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August 2005


New Signs Bring History to Life on the NCR Trail

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

The historical import of the Northern Central Railroad Trail took a giant leap forward late last month with the installation of all-weather interpretive signs at strategic spots along the trail explaining the history of the area. Eight signs were anchored into the ground by members of the NCR/Hereford Volunteers whose dedication to the historical record may now be appreciated by the tens of thousands of trail users annually.

The Northern Central Railroad Trail is a 20-mile linear biking and hiking path that follows the abandoned right-of-way of the old Northern Central Railway between Ashland and the Mason-Dixon line through the pristine valleys of northern Baltimore County, Maryland. It is now owned by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and is a part of the Gunpowder Falls State Park.

I have been a regular user of the trail for many years - both as a biker and a hiker. In fact, for the past several years, I have made it a point to cover the entire portion - in easy segments - as promptly as possible beginning with the first sign of spring. The effort is ongoing by repeating those segments in company with a biking group, or walking the trail with my dog Cody.

Cody, I'm pleased to say, has now covered the entire Maryland portion at least once - in easy segments - and in some places two or three times besides. He takes about two and one-half steps to every one of mine, and he never seems to get tired!

I was no stranger to the rail line, either - when it was still in active service. During my junior and senior years of high school I was a regular user of the commuter train known as the Parkton Local from Monkton to Baltimore to attend class. I also attended the last trip of the Parkton Local when it ended service in June 1959; my father and I were the very last passengers to detrain at Monkton station.

From 1965 to 1969 I arranged group tours by train over that same rail line from Baltimore into Pennsylvania.

So the NCR Trail holds a very special place in my heart, and I was indeed thrilled to see the handsome interpretive signs that tell the story along the way.

The signs - measuring 35 inches in width and 23 inches in height - are identical in size and shape to signs installed last year along the Pennsylvania portion of the trail from the state line to York. The ones in Maryland were purchased from GS Images in Hagerstown, Maryland, which specializes in interpretive signs. According to Marvin Yaker, treasurer for the 62-member NCR/ Hereford Volunteers - which funded half of the effort through donations and the sale of raffle tickets - the signs cost $9,560 for the set of eight. A matching grant from the state of Maryland is "pending," he said, but the entire bill has already been paid. Interesting, the funds from the state (if they're ever received, that is) are supposed to come from the State Highway Administration. What? The trail is not a highway (or is it?). Bureaucracy works in mysterious ways!

Much of the research that went into what to include on the signs came through the diligent efforts of retired school teacher Duvall Sollers, a member of the NCR/Hereford Volunteers and a past president, who coordinated a plethora of historical accounts from books, newspaper records and individual sources. He also assembled numerous old photos to include on the signs along with the text. Each of the eight signs has information indigenous to the community where the sign is placed. The communities - all of which were once directly served by the railroad - are Ashland, Phoenix, Sparks, Monkton, White Hall, Parkton, Bentley Springs and Freeland.

The NCR/Hereford Volunteer Association was chartered in 1995. Its members assist in numerous capacities such as staffing the Nature Center in Sparks, installing and maintaining railroad markers (whistle posts, mileposts, etc.), benches and covered picnic tables, keeping the trail and parking areas clean, and purchasing tools and sundry goodies for use by park personnel. Coincidentally, the trail itself has only one permanent maintenance staff person.

The association meets monthly - except in winter months - the third Tuesday, 7:30 P.M., at Monkton station. For further information write NCR/Hereford Volunteer Association Inc., P.O. Box 581, Monkton, Md. 21111.

For texts from the eight interpretive signs: CLICK HERE


Danny Unger Retires

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

Daniel S. Unger, veteran B&O interlocking tower operator, officially retired last month following open heart surgery. Until November of last year he held the relief position at CSXT's HO Tower, Hancock, West Virginia.

Danny, who turned 58 in June, began his railroading career in June 1969 on the extra list at Martinsburg, West Virginia, where he loaded and unloaded mail on passenger trains. He also performed agency work at Strasburg, Stephens City and Winchester, Virginia, and Green Spring and Hancock, West Virginia, along with duties as a yard clerk at Pearson Yard near Martinsburg.

As a tower operator he worked at Martinsburg, West Cumbo, Miller and Hancock, all in West Virginia. He was a dedicated colleague of mine from the time I joined the ranks at Miller Tower in 1992 and retired at Hancock in 2000.

Born in West Virginia, Danny graduated from Berkeley Springs High School in 1965, attended one year of college, and then worked for a contractor welding ribbon rail before joining the B&O.

Still living in Berkeley Springs, he raises cattle with the help of his two sons.

In addition to his wife Susan and two sons, Danny has one daughter and four grandchildren. In retirement, Danny plans to enjoy more time with his family, and travel.


Union Pacific Adopting 'Heritage Series' Schemes to Six Locomotives

Union Pacific has unveiled the first two in a series of six locomotives having a unique paint scheme honoring its six major component railroads. To be known as the 'Heritage Series,' the two locomotives introduced in Omaha July 30 incorporate the elements of the Missouri Pacific and the Western Pacific. These will be followed in the coming months by locomotives honoring Katy, Chicago & North Western, Southern Pacific, and Denver & Rio Grande. The six locomotives will circulate in service throughout the Union Pacific system, according to a UP press announcement.


Union Pacific Creates 'Director of Historic Projects' Position

Union Pacific now has a director of historic projects. John Bromley, a UP media spokesman for more than 25 years, was named to the newly-created post. He will be responsible for the railroad's archives and will help identify historic opportunities in support of the company's preservation efforts, according to a news report.


BNSF Increases Dividend

Burlington Northern Santa Fe has increased its quarterly dividend from 17 cents per share to 20 cents per share on common stock to be paid October 3 to shareholders of record September 12.


Norfolk Southern Breaks Ground for Intermodal Terminal in Columbus

Norfolk Southern has broken ground for a $65-million intermodal terminal in Columbus, Ohio, near Rickenbacker International Airport. To be in operation next year, the facility will serve warehouses and airfreight within a foreign-trade zone.