program.

Michigan Conference Seeking Presenters

November 29, 2021

The Michigan Railroad History Conference has issued a call for papers for its 2022 event to be held Sept. 17 in Ludington, Michigan.

Papers may focus on any aspect of Michigan railroad history with presenters giving a 30-to-50 minute presentation about their topic.

The presentation should be content oriented rather than photography oriented. Presentation proposals are being accepted through March 1, 2022.

Those interested in presenting should submit a suggested title, a brief description of the topic to be covered in the paper, and brief background information on the author(s) to or by mail to MRHC, PO Box 16325, Lansing MI 48901.

A selection committee will review all submissions and select presentations to provide a well-rounded quality program.

The conference will be held at the United Methodist Church of Ludington. Although the conference is usually held every other year, the 2021 conference was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This will be the 16th conference with the 15th conference in Ann Arbor drawing more than 100 attendees.

Michigan Rail History Conference Delayed Until 2022

February 18, 2021

The annual Michigan Railroad History Conference has been postponed until Fall 2022 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The event, which would have been its 16th, will be held in Ludington, Michigan.

Organizers of the event said they elected to cancel the 2021 conference out of a fear that COVID-19 will still be a concern this September. 

The 2021 conference also was slated to be held in Ludington.

In lieu of a live conference, the conference organizers might hold a limited virtual event in Fall 2021 on a date to be determined.

50 Years Ago Sunday, Penn Central Went Bankrupt

June 20, 2020

It is early Penn Central (Nov. 16, 1968) at Collinwood Yard in Cleveland. Two lcomotives still wearning New York Central markings sit with one that has already been given PC markings. in front of the former coaling tower. (Photograph by Robert Farkas)

This Sunday (June 21) will mark the 50th anniversary of Penn Central Transportation Company filing for bankruptcy protection in a federal court in Philadelphia.

The enormity of that event cannot be understated. At the time, Penn Central was the sixth largest company in America and its largest railroad with 20,530 miles of track in 16 states and two Canadian provinces handling one-eighth of the nation’s freight.

The bankruptcy occurred after a last-ditch effort to secure a $200 million loan from the federal government collapsed due to opposition from Congress and the Nixon administration.

The Penn Central bankruptcy was the largest in U.S. history until eclipsed in 2001 by the bankruptcy of energy company Enron.

Although Penn Central had $6.5 billion in assets, including a vast real estate portfolio, it was cash poor.

In the first quarter of 1970 it lost $62.7 million on the heels of a $56.3 billion net loss in 1969, its first full year of operation after being created by the Feb. 1, 1968, merger of the New York Central and Pennsylvania railroads.

The merger was plagued from the beginning by management infighting triggered by cultural clashes, high losses on passenger service, and a deteriorating physical plant that suffered from years of deferred maintenance.

The bankruptcy would help spur a number of developments including the creation of Amtrak and Conrail.

Within a decade of the Penn Central bankrupty, thousands of railroad careers had been cut short and thousands of miles of track abandoned.

For many, Penn Central has come to be synonymous with failure.

Stories are told of how its track was so bad in some places that trains derailed while standing still. Freight cars and their contents were “lost” for months or years.

Passengers aboard the Spirit of St. Louis angered by the lack of functioning air conditioning, lights and water sat in front of the locomotive in Altoona, Pennsylvania, and refused to move until railroad officials addressed their complaints.

Penn Central boxcars might have been painted green, but its locomotives had a utilitarian design of a solid dark color with little more than the company herald and name.

A few years ago I was working the Akron Railroad Club table at the Lake Land College train show with the late Ed McHugh.

He quipped that he didn’t understand why people were interested in a railroad that had failed.

Yet Penn Central still has its fans and an active historical society.

I find myself at times wishing I could go back and experience the Penn Central era again.

There was much that existed then that doesn’t exist now including more passenger trains, more interlocking towers, more railroad stations, more rail lines and far more variety in freight cars and other rolling stock.

Who wouldn’t want to see again a freight train led by an F unit or a passenger train led by an E unit?

It wasn’t that I didn’t see any of that during my formative years, but I wasn’t a photographer then or even a railfan. I was just someone interested in railroads who enjoyed seeing them as I happened upon them in everyday life.

I particularly am reminded of what I missed when I look at the photographs that Bob Farkas made during that era that are posted on this website.

To be sure, railfanning in the late 1960s and 1970s was quite different than it is today.

Few would want to give up the tools of the contemporary railfan, including radio scanners, smart phones and social media sites.

Yet there is a perception that railroads were more fascinating places back then and the trains inherently more interesting compared with much of what we see today, particular on Class 1 railroads.

That perception has a lot to do with why some still find Penn Central an interesting study even if no one would hold it up as an example of how a railroad should be run.

Railroad companies today are much stronger financially than they were 50 years ago and as bad as things have been for the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic and recession, no one expects any of the Class 1s wind up broke like Penn Central.

Notice I said I wish I could visit the Penn Central era, not necessarily live in it.

But no one can’t go back there so memories, photographs, magazine articles and books will have to do to relive the Penn Central era.

Railroad Historian Hansen Dies

May 20, 2020

Peter A. Hansen, the editor of Railroad History, recently died at his home in Florida after a long illness

Peter Hansen

Hansen, 62, also wrote articles for Trains and Classic Trains, and hosted or appeared in several nationally broadcast television shows and documentaries about railroads.

Robert Holzweiss, president of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, which publishes Railroad History, said Hansen began editing the journal in 2007.

“I really came to appreciate (Pete’s) broad understanding of railroad history when we visited on the sidelines of the annual Lexington Group meeting,” Holzweiss told Trains. “The depth and breadth of his knowledge and sensitive treatment of controversial subjects on the pages of Railroad History carried over into our conversations.”

Robert S. McGonigal, editor of Classic Trains, said Hansen’s deep sense of history and engaging writing style made him an ideal author.

Hansen wrote 10 cover stories for Trains about historic events and personalities.

“Pete was an amazing journalist and we are fortunate he was beguiled by railroading,” said Trains Editor Jim Wrinn.

“Pete’s understanding of the big picture as well as his attention to detail made him one of the top practitioners of his craft,” Wrinn said. “He was equally at home with a historical feature as well as a technology piece about the future of railroading. We are all better for Pete’s presence, his determination, and his friendship.”

Hansen also served as a consultant for a number of railroad museums and institutions, including the California State Railroad Museum Foundation, Nevada State Railroad Museum, and Kansas City Union Station.

He was a consultant for the Smithsonian who worked with the late William L. Withuhn, the Smithsonian’s longtime transportation curator.

Amtrak hired Hansen to host an official 40th anniversary documentary in 2011, produced by Richard Luckin.

Hansen and Luckin collaborated on several other programs, and Hansen appeared on the CBS public affairs show Sunday Morning, as well as on NBC, PBS, and local stations.

Aside from his work as a railroad historian, Hansen worked as a corporate communications executive with the Sprint Corporation.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Eastern University, a private Christian university in St. Davids, Pennsylvania.

Blank for 48 Years Now

October 18, 2019

This former train bulletin board that once hung on the wall of the passenger station in Union City, Indiana, is a relic frozen in time.

The station where it hung was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad to serve passenger trains on the Pan Handle line between Chicago and Columbus.

But trains of the New York Central also called at the depot. But note that the train bulletin refers to the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis, .a.k.a. the Big Four and not the New York Central.

That might have seemed confusing to passengers expecting to see New York Central, particularly given that the Big Four became part of the NYC system in 1906.

But the Big Four operated autonomously into the 1930s and even then many along its routes continued to remember the Big Four name.

The PRR’s marquee trains between Chicago and Columbus were the daylight Fort Hayes and the overnight Ohioan.

The Fort Hayes ended on Oct. 28, 1956. The Ohioan name was dropped in April 1958. On the last day of 1958 the former Ohioan was discontinued, leaving the Pan Handle through Union City freight only.

The NYC continue to host a fleet of trains that ran between Cleveland and St. Louis.

Union City would become a footnote in the Central’s efforts to do away with passenger trains on its St. Louis line.

The Central ended the Knickerbocker (westbound) and Southwestern (eastbound) between Cleveland and Union City, Indiana, on Sept. 6, 1967.

It was able to do this without regulatory approval because the Public Service Commission of Ohio allowed railroads to discontinue passengers trains within the state provided they are not the last varnish on a route.

The Central’s action left now unnamed Nos. 312 and 341 as Union City-St. Louis trains of one passenger coach pulled by a lone E unit.

In practice, this train actually originated and terminated in Bellfontaine, Ohio, but did not carry passengers between Bellefontaine and Union City.

This state of affairs continued until Nos. 312 and 341 made their last trips on March 18, 1968.

That left unnamed Nos. 315 and 316 operating through Union City as they traversed their route between Cleveland and Indianapolis.

These trains had survived as long as they did because of their heavy mail business.

No. 315 departed Cleveland Union Terminal every night at 11:50 and was scheduled to arrive at Indianapolis Union Station the next morning at 6:05 a.m. This train was not scheduled to stop in Union City.

The equipment turned and departed Indy at 9:35 a.m. with a flag stop in Union City at 11:30 a.m. No. 316 was scheduled to arrive in Cleveland at 4:05 p.m.

The planners who created Amtrak probably gave little thought to saving trains 315 and 316 and they began their final trips on April 30, 1971.

And with that this train bulletin board was wiped clean for good.

If you look carefully you might see that at some point some wag wrote “Hogwarts Express” as an eastbound Big Four train bound for London.

It is noteworthy that the bulletin board has room for more Big Four trains than PRR trains.

Tthat probably reflects the reality that the NYC had more trains through Union City and then did the Pennsy.

Although some railfans refer to the Union City station as the former Pennsylvania Railroad station the town calls it the Union City Arts Depot.

That’s because it is an all-purpose community center that happens to have a railroad history.

I have to wonder how many people in Union City know much about that railroad history.