Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Volunteer Spotlight: Charlotte Ziegler

Just over a decade ago, Charlotte Ziegler visited the website of the B&O Railroad Museum in search of information about the annual Day Out With Thomas event for a friend with a young grandson. Charlotte soon noticed that the B&O had volunteer opportunities available, and after a few brief, unsatisfying stints at other institutions, she was eager to find out if the B&O was a good fit. Charlotte, who retired in 2006 after a long career in marketing & public affairs for the U.S. Army, saw volunteer work as a way to continue keeping her mind active and engaged. “I retired after 30 years,” Charlotte explains, “but my brain didn’t. It keeps going. It still is.”  Charlotte quickly scheduled an interview and was delighted to learn that at the B&O, she would have the freedom to apply all of her skills — wherever and however she best saw fit. Before long, Charlotte became one of the museum’s regular Tuesday volunteers. Over time, the B&O began to call on Charlotte when in need of her unique skill set which includes costume design — a hobby she describes as her “first love.” Charlotte is suddenly glowing as she recalls being asked to design princess costumes for the museum’s Royal Adventure Days event and tells me that the gown she considers her “particular masterpiece” is that of Belle from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, for which she had to create a custom fabric pattern to match the one from the movie. Perhaps surprisingly, Charlotte confesses that when she first began volunteering at the B&O, her interest in trains was quite minimal and mostly limited to fond childhood memories of setting up a model village under the Christmas tree each year with her mother — a holiday tradition which Charlotte has continued to uphold throughout the years. Fortunately for the museum and all who attend its annual Magical Holiday Express event, Charlotte shares that yuletide joy each year by assuming the role of Mrs. Claus as she has done since 2010 and which she considers to be her absolute favorite part of volunteering at the B&O. Charlotte also puts her marketing background to use by distributing B&O press releases to the multitude of media outlets she has organized into a spreadsheet at home. As if the aforementioned contributions weren’t enough, Charlotte leads museum tours and is radiantly proud of currently being the only woman volunteer to do so. Charlotte recalls a guest once condescendingly raising doubts about whether or not she was indeed a volunteer at the museum. “Girls like trains too.” she replied. As the simplest responses often do, Charlotte’s answer resonates. The world of trains and railroad history tends to be predominated by men, however Charlotte notes that the guys with whom she volunteers have never been anything short of utterly genial and welcoming towards her. In fact, Charlotte affectionately refers to her crew of fellow Thursday volunteers as “The Rat Pack” and, through delighted laughter, adds “I guess that makes me Angie Dickinson.”

Inspired by Charlotte's story? You can apply to volunteer at the B&O today!

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Herb Sauter's B&O Story

My name is Herbert Sauter. I will be 90 years old in May. I worked for the B&O railroad and it's successors for 45 years. I began working for the B&O railroad at age 17 on Friday, September 13th 1946. I started as a messenger in outbound freight on the second floor of the Camden Freight Office located in the corner of Eutaw and Camden streets. It was attached to the warehouse (the present site of Oriole Park at Camden Yards) but is gone now. I made $6.04 a day. I ran errands, did some filing, and got coffee and lunches for the bosses. Then I became a day motor messenger and got a fifty cents a day raise. As a motor messenger I drove all over Baltimore in a B&O personnel car (one was a Ford and one was a Plymouth) delivering mail, running errands and picking up bills of lading and taking them to the freight office to be rated and billed. The bills had to be picked up at Canton, Highlandtown, Bayview yard, Ft. Holabird, B&O Canton Railroad, Locust point, Mt. Claire Freight office, Chevrolet plant, Esso Oil refinery, the stockyard, Curtis Bay coal pier and ore pier and the fruit pier. When the waybill was ready then I had to take them to the yard office to meet the train. One of the first memories I have of being a motor messenger was going to the Mt. Claire Assistant Agent's office. Some days I probably drove 100 miles just around Baltimore.
Watching the bananas being unloaded from the ships on the banana pier at Pratt and Light streets was a favorite of mine. The stevedores would carry big stalks of bananas off of the ship and into rail cars that had to be brought to the fruit pier by floating them on a barge. They were refrigerated by blocks of ice covered in salt placed in the tops of the cars. When they were loaded they floated them down to the railroad yard. The harbor would be full of bananas when they were done. Later on in my career, I worked at the Banana pier on McComas Street, south side Locust Point. After the refrigerated rail cars with bananas were temperature checked and written on the lay bill, I had to put the seal on the car showing that it had been checked. I also watched the B&O Toonerville Trolley #10 engine working at the Fells Street Warehouse. It ran on overhead electric wires and was used as a box car switcher with the car floats. Another favorite was to watch the brand new cars drive out of the Chevrolet plant and right onto the rail cars.
Next I worked the 3 to 11 shift to get my clerk seniority. I filled in for vacations. While working at the Camden Yard freight office we had a softball team. We would play on our lunch hour against the Camden shed workers team. We played right outside of the Camden Yard warehouse on the railroad tracks. The softballs would get all chewed up from hitting the warehouse and the rails. If you hit the ball into the tunnel in the Warehouse you got a homerun. One day I took one of the softballs that had lost its cover and threw it with all of my might over the top of the warehouse which is still standing as a part of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. I tell my children, Grandchildren, and Great Grandchildren that story every time we are
at the ballpark. We also used to go up to the top floor of the Camden Warehouse, which was the attic with the little windows, and there were huge bound books containing hand written daily workings of the railroad. Eventually I got a clerk job at Pier 6 Locust Point Marine Terminal.
In March of 1951 I was drafted. I served my country for 2 years as a transportation specialist stationed in Austria. Sometimes I would travel to Trieste on the Mediterranean to watch the unloading of the coal boats that had come from Curtis Bay, Maryland.
When I got out of the Army in 1953 I could not get my old clerk job back so I was once again a B&O motor messenger. Then I got a charge clerk job assessing storage and wharfage charges on freight for the B&O. In 1962 The B&O became Chessie System. In April of 1970 I moved Uptown to be a clerk for Foreign Freight, World Commerce Department, working with import auto shipping. The railroad eliminated the World Commerce division and I moved to customer service, regional sales as a trace clerk. Not long after that the railroad separated regional sales offices from the rest of the railroad and my office moved to Woodlawn. Then once again I moved offices back to Charles Center in Baltimore as a rate clerk for Automobiles. I began working under the New York Dock agreement catching up on all of the backed up work for the railroad. I retired on May 31, 1991. Three days before I retired they made me chief clerk to fill in for someone. The two years of service in the Army counted to my total years working for the railroad. I saw a lot of changes to the railroad industry during my wonderful 45 year career with the railroad.

My wife, Betty Sauter, also worked for the B&O Railroad for several years until our first daughter was born. However, we never worked together in the same office. She was a stenographer in several offices. She was at the storekeepers offices at Mt. Claire, the Agents office at the Camden freight office, the Superintendent's office at Camden Station second floor, and the Real Estate office at the B&O Central building uptown. We both met many fascinating people and made and kept lifelong friendships with many. Sadly, most have passed on.
The railroad also had many parties and events for employees. They would have parties in the B&O Roundhouse and they would put oak boards on the turntable so they could put tables and have dancing on the turntable. When people got to dancing the turntable would bounce up and down. It was great fun. There were also weekend excursions on a train from Baltimore to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. There were learning trips for employees. One memorable one was riding the train to the Wilmington, Delaware auto plant. They took the whole train into the factory. I was thrilled to get to ride in the inspection car. My family took a trip to Miami, Florida on the Silver Meteor. It was exciting for my two young daughters. My wife and I visited the fabulous Greenbrier resort which the C&O owned. There were many great memories made.
I have witnessed a lot of change in the railroad industry in 45 years. From the way the tracks are laid to the use of computers instead of hand writing everything. I am proud to have played a small part in the history of the Great B&O Railroad.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Volunteer Spotlight: Mike & Ruth Kline

Visit the B&O on any given Tuesday, and you're sure to see Mike and Ruth Kline, donning their B&O blues and warm smiles. Mike will also be sporting his white, leather-billed B&O Railroad cap. "We can't go anywhere without that hat," Ruth tells me, "even to church." That's because Mike, as a tireless representative of the B&O, is never really off duty. With youthful enthusiasm Mike tells me that people everywhere recognize the B&O on his cap, and share with him personal memories of the railroad or start to name family members who once worked on it. It's no surprise that after 21 years of volunteering at the museum, Mike's knowledge of all things locomotive can only fairly be described as enyclopedic. What may however be more surprising is the fact that Mike has committed this knowledge to a literal enyclopedia. As I speak with him, Mike slides an overstuffed binder out from behind the information desk and flips it open on the counter. Color-coded with categorical tabs, this binder contains an unimaginable wealth of archival photographs, engineering diagrams, and historical tidbits that together comrpise what Ruth calls "his Bible." She isn't hyperbolizing either — Mike's descriptions of each page are as reverential in tone as they are informative. Mike's father was, after all, a worker on the Pennsylvania railroad, so his passion for trains runs deep. Just as Mike's love of the railroad began with his father's work, serving at the B&O has become something of a family affair for the Klines, as their son Fred and grandaughter Lyla both volunteer during big events, such as our annual Day Out With Thomas.  Mike & Ruth, who now live in Linthicum, were first referred to the museum in 1997 by a neighbor who Mike tells me had worked as an engineer on the B&O for over 40 years. Ruth started volunteering shortly after Mike, and works mainly as a docent and greeter — the perfect positions for a woman who excels at making everyone who enters the Roundhouse feel right at home. She tells me that her favorite part of volunteering at the museum is getting to meet so many people from all over the world. Mike, who is also a docent as well as a photographer, adds that his favorite part is the gratitude that guests show, and no statement could be more telling. The Klines devote their time to the B&O because they truly love it. They radiate with joy as they describe the thanks they receive — though Ruth notes that while appreciated, it's hardly necessary. She often responds to grateful guests by telling them "You don't have to thank me, I'm enjoying it as much as you are." And as anyone who has had the fortune of meeting these two can undoutedbly corroborate — she really means it.

Monday, December 3, 2018

The B&O Railroad Goes to War

Part VII: September -- November 1918
The Great War came to an end in the fall of 1918. In Europe, the allies advanced along the Hindenburg Line and launched the Meuse-Argonne offensive. In the United States, William G. McAdoo, Director-General of the United States Railroad Administration (USRA), visited several railroad systems and delivered stump speeches to encourage the purchase of additional war bonds and raise morale of railroad workers at home. He famously declared to Pennsylvania Railroad employees in Altoona, Pennsylvania: "Every bad order locomotive is a Prussian soldier." McAdoo traveled on the B&O and delivered speeches in Cumberland, Keyser, Grafton, and Charleston.

[B&O Railroad Museum Collection]

At this late stage of the war, employees in the service continued to perish in combat and fall to the Spanish Influenza outbreak. More than 25,000 Americans in the service fell victim to this worldwide epidemic. Even with the war winding down, employees continued to leave their jobs to serve in the military.
Pfaff, formerly an employee within the Valuation Department in Baltimore, served in France with the 539th Engineers, U.S. Army. On October 15, 1918, Pfaff became another victim of the Influenza epidemic. [B&O Railroad Museum Collection]
Even with the war winding down, employees continued to leave for the service. In the office of the Auditor of Passenger Receipts in Baltimore, a total of twenty five employees left to serve during World War I. [B&O Railroad Museum Collection]
In late September – early October, just weeks before the armistice, General John J. Pershing, commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, wrote to the war department, demanding immediate assistance in straightening out his military railroads in France. Secretary of War Newton D. Baker, reached out to who he felt was the best railroad man in the country: President Daniel Willard of the B&O Railroad. Willard immediately accepted a colonelcy in the U.S. Army Engineers and was ordered to the front as soon as possible. Local Baltimore tailors were called in to fit him with a uniform. 

Willard never got the chance to go to France or fulfill his role in the U.S. Army. On October 5, his eldest son Harold Nelson Willard died. On October 9, Harold’s wife DeVoe Holmes Willard also passed away. Both were taken by the Influenza epidemic. Stricken with grief, Dan Willard was unable to accept his army appointment. 

As early as September 29, Germany approached the United States seeking a cessation of hostilities. It was not until November 11, 1918 that the Armistice was signed ending World War I. [B&O Railroad Museum Collection]
By wars end, the B&O Railroad Company sent 6,794 employees into military service. Of those, ninety seven did not return. Another one hundred and three employees were wounded. One employee is known to have earned the Distinguished Service Cross, the military's second highest medal for gallantry. The railroad transported hundreds of thousands of troops along the eastern United States and serviced several Army cantonments as well. 

The B&O performed exceptionally under government management of the nation's railroads. American railroads regained control over their companies in March of 1920. Though politically opposed to Woodrow Wilson and federal control of the railroad, Dan Willard was a valued leader in the industry and did everything asked of him and the B&O during the war period. At home and abroad, the B&O Railroad played a critical role in American involvement during World War I. 


By Harrison Van Waes
Curator, B&O Railroad Museum

The B&O Railroad Goes to War is a multi-part blog series commemorating the centennial of American involvement in World War I. This is the concluding section. Thank you for following along during this anniversary.


Baltimore & Ohio Employee Magazine [September 1918 - December 1918]

Hays T. Watkins Research Library & Archives, Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

B&O Railroad Museum Debuts Late Author’s Memorial Book Launch

Baltimore, MD - Tuesday, October 9 at 5:30pm the B&O Railroad Museum will host James D. Dilts Memorial Book Launch debuting the author’s monumental work, The World the Trains Made, A Century of Great Railroad Architecture in the United States and Canada. This recently published book is the first comprehensive study of the broad range of structures built in North America for the railroads during their heyday, from high-rise office buildings to resort hotels to roundhouses and shops. Dilts delves into the personalities of the people who conceived these structures and examines the creative new uses that have been found for many of them today. Included in this lavishly illustrated, full-color volume is more than a hundred of the finest examples of fourteen different building types.
Jeremy Kargon of Morgan State University remarked, “Over the course of a century, industrialists, engineers, architects, and laborers created a robust material culture to support rail transportation and its passengers. Dilts’ book comprehensively documents that lost world and the history from which today’s North America emerged.”
Other books written by Dilts include The Great Road: The Building of the Baltimore and Ohio, the Nation’s First Railroad, 1828–1853; A Guide to Baltimore Architecture (with John R. Dorsey); and Baltimore’s Cast-Iron Buildings and Architectural Ironwork (with Catharine F. Black). Courtney B. Wilson, Executive Director of the B&O Railroad Museum, commented about his longtime friend, “Jim was an iconic figure to anyone even remotely interested in the B&O and its embryonic fits and starts. His masterwork, ‘The Great Road,’ is a must read. His early history of the railroad is unparalleled.”
On the evening of Tuesday, October 9, Mr. Wilson will welcome the Baltimore community to join him as they honor Dilts’ and his lifetime work devoted to historic preservation.  Recently donated items from James Dilts’ extensive personal library will be on display during the book launch. The collection includes notes and photographs from his first book The Great Road as well as never-before-seen research material for his new work, The World the Trains Made: A Century of Great Railroad Architecture in the United States and Canada. After brief remarks at 6pm, light refreshments will be served.
RSVP required by October 5 to Kathy Hargest, khargest@borail.org / 410-752-2490 x 207.
B&O Railroad Museum
901 W. Pratt St.
Baltimore, MD 21223
Free Parking