Friday, August 6, 2021

B&O Street Art Project


                                                    Artist Spotlight: Jennifer Weightman

It's no surprise that artist Jennifer Weightman self-identifies as a writer. After all, the words "Connecting Us" are the focal point of the mural she designed for the B&O Street Art Project. It feels as though this statement finds its power in its brevity; a charmingly undistilled and intuitive statement on trains, art, and community. 

Jennifer is originally from southern Maryland, and has been living in Baltimore for about four years. An early initiate into the world of street art, Jennifer showed an initial interest in sewing, doodling, and photography, but first began doing graffiti at age 15, when a friend asked her to tag along on a date she was going on—no pun intended. She's been a writer ever since. 

For Jennifer, the significance of displaying graffiti at the B&O Railroad Museum is the opportunity to remind viewers that graffiti and street art are "just as much a part of the story" of railroading history as anything else, citing, for example, the fact that even model railroaders collect model train cars covered in graffiti decals, a testament to the undeniable interconnectedness of the artform and the railroad. 

When asked what sets street art apart from other mediums, Jennifer explains that she "did not come from a well-off family," speaking to the accessibility of the artform. It seems that this accessibility also gives rise to a certain intimacy shared between both the community of artists themselves and the viewer, as Jennifer compares tagged train cars to "diary entries." For street artists, the whole of the external world is a prospective canvas, and Jennifer is frank about the fact that while certainly art, graffiti remains by definition a form of vandalism, unabashedly stating that "It is what it is." According to Jennifer, street art is an extension of the human instinct to say "Hey, I'm here," and if corporations can visually represent themselves in the world around us, then artists can too. 

In determining how to approach the Street Art Project's theme of connectedness, Jennifer speaks to the sense of community and connection she often feels when seeing the tags of fellow artists on train cars, a sentiment clearly reflected in the circular railroad tracks beneath the words in her mural. In response to the prompt (Jennifer specifically recalls the mention of "Baltimore and the nation"), her piece pays tribute to the role that Baltimore and its railroads played historically as a conduit for the spread of graffiti down the eastern seaboard. Jennifer's piece represents the connections between the city, the railroad, the artform and the nationa multi-layered symbol of and statement on community. It was also important to Jennifer that her piece did not just represent Baltimore, but that it do so authentically, evoking the city's "working-class atmosphere." 

Jennifer works full time as an ultrasound researcher, and admits that she's had "an interesting journey" in finding the balance between her career and her work as an artist. She is grateful for being able to work from home, feeling that it helps to preserve her energy for her own artistic pursuits. She admits that she sometimes wonders "where would I be if I committed [to art] full-time," but likes the idea of doing art not as a career, but as a "human activity that can...make you feel good." 

In discussing what she wants the takeaway to be for visitors who see her piece, Jennifer reprises the theme of connection that is interpreted so stunningly in her mural, pointing out that train enthusiasts and graffiti artists "share a lot of the same feelings about trains, you're coming to look at trains, you know, so do writers. We love these, like, big pieces of moving metal, too." 

Jennifer's mural is indeed imbued with her love for these "big pieces of moving metal" as it is with the sense of community she feels as a graffiti writer, and the historically working-class roots of the city of Baltimore. At the intersection of all these elements of Jennifer's mural, the theme of connectedness is masterfully represented, perpetually active in the infinite loop of railroad track and the pervasive, perpetual phrase "Connecting Us." 

Follow Jennifer on Instagram: @w8jenn 

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

B&O Street Art Project


                                                        Artist Spotlight: Joshua Olsen

Hailing from Long Island, New York, Joshua Olsen is an artist and grad student at MICA here in Baltimore. For the B&O Street Art project, Joshua collaborated with classmate Kenneth Clemons, who shares his passion for comic book-style art. For Joshua, the opportunity to safely paint on a train car simply couldn't be passed up. 

Joshua's early artistic inclinations were expressed mostly as doodles, and it was only when he started taking art classes in community college that he began to focus on art more seriously. Now a full-time artist, Joshua is both an active student and teacher of art. Joshua's background is in animation, digital, and studio art. His interest in street art stems from a combination of watching YouTube street artists with admiration, and from his participation in MICA's Community Arts program, of which street art is an integral part. To Joshua, what distinguishes street art from other art forms is its ability to "be seen by people who aren't looking for it." Whether people see a piece as they walk down the street, or take a picture in front of a mural and post it on social media, Joshua feels that street art "travels further than studio-based art," a seemingly unintentional nod to the theme and language of transportationone that speaks to the deeper connections between trains and street art. 

When asked what he thinks is the significance of displaying street art at the B&O Railroad Museum in particular, Joshua explains that it can help garner new audiences and increase the Museum's appeal among those who may not think that a train museum is for them, citing millennials as an example. And to those who may not approve of street art or view it as a legitimate artform, Joshua urges against the promotion of stereotypes, speaking to the many street artists who are genuinely trying "to beautify something...or to touch an area." 

To execute on his and Kenneth's shared vision for a comic book-style mural, the two artists began to think of "elements and components" that they felt symbolized both the city of Baltimore and the Street Art Project's theme of connectedness. After Kenneth sketched the outline for the piece with the help of digital projection, the two artists started considering their color choices, determining together which colors to put where and in what order. From there, the piece required numerous "touch-up sessions." 

Joshua and Kenneth share a common appreciation for what Joshua calls "comic book stuff, cartoons, probably things more associated with...younger audiences." Joshua believes that both he and Kenneth combine elements of fine art and illustration in their work, and that they both tend to incorporate a sense of narrative into their pieces as well. The harmony with which these two talented artists created their comic book-style mural is abundantly clear to anyone who's seen the piece in person.  Joshua hopes that the primary takeaway from his piece for visitors  is an understanding of "the broadness of what street art is."

Follow Joshua on Instagram @josholsen138_art

Friday, July 30, 2021

B&O Street Art Project


Artist Spotlight: Kenneth Clemons

Kenneth Clemons is an artist and illustrator from Baltimore, and his collaborative piece with MICA classmate Joshua Olsen features a timeless comic book style, with vibrant colors, bold words, and universally understandable visual symbols of unity. 

Kenneth always knew that he was going to be an artist, playfully explaining that "as they say, I had drawn my own destiny." While he also showed an interest in street art from a young age, comic books were Kenneth's first love, and remain a major influence on his work. For Kenneth, street art and comic art compliment each other very well, and he compares them to "peanut butter and jelly." Both artforms, Kenneth explains, have the capacity to communicate a narrative, and the fundamental purpose of each is, as Kenneth puts it, is "sending a message." To this end, Kenneth feels that street art in particular is not unlike social media in its ability to garner attention for meaningful stories and statements, and to connect with the public at largethis, according to Kenneth, is "the power to influence and inspire."  This soft-spoken artist gently offers a poignant message for those for who do not consider street art a legitimate artform, encouraging them to "take a microscopic point of view, zoom in and see what the message is all about that goes beyond the colors, shapes, and sizes, within a mural." Kenneth goes on to bring up the film Beat Street (1984), comparing himself and other artists to the character Ramo, a misunderstood graffiti artist with an indefatigable passion for his work, despite the naysayers. 

Kenneth finds himself fascinated with the idea of motion and transportation, and as a public transit rider, notes that no matter how familiar one may be with the place they're traveling through, previously unseen "hidden gems" can always be discovered along the route, connecting this experience to the nature of comic book art itself, which by its very framework, conveys a sense of movement and progress. "Even though [the caboose] is not in motion, the art will always be in motion." In this way, Kenneth and Joshua's piece takes a highly dynamic approach to the prompted theme of connectedness; while the caboose's days of riding the rails are over, Kenneth and Joshua's mural restores to the car its fundamental purpose: movement. 

Kenneth's tremendous passion for comic book art as a medium is abundantly evident in practically every statement he makes. As he speaks to the experience of riding public transit, journeying through Baltimore and finding unfamiliar sights in an all too familiar city, Kenneth arrives at the conclusion that "almost like a comic book, it always moves along when you turn the page...the panels or squares kinda remind me of the bus windows, it's always scrolling along, like a movie." It's clear comic bookstheir panels containing sequential, narrative images -- is the primary lens through which this artist views the world and interprets his own lived experiences. In this way, Kenneth is the kind of artist who operates best when thinking within the box, rather than outside of it, and for this talented illustrator with a lifelong love for comic books, there could be no higher praise. 

 Kenneth talks about traveling throughout the city, and seeing bits of railroad track, once covered by bricks and pavement, now exposed on the streets. Seeing these remnants of Baltimore's past inspires in Kenneth a sense of connection to the city's history, reminding him that "B&O was here from the very beginning to establish that type of transportation," and giving him cause to wonder about the hidden tracks and tunnels of the past, buried beneath the streets of Baltimore.

Kenneth wants those who view his mural at the Museum to leave with the understanding that "all things [are] possible within a mural," and to and know just what it is that compels artists like himself to create murals like this one: "We do this for the love of the city." 

Follow Kenneth on Instagram @kennycc31977

Friday, July 9, 2021

B&O Street Art Project


Artist Spotlight: Tima Aflitunov

Tima Aflitunov is the artist behind the striking "It's in Our DNA" mural, painted onto a caboose here at the B&O Railroad Museum as part of the B&O Street Art Project. The piece's focal point is certainly its DNA double-helix with interlocked hands of various colors bonding the two helixes together. The B&O Street Art Project prompted artists to design pieces on the theme of connectednessa subject which Aflitunov's piece both successfully interprets and thoughtfully elaborates. 

For Tima, a graphic designer and illustrator who completed his undergraduate studies at MICA here in Baltimore, all art is a form of language. Street art in particular, he explains, "gives you an outlet to speak to the public. And sometimes people don't get to do that verbally. They might say things in public but nobody might listen to them." 

As we delve deeper into the nature of the artform and the themes present in Tima's mural, it becomes clear that just as street art can provide a direct voice for the artists themselves, it can also serve as a proxy voice for oppressed people throughout history whose narratives are often disregarded. Tima engages critically with the history of railroading in the United States, citing the use of cheap and unpaid labor in the development of the nation's railroad infrastructure, and drawing particular attention to the exploitation of Asian immigrants and people of color broadly in this process. Tima says that "...without them, there wouldn't be such a strong railroad infrastructure in the United States," adding that this history is therefore somewhat "bittersweet." 

It is this outlook which drew Tima to feature in his mural a DNA double-helix comprised of interconnected multicolored hands, a self-professed commentary on the inextricable contributions and presences of diverse groups of people throughout history, going all the way back to the origins of humankind itself, which have all led us to where we are today. Tima believes that the diversity inherent to our human DNA makes each of us stronger, and he uses this concept to symbolize the railroad itself in his mural. Tima explains that just as the hands between the helixes connect two otherwise separate points, the railroad is held together by the hands of those who built it, and is itself used to connect different parts of the country. As an immigrant himself, having arrived in the United States from Uzbekistan at the age of 11, Tima believes that his own experiences, combined with his connections to larger communities of fellow immigrants, have afforded him a rich perspective on culture, history, and sense of placea perspective with which Tima's mural is undeniably imbued. 

When asked what he'd say to those who might view street art as an illegitimate artform, or as mere vandalism, Tima's response is resonant, simple, and strong: "Art can start a conversation." 

Follow Tima on Instagram @sharp_bubble

Friday, June 11, 2021

B&O Street Art Project

 Artist Spotlight: Jaz Erenburg

Jaz Erenberg has been residing in Baltimore for about 10 years. Jaz attended MICA, where she majored in sculpture. While in college, Jaz worked as a pre-school teacher, which led her to discover what she calls "this happy space between art and education." Right out of college, Jaz participated in the HOME Artist Residency Program in the Baltimore neighborhood of Highlandtown, and it was during this residency that she not only completed her first mural, but also realized, in what she calls an "Aha!" moment, that she could truly make a life for herself as a full-time artist. 

Jaz is drawn to street art in particular because she believes it offers a higher level of public accessibility than many other mediums. Based on her own self-admittedly high standards for defining the artform, Jaz professes that public art means "a lot more than just painting a wall," adding that "it's really about engaging with community, really figuring out what they're dealing with, what their issues are, and how I can come in and make a sort of artful solution." Jaz approaches her projects with the intent of finding these artful solutions, and believes that her work can help facilitate dialogues with communities whose voices need to be heard. 

When asked how she applied this approach the B&O Street Art Project, Jaz admits that she had to make adjustments to her typical process. But in seeking an entry point through which to connect her art to the railroad, Jaz found herself fascinated by the history of train-hopping "hobos," a term which has historically been used for migrant workers who hopped trains in search of work. From there, Jaz grew deeply interested in the hieroglyphic language of Hobo Code, and found in it an opportunity to design a piece which speaks not only to the history of the railroad, but also to the role of language in the creation of communities, and the function of art as a "bonding language" for marginalized communities. In speaking to the importance of displaying street art at the B&O Railroad Museum specifically, Jaz explains that for this mural, she sought immersion in "the culture of what [the railroad] was built in, rather than how it's perceived now." While the hobo hieroglyphs that constitute the background of Jaz's mural may be largely esoteric to many viewers, Jaz believes that that they will nonetheless capture the intrigue of those unfamiliar. It is certainly easy to see how fascination can function as a starting point for engagement with critical and often overlooked aspects of the railroad's history. 

Jaz's background as an educator plays a huge role in her artistic process, and as such, research is one of her first steps in designing any new piece. In the case of the B&O Street Art Project, which prompted artists to design pieces on the theme of "connectedness," Jaz was seeking a connection between street art culture and railroad history. She found this "missing piece" in what she describes as a "loose" connection between vagabond hieroglyphs and modern-day tagging. For Jaz, Hobo Code and street art both represent some of the only accessible means "of communicating, of expressing" for marginalized communities. When asked how she would respond to potential detractors and those who see street art as little more than vandalism, Jaz speaks to the innate connectiveness of trains, a sense that she feels may be lost when one looks at trains exclusively in a Museum, or "when you can only see one station and, like, one part of it," rather than the many places that any given train goes to, from, and through. 

The focal point of Jaz's piece is undeniably the interlocked pair of hands at its center, and Jaz explains that these hands, which she calls "ancestral hands," are a staple of her work as a whole. They are intentionally "abstract, there's no skin color, they blend into each other." She sees them as "a concept that holds a cultural history and a culture knowledge that's hard to acknowledge" and says that as a symbol, "it's even attached to ancestral trauma, and how that directs you, and how that impacts your core values as a person and the core values of your community." To Jaz, who describes herself as a "spiritual person" who does not "necessarily believe in god," her signature Ancestral Hands represent not just the idea of connectedness, but the guiding forces which shape and impact the fates of entire communities and the lives of the individuals who comprise them. 

When it came to the actual process of creating the piece, Jaz electronically projected her design onto the caboose (a smaller canvas than she's used to for murals), first sketch-painting the outline of the mural, then filling it out with additional layers of paint. 

Jaz wants those who see her mural at the Museum to walk away having learned something new, and with a willingness to be "more open-minded, even if it's just a step closer." 

Follow Jaz on Instagram @jaz_erenberg

Tuesday, November 24, 2020


The Small World of E. Francis Baldwin

                                                                         by Amanda Bernard

Because I commute all the way from Sykesville, Maryland down to the Catholic University campus, it took me a while to realize that the “E. F. Baldwin” responsible for the University’s first new construction was in fact the same E. F. Baldwin after whom my favorite local restaurant was named. Small world! Sadly for me, Baldwin’s Station & Pub was sold to new owners this past summer, but they’re still running a restaurant out of the historic train station.

The 1883 Sykesville B&O Station on the bank of the Patapsco River was, until recently, Baldwin’s Station & Pub. The building has been celebrated for its “lively Queen Anne jumble of gables” (Lewis xvi). Drawing by Wiley Purkey from the author’s personal collection.

It turns out E. Francis Baldwin (1837–1916)—as his name often appears; the E. stood for Ephraim—was a prolific architect.

Among Baldwin’s most iconic extant works are the “four-block-long” B&O Camden Station Warehouse, which baseball fans might recognize as the backdrop to the Baltimore Orioles’ ballpark at Camden Yards; the Point of Rocks B&O Station (“to many, the quintessential Victorian railroad station”); and the 22-sided B&O Passenger Car Shop in Baltimore—“oftentimes erroneously referred to as a ‘roundhouse’”—which the B&O Railroad Museum now calls home (Avery 60; Harwood xiv; Avery 54).

Clockwise from upper left: the B&O Camden Station Warehouse (1898), the Point of Rocks B&O Station (1875), and the 22-sided B&O Passenger Car Shop (1884)—home of the B&O Railroad Museum. All photographs courtesy of the B&O Railroad Museum.

Meanwhile, in the CatholicU universe, Baldwin is remembered as the architect of Caldwell Hall and McMahon Hall—the first two buildings constructed after the University was established in 1887. Today, Caldwell and McMahon are the two oldest extant buildings on campus. Baldwin attended the cornerstone laying ceremony for Caldwell on May 24, 1888 and saw it through to completion in 1889. A year later he was asked to oversee the construction of McMahon, which was completed in 1895.

Long story short, Baltimore was the common factor in Baldwin’s career with both the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad and the Catholic Church. During Baldwin’s lifetime, Baltimore was the “mother of American railroading,” but before and since that time the city has been recognized as “the locus of the first Catholic diocese in America” (Harwood xi; Lewis xv). Baldwin’s decision to base his architectural firm in Baltimore had important repercussions; on the one hand he “became the principal architect for the Catholic Church in Maryland,” but on the other hand he found that “his radius of action” was largely restricted to “the reach of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad”—sealing his fate as “a parochial rather than a national figure” (Lewis xv).

An important “bread-and-butter account” in his early architectural career, the B&O remained Baldwin’s biggest client from the early 1870s through the late 1890s; he became for all intents and purposes its “house architect,” much like his mentor John Rudolph Niernsee (1814–1885) before him (Avery viii; Lewis xvi). Diagnosing Baldwin as a “chronic Baltimorean,” Michael J. Lewis explains Baldwin’s relative obscurity compared to his first partner, Bruce Price, who left the firm in 1873, enjoyed a distinguished career as a domestic architect, and is supposed to have influenced the far-more-famous Frank Lloyd Wright: “But for this [Price] had to move to New York—a choice that Baldwin, constrained by the bonds of patronage and clientele, could not make” (Lewis xvii).

The 1890 University Station at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. The station was demolished sometime in the 1970s to make way for the Metro. Upper photograph from the University Photograph Collection, Box 41, Folder 1. Lower photograph courtesy of the B&O Railroad Museum.

Unfortunately, the building that best represents the marriage of Baldwin’s work for the B&O and the Catholic Church is no longer with us. Built in 1890, University Station at CatholicU was razed and replaced by the Brookland–CUA Metro Station sometime in the 1970s. University Station was one of only a handful of B&O stations executed in the Richardsonian style—named after Baldwin’s contemporary Henry Hobson Richardson (1838–1886). In November 1889—the same month that Caldwell Hall was dedicated—the B&O offered to build the young University a “neat and convenient” station out “of blue Georgetown stone so as to harmonize with the handsome university building.” As Carlos P. Avery points out in his definitive history of Baldwin, “That harmony was ensured, of course, because E. Francis Baldwin was the architect for both buildings” (Avery 41).

According to Avery—who spent about as many years researching Baldwin as Baldwin spent working on B&O projects—the University’s first rector, John J. Keane, personally prepared the plans for Caldwell Hall (then-known as the Divinity Building) after rejecting all of the proposals that had previously been submitted as part of a design competition (Avery 81). As an aside, one of the competitors was fellow Baltimore architect George A. Frederick (1842–1924), who Avery variously describes as Baldwin’s “arch-rival” and “nemesis” (Avery vii).

In his history of Keane’s rectorship (1887–1896), Patrick H. Ahern credits Baldwin with putting Keane’s plans in “working shape” (Ahern 34). Letters from Baldwin to Keane reveal Baldwin’s role in introducing a number of pragmatic measures—perhaps the most notable of which was the decision to use “Georgetown gneiss rock, with Ohio sandstone trimmings” instead of brick (Ahern 34). In a letter dated September 5, 1887, Baldwin at first politely acquiesces to Keane’s request to execute the building in brick but then goes on to

“strongly recommend the substitution of stone in place of brick, for the reason that brick, in a few years, will become rusty and shabby, rendering painting almost a necessity which then becomes a mortgage in the shape of renewal every 5 to 10 years—whilst stone is rather improved by age, as time and weather combine to add color and picturesqueness to its already most substantial and enduring character. The extra cost of stone would be about 3% on the cost of the building, amounting to not much more than one painting of the brick walls” (Baldwin 5–6).

In short, Facilities can thank Baldwin for sparing them the trouble of having to paint the exterior of Caldwell for the last 130 years!

Architectural drawing of the Divinity Building (a/k/a Caldwell Hall) by Baldwin. Not everyone was a fan of the design; an early resident once denigrated it as “an asylum with a brewery attachment” (Nuesse 165). From the University Photograph Collection, Box 33, Folder 2.
This brings me to one of Baldwin’s greatest strengths as an architect, which unfortunately also seems to be the other main reason for his relative obscurity today. Although I’ve focused on his work for the B&O and CatholicU, the truth is that “he worked on a large number of projects for a wide-ranging clientele—secular and ecclesiastical, public and private, commercial and social” (Avery vii). In other words, Baldwin was extremely versatile—even chameleon-like. No doubt, his versatility came at the expense of developing a signature style; it’s not really feasible to point to a Baldwin the way you could a Van Gogh; but does that constitute an artistic failure on Baldwin’s part? As I’ve learned more about Baldwin in the last few weeks, I’ve been impressed by the way he somehow shaped the regional landscape without leaving his fingerprints all over it. He seems to be everywhere and nowhere. In Lewis’s estimation, Baldwin belonged to the class of humble Victorian architects who simply “felt their task was to serve their clients ably and responsibly, to translate their programmatic requirements into durable, efficient, and fashionable designs, and to guard their clients’ money zealously” (Lewis xv). Perhaps nothing better supports this characterization than the aforementioned September 5, 1887 letter to Keane, which Baldwin signed “Your Obedient Servant.”

About the Author

As one of a select few Graduate Library Pre-professionals (GLPs) at The Catholic University of America (CatholicU), Amanda combines full-time, salaried work at The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives with part-time graduate study in CatholicU's Department of Library and Information Science (LIS). She earned her bachelor's degree in English from St. Mary's College of Maryland in 2016. A lifelong resident of Maryland, she currently lives near Sykesville's historic downtown with her pet corgi.



Special thanks to Anna Kresmer, MSLIS—Archivist at the Hays T. Watkins Research Library of the B&O Railroad Museum—for helping me obtain many of the photographs included in this piece.



Ahern, Patrick H. The Catholic University of America — 1887–1896 (The Rectorship of John J. Keane). Washington, D.C.: The Catholic University of America Press, 1949.

Avery, Carlos P. E. Francis Baldwin, Architect: The B&O, Baltimore, and Beyond. Baltimore Architecture Foundation, 2003.

Baldwin, E. Francis. Letter to Catholic University Rector John J. Keane. 5 September 1887. Box 1, Folder 7. Office of the President/Rector. The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, Washington D.C.

Harwood, Herbert H., Jr. Foreword. E. Francis Baldwin, Architect: The B&O, Baltimore, and Beyond, by Carlos P. Avery, Baltimore Architecture Foundation, 2003, pp. xi–xiv.

Lewis, Michael J. Introduction. E. Francis Baldwin, Architect: The B&O, Baltimore, and Beyond, by Carlos P. Avery, Baltimore Architecture Foundation, 2003, pp. xv–xvii.

Lord, Charles K. Letters to Catholic University Rector John J. Keane. 29 November 1889 and 13 January 1890. Box 1, Folder 2. Office of the President/Rector. The American Catholic History Research Center and University Archives, Washington D.C.

Malesky, Robert P. The Catholic University of America. Arcadia, 2010.

Nuesse, C. Joseph. The Catholic University of America: A Centennial History. CUA Press, 1990.



Wednesday, November 4, 2020


Meet the Tender of Locomotives

by John Geist

Herman “Obie” Oberender was born in Baltimore in March 1895 to German immigrant parents Anna Strauber and Richard Oberender. The family lived on Port Street in East Baltimore, some blocks east of Johns Hopkins Hospital. The 1910 US census reports him living or working at a home for boys as an errand boy in the electric shop.

World War I found him as a Navy Fireman on the USS Delaware, a battleship that traveled to England but never saw active combat during the war. After his honorable discharge in November 1918, joining the ranks of B&O Railroad employees set Obie on a lifetime path. Following a start as a machinist’s helper at the B&O Riverside Yards in South Baltimore in 1922, Railroad personnel records show a promotion to machinist.

Now, the B&O Railroad, rather unique among its contemporaries, had saved an extensive and extraordinarily valuable collection of old locomotives, cars and other railroad equipment tracing back to the American Civil War, as well as reproductions from much earlier days. The Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and the St. Louis Exposition in 1904 included early exhibitions of these historic pieces. Becoming the centerpiece at the upcoming 100th anniversary of the founding of the B&O in 1927 was their next destination.

Back to Obie. A double page spread in the Baltimore Sun Metrogravure Magazine on June 28, 1953 reported extensively about his unique career. No longer just a machinist, in 1925

“he was assigned to the job of helping whip them (the old locomotives) into shape for the “Fair of the Iron Horse” in 1927, and was also told at the time to learn to run all of them”.

That opportunity catapulted Herman Oberender into a demanding but exciting role with full responsibility for overseeing and operating all the antique engines for the remainder of his railroad career. He was still a machinist at Riverside Yards, but repeated lengthy transfers to the Public Relations Department for his locomotive duties now defined Obie’s life.

Perhaps because of the phenomenal success of its 100th birthday extravaganza, the 1927 Fair of the Iron Horse, the B&O started receiving requests to loan its antique equipment to movie companies. This meant Obie was often on the road to movie or other events at widely separated locations across the U.S. In 1937, that meant taking the replica of the 1837 engine No. 13, Lafayette, to Chino, CA for the filming of Paramount Pictures’ “Wells Fargo.” Later film trips included “Stand Up and Fight” (1939), again to California, “Rock Island Trail” (1950), “The Great Locomotive Chase” (1956) with the William Mason to Georgia and North Carolina (1956); and “Raintree Country” (1957) with the William Mason, to Kentucky. Non-movie events included the Chicago World’s Fair – A Century of Progress (1933), Chicago Railroad Fair (1948), Western Maryland Railway’s “Lincoln Goes to Gettysburg” with the Thatcher Perkins (1952), and appearance on television episodes of “Omnibus,” the “Today Show,” and “The Gray Ghost” with the William Mason. On July 23, 1954, NBC produced the first color telecast from Baltimore featuring Obie at the throttle of the Tom Thumb from the B&O’s Mt. Winan’s yard. The pinnacle of his television appearances undoubtedly was the March 30, 1958 nation-wide telecast of a segment of NBC’s “Wide, Wide World”. This 90-minute tribute to American railroading, “Flagstop at Malta Bend,” provided Obie, a man of extraordinary self-confidence and not bashful about self-promotion, with the opportunity to be featured in the cab of the William Mason for live shots from Baltimore and conversation with then nationally known TV personality Dave Garroway, moderator of the documentary.

Over many years, the B&O’s beautiful and unique collection had been gathered and preserved in the B&O‘s old south Baltimore roundhouse at Bailey’s. The 1953 Baltimore Sun Metrogravure Magazine article quoted above later described a big move from Bailey’s with these words:

“One of the neatest pieces of engineering in a decade, they’re saying down around Bailey’s Roundhouse, has been the persuading of Herman Oberender to let the movers take his babies away without first wrapping them carefully in cotton wool. Oberender’ s babies are a dozen or so locomotives, freight cars, and passenger cars which, with hundreds of smaller pieces of railroad equipment, have just been transferred from Bailey’s Roundhouse to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad’s new transportation museum in the roundhouse at Mount Clare Station.”

With this move, “Obie” left his machining duties at Riverside and joined the brand-new Museum staff.

Obie was soon off to his next movie or television gig after first settling into his museum office with business cards naming him as full-time Custodian of his “babies”.  From then until the Museum was later temporarily closed in June 1958, Obie was the “tender of the locomotives”. He rounded out his B&O career in 1960 and retired to his home in Middle River.

John Geist, Archives Volunteer, October 2020


Family records

Baltimore Sun, Pictorial Review, October 12, 1952

Baltimore Sun Metrogravure Magazine, June 28, 1953

B&O Railroad Magazine, September 1954

NBC, script for “Wide Wide World” program, March 30, 1958

Baltimore Sun, July 10, 1960


Image Citation

 B&O Railroad Magazine, June 1955