In Memoriam

Chard Walker, 1922-2007

Chard L. Walker, 85, who worked for 16 years at the Santa Fe train order station at Summit, California, in Cajon Pass, died September 28, 2007, at his home in Hesperia, California. After retiring in 1983, he wrote two books about Cajon Pass. His photographs often appeared in Trains, which featured him in his own words in its January and February 2004 issues.

A fan, Walker was friendly with those who came to watch and photograph trains in the area. Richard Steinheimer, Don Sims, and Robert Hale were among the hundreds who stopped to say hello and get an update on when the next train was coming. Whenever he could, Walker was happy to oblige.

Walker hired out on the Santa Fe June 20, 1947. He qualified as a train-order operator with a seniority date of September 5, 1947. He was a full-time relief operator at Summit from 1951 until the position was terminated February 12, 1967. He lived in the Descanso, a former Los Angeles Railway streetcar last used as a funeral car, at first without lighting and heat generated only by a wood stove, for eight years until he married in 1955. At its peak, Summit consisted of a post office, a few railway maintenance buildings, and company homes, one of which Walker occupied with his wife Margaret and his two daughters, Judy and Joy.

After leaving Summit, he moved to a night job in the San Bernardino dispatcher’s office and a tower job at the Barstow classification yard. Walker retired June 9, 1983.

His books are Cajon, a Pictorial Album (1990) and Chard Walker’s Cajon, Rail Passage to the Pacific (1985).

Effective February 25, 2008, BNSF put into service a control point at milepost 60.2 in Cajon Pass named for Walker.

Gil Reid: January 15, 1918-January 2, 2007
By Chris Burger, January 10, 2007

The catalyst for Gil Reid’s and my friendship was our shared love of railroading. We were both “hooked” at an early age and were fortunate to be able–in different ways, to make it our life’s work.

Gil was born in St. Louis, lived for a while in the New York City area–along the New Haven Railroad and in Richmond, Indiana, along his beloved Pennsylvania railroad. He was a World War II Purple Heart recipient, mentioned in Ernie Pyle’s book Brave Men; tried his hand at a couple of other lines of work, but ultimately settled in to make a living at what he loved best–railroad artwork. Freight Trains, Passenger Trains, Steam locomotives, Diesels, Electrics, Interurbans, Trolleys, Depots, Signals, Railroaders; you name it, he did it. I suppose he’s best known for his water color work but he’s also worked with acrylics and has a wonderful body of pen and ink work–much of it to accompany Trains and Model Railroader articles for thirty or so years.

I suppose Gil knew how good he was but you’d never know it, being with him. He did enjoy the reaction he got to his work and the knowledge that he was able to trigger fond memories–and sometimes, tears; and educate folks with it. I was able to share his artwork through our Christmas cards and my wife and I marveled at the reaction. The best and most rewarding was from friends and relatives with no railroad interest or background.

Gil had his share of honors and awards over the years. Among them was the Senior Achievement award from the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, a Lifetime Achievement Award from The PRR Historical Society and the Warren Mott Award from the National Railroad Museum, all for his work promoting the interest in and appreciation of railroading.

My first piece of railroad artwork was Gil’s “Noonday Water Stop” print, a Christmas present when I was fifteen or so years old. I didn’t know at the time it was the picture that launched Gil’s career. It hangs today in our home. In 1967 my wife and I moved to Madison, Wisconsin, to work for the Chicago & North Western. In 1968, I met Gil for the first time at an art show there and purchased my first piece of his original work–sort of an abstract piece, silhouetting a pair of steam locomotives cresting a grade with intermixed smoke and clouds in wild colors. It wasn’t until we moved to the Milwaukee area in 1977 however, that we met again and began the friendship artist / patron relationship that lasted nearly thirty years. Gil’s studio in Elm Grove wasn’t far from my office in Butler. I loved to wander over there at lunch time and look over his shoulder as various pieces of artwork took shape. Gil enjoyed cab rides, business car and hi-rail trips, getting out with our cameras–his seldom worked–and the relationships he developed with other folks on the railroad.

I’ve always thought that Gil’s artwork reflects his personality, positive, generous, outgoing and enthusiastic. No one loved railroading more than he did. Many of us marveled at how positive he remained despite health problems in later years and how he’d perk up at any mention of trains or railroading.

I feel like there were distinct phases to Gil’s railroad art career. When he was overseas in the Army, he created sketches of railroading there–which he hoped–in vain as it turned out, would help him transfer to a Railway Operating Unit. Then there was his work for Kalmbach. And the artwork for his print business. And his Amtrak calendar artwork. And finally, all the commission pieces he turned out for clients all over the US and a few overseas. Quite a body of work!

One of Gil’s heroes was Grif Teller who became famous doing calendar and other artwork for the Pennsylvania Railroad. I think Gil had figured out that he did more Amtrak calendars than Grif did Pennsy’s though and got a kick out of that. Gil and Howard Fogg went to art school in Chicago together and were good friends and correspondents for years until Fogg died. Gil loved to tell of the trips the two of them took around Chicago in the 1940’s, chasing trains. Gil and railroad artist Russ Porter were good friends too, as were Gil and Ted Rose. Ted considered Gil to be a mentor and an inspiration. Gil considered Ted to be THE all time best.

Another hero was Pennsylvania Railroad locomotive engineer, Dick Karnes. Dick ran between Richmond, Indiana, and Indianapolis and took Gil along on a trip in the cab of his engine–K-4 No. 5495. Gil’s friends know that for years and years, Gil’s Wisconsin license plate no. was “K4 5495” and have heard Gil live and re-live that trip. I had similar experiences as a young boy with New Haven engineer, Otis Sweet and when I asked Gil to do a painting of that engine and train with Sweet at the throttle, he knew exactly how I felt and created an inspired painting–and name for the piece; “Sweet Memories.”

Gil Reid ranks among the all time great railroad artists. His many friends, patrons, admirers and–I dare say, the railroad world, are all the better for his example, talent, and the body of work he left us.

Don Wood

Don Wood, 74, a New Jersey photograher who concentrated 60 percent of his efforts on the Pennsylvania Railroad, died June 30, 2006, after a short illness at his home in Matawan. He received the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society’s Fred R. and Jane A. Stindt Photography Award for lifetme achievement in 2002. Two of Wood’s favorite photographs are in the Center’s traveling exhibitions.

Wood worked at Western Electric and Bells Labs for 35 years, retiring December 31, 1986, and operated a photo and video business from his home. He is remembered for his photos of steam locomotives and early diesels on the Pennsylvania, Jersey Central, Baltimore & Ohio, Nickel Plate, Canadian National, and Canadian Pacific railroads.Vintage Rails featured his B&O work in May/June 1998. He holds the record for mostTrains magazine cover photos by a single contributor (28). He authored I Remember Pennsy (1973) and Locomotives in My Life (1974). The Pennsylvania Railroad Historical & Technical Society honored Wood at its annual convention in May 2002.

Bruce Meyer: 1935-2006

Bruce Meyer, an electric engineer who enjoyed photographing steam locomotives, died June 29, 2006. He graduated from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana in 1959, and after a short time with the Illinois Central Railroad’s signal department, worked for the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors until retiring April 1, 1999. He led the development of advanced electronic traction control for modern diesel-electric locomotives built by EMD.

Meyer, born in Peoria, took his first railroad photo about 1953, starting in earnest in 1956. His dramatic record of steam in the Midwest and East and steam fan trips thereafter is told in Classic Trains (Spring 2003). His photographs of steam trains in central Illinois were featured in the exhibit “Prairie Thunder-80 years of Midwestern Railroad Photography” at the McLean County Museum of History in Bloomington, Illinois, from September 2005 through February 2006.

Donations in his memory may be made to the American Cancer Society, 7234 W. Ogden Ave., Suite 3S, Riverside, IL 60546-2207. He is survived by his wife, Bonnie, and son, Jeff.

Mike Abalos: Nov. 19, 1959-June 1, 2006
Mike Abalos passed due to complications of a cerebral hemorrhage he suffered at 06:30 hrs Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2005, while leaving work to go to one of his weekly dialysis treatments. Mike had diabetes since 1980 and was also suffering from end stage renal failure at the time of his passing.

Ray Weart, a friend since 1977, wrote:

“Mike had a passion for photographing the passing railroad scene that was infectious; it was one of his true passions in life. Mike was an awesome photographer whose work was published in numerous books and magazines. Mike was also a talented writer, crafting an excellent piece for CTC Board magazine about the MP Hosington Subdivision in Kansas and eastern Colorado “[West to Pueblo,” March 2003]. And, although we poked fun at paying such attention to such rather bland main line, Mike exhibited his usual passion and wonderful creativity, and did an superb job in capturing and preserving the imagery and history of the line before the UP closed and abandoned it. Mike also took a great amount of pride in coaching the next generation of upcoming young photographers like Sayre Kos, showing them how to produce their own excellent images.”

Abalos is survived by his parents Jesus and Cecilia Abalos, his brother Jesse Abalos, sister-in-law Linda Abalos, and nephew Vincent. Mike’s family asked that in lieu off flowers, donations be made to the American Diabetes Association in Mike’s name.

Joe Greenstein

Joe Greenstein, best known for his coverage of northeastern topics including the cover story on the Long Island Rail Road in the February issue of Trains, died on July 2, 2006. He was 65. Since 1996, he had 11 articles in Trains, 7 in CTC Board, and 4 inRailfan and Railroad. His photos are in Center exhibits in New York City and Sacramento.

Greenstein was born in Brooklyn, N.Y., and attended Pratt Institute. His lifelong career was art, and his paintings and painted constructions were shown in Europe and New York City. From the time he was 7 or 8, he loved trains and could draw them in detail from memory. He took one of his first railroad photographs near Roanoke, Virginia, and began a second career as a rail photographer that day.

His family told Trains magazine that Greenstein “continued to be motivated by his art until the last month of his life. After a long and difficult series of treatments, Joe, as always, made his own way, they told us, accepting his situation with the same dignity and sense of privacy as before. His approach to life was philosophical and he often said, ‘You play the cards you’re dealt.'”

Wade J. Stevenson

Wade J. Stevenson, a machinist’s helper in Othello, Washington, who was well known as a regional photographer, died April 12, 2006, in Othello. He worked for the Milwaukee Road from 1946 until the railroad abandoned its Pacific Coast extension in 1980.

Stevenson was born and raised in Walkerton, Indiana, where his father was a section hand for the Baltimore & Ohio. After graduating from high school, he worked for the Santa Fe and Union Pacific before moving to Othello in 1945. He had been interested in photography since his mother gave him a box camera in Walkerton. His photographs have appeared in Trains and Railroad magazines, plus books such asWestern Trains (1965) and Electric Way Across the Mountains (1980).

James H. Whitefield: 1936-2005

James Whitefield, 68, railroad cinematographer and founder and president of Kaw Valley Films and Video, died July 6, 2005. His interest in streetcars, interurbans, and trains began in childhood in Kansas City, Kansas. After teaching school for a number of years, Whitefield began filming trains and historical subjects, eventually writing and filming a series, History of American Railroads, for CBS’s educational division in the 1970s. In 1979 he started Kaw Valley Films in Shawnee, Kansas. His productions, mostly educational films and videos on American history, included a number of railroad titles, including All Aboard: Passenger Trains in America. Many of his other titles included major train sequences. Although his productions were aimed primarily at schools and libraries, his railroad videos were popular with railfans. He did the location photography for the Warner Brothers/Time-Warner 10-hour television miniseries The Wild West in 1992. During his career, Whitefield filmed in all 50 states and Canada and made The Rhine in Europe and a classical music video The Moldau in Czechoslovakia. Many of his titles won awards at film festivals and competitions, and his railroad productions received positive reviews in such diverse publications asBooklist, Billboard, and TRAINS.