A "Magnum Opus" from Classic Trains

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A "Magnum Opus" from Classic Trains

Postby 2nd trick op » Sun Jun 02, 2013 6:07 pm

I belong to what I'm tempted to view as both the most favored and the most cursed generation of rail buffs; born in Central Pennsylvania in 1949, I witnessed some of the last strongholds of steam operation, but at an age where I culd not fully understand or appreciate what was happening. One Sunday in October of 1953, an indulgent uncle took me trackside to watch what was to be the last steam operation on PRR's Wilkes-Barre Branch, but more than half a century was to pass before I learned both the exact date and road number of the M-1 4-8-2 which powered it. And though the same gentleman provided me with a subscription to Trains as a seventh-birthday present, a few more years were to pass before I learned enough to persuade my famiy to allow me to save the back issues.

But at any rate, those good people in Waukesha, late of 1027 North Seventh in downtown Milwauke, have compled a pricey ($13) special issue of the senior-railfan-oriented Classic Trains featuring a remix, with some new photos and insights, of many of the finest articles from that era -- PRR's Altoona-Pittsburgh main line, ACL's passenger-oriented and streamliner-rich double-track main, and plenty of coverage of N&W during steam's last stand in Roanoke. It's David Morgan and Philip Hastings at their best, with a fine supporting cast.

Those first years turned ou to be enough to ignite a lifelong interest without turning me into too much of a "foamer". By the time I was priveleged to spend my college years, and a couple as a working adult, only about 25 miles north of the PRR Middle Division at Penn State, the steam was gone, but a triple-track main, still operated with manned interlockings, was still around. And a full-time job provided the opportuntiy to extend my knowledge to the former B&O around Cumberland, also still operated with lineside towers.

By 1985, CTC and bi-directonally-signalled double track had taken a lot pf the fun out of the Middle Divy, but that year I made a visit to one of the B&O's last towers, CF at Confluence/Ursinna. Little was I to know that the following summer, a derailment would knock the tower down, killing the man who was my host that morning (and whose name I hope to learn for memorialization as likely the last of his trade to die at his post).

Now approaching retirement, I divide my time between a "crash pad" (I commute weekly to work) a few yards away from NS's Reading Line, and my home back upstate in the community were it all began, It's gratifying to see the industry that looked so sick in those first years after I finished my education come back, and things like scnnners and ATCS monitoring provide almost as much insight as in the days when a tower or agency provoded an opputunity to see more "from the inside" in just about any community.

I'm sure that two generations from now, the present crop of younger rallfans will be comapring notes on what went on during their formative years, but I can't resist the old admnition rthat "You guys don't know what you missed".

Just as it was passed down to me some fifty-plus years ago. :-)
What a revoltin' development this is! (William Bendix)
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Re: A "Magnum Opus" from Classic Trains

Postby doepack » Thu Jun 06, 2013 2:17 am

2nd trick op wrote:I'm sure that two generations from now, the present crop of younger rallfans will be comapring notes on what went on during their formative years, but I can't resist the old admnition rthat "You guys don't know what you missed".

Just as it was passed down to me some fifty-plus years ago. :-)



As a Chicago area resident, believe me, there are plenty of reminders of what I've missed, especially in the form of abandoned ROW's, closed towers, and mergers/takeovers that have resulted in consolidations. But I think today's younger railfans are better equipped to document and preserve via photography and video more of today's happenings than they would have been even 20 years ago. I only hope that enough of them can communicate their love for this hobby in a way that will allow them to "pass the torch" to the next generation when the time comes...
--Dorian--
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Re: A "Magnum Opus" from Classic Trains

Postby mmi16 » Tue Feb 18, 2014 6:00 pm

2nd trick op wrote:By 1985, CTC and bi-directonally-signalled double track had taken a lot pf the fun out of the Middle Divy, but that year I made a visit to one of the B&O's last towers, CF at Confluence/Ursinna. Little was I to know that the following summer, a derailment would knock the tower down, killing the man who was my host that morning (and whose name I hope to learn for memorialization as likely the last of his trade to die at his post).


The Operator that was killed in the derailment at Confluence had the last name of Leonberger. I had the opportunity to work with his son. Unfortunately I never got his fathers first name.
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An Inquiry Resolved

Postby 2nd trick op » Sun Jul 27, 2014 5:38 pm

A sincere thanks for pointing us in the right direction: it didn't take too much more effort to identify the "op" as Robert Foley Leonberger (1930-1987), and to locate his grave in the Odd Fellows Cemetery in Rockwood, where he made his home.

Mr. Leonberger seems destined to go down in history as the last of his profession to lose his life while on duty, and in the manner most frightening to those of us who understood the demands of the job. It remains my hope that his status can be memorialized in a suitable fashion.
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