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.

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