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Saturday Speakers at the 2009 PTHS Symposium

Saturday PTHS Speakers

Photos and Story by Carl Morrison.

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Researcher and Author, Theodore Shrady, gave his third informative talk as the first activity this Saturday morning:

What You May Not  Know About George Pullman.

Mr. Shrady is currently working on another book and he gave us a nice preview. 

Accidents and Injuries is the first section of his newest book.  He said this book would be a good reference for 'car tracers.'  Theodore had slides of the January 11, 1953, 35 mph wreck in Washington, DC, Station.  The brakes had failed, but tower operator outside the station warned the station to evacuate and no one died, but there were 87 injuries.  The steam engine drove past the end-of-track stops and into the station, then dropped through the floor into the baggage room.  It was near the time of the inauguration of Ike, so they quickly covered the floor with wood, covering the locomotive, and people arriving for the inauguration did not see the wreck.  It is said that some passengers at the end of the train did not know the engine had entered the station, and they just proceeded to unload and enter the station where they saw the wrecked front of their train.

January, 1952, the 'City of San Francisco", Train # 101 became snowbound at Immigrant Gap at Sierra, NV.  There were 128 passengers and crew.  100 railroad workers were dispatched to try and dig out the train.  Army helicopters dropped food and water.  The only danger was from propane heater fumes.  Most passengers huddled in the diner and lounge.  12 Pullman cars and 2 diners arrived on a makeup train to take passengers to San Francisco and intermediate stops like Sacramento.  The snowed in train was taken in for repairs and inspection and returned to service 4 days later.

Bad Orders, Substitutions and Disruptions is the second section of his book.  He showed a visual of a reconstruction his artist did of a Florida wreck.

Mr. Shrady spoke extensively about one very interesting car owned by Pullman, Ferdinand Magellan.  It was refitted for FDR in 1942 as part of a 6-car fleet for rent by Pullman for hunting and fishing trips for the rich and famous.  Theodore had inside and outside pictures of the car.  It is currently in the Gold Coast Museum in Miami, FL.  FDR had bedroom "C" with special hand holds so he could lift himself out of his wheelchair into a bath tub.  The car was bullet proof steel which made its weight about twice a regular car, 285,000 lb..   It needed special trucks on the car to carry the extra weight.  It was called "Private US Car #1" but only "Pullman" was lettered on the outside.

He also spoke of the "Head and Foot Debate," as to whether the beds should be made up with the head or foot forward.  At first, it was head-forward so that windows opened for ventilation would send cinders to the foot of the bed.  Later when air conditioning was in sleepers, it became feet-first for safety.

John Gruber of the "Center for Railroad Photography" presented:

Impressions of Pullman:  Porters, Advertising and Styling

The Center puts historic photographs on the Internet at, with information they know and ask readers for input of additional information.

He mentioned that the Dining Car Union was different from the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Workers.

Dorne, was an artist for Pullman for national magazines.

Currently on their website are the 2008 Photo Contest Winners.  The 2009 Photo Contest's subject is "Light Impressions."  I have entered photos in the 2009 contest.  The winning photographs from 2008 are now on display at the California State Railroad Museum.


Matt Melzer (left) giving Mr. Gruber a "Candy Dancers" railroad music CD from Kenny Marshall, La Plata, MO.  Matt also presented Mr. Gruber with Depot Inn & Suites items and Railroad Winery wine.

"Long Hard Journey" by Robert West.  Available at

The Symposium Speaker I was looking forward to hearing the most was the multi-talented Robert West.  Dave Mangold had sent me a Press Release about Robert's recent release of the painting, "Long Hard Journey" with President and Michelle Obama on the back of the Georgia 300 private car as they went to Washington, DC.  In the painting various non-violent civil rights activists were standing along the rails such as Ghandi, M. L. King, Pres. Kennedy as well as Robert's son in a US military uniform.  He had just returned from Iraq.  His presentation was called:

The Pullman Porter

I had talked to Robert when he arrived with his many rail paintings.  He was a young man, relative to me, and we discussed an earlier e-mail I had sent him asking if he would be bringing prints of the "Long Hard Journey" and that I would like to purchase one.  He confirmed that he would have prints available on Saturday night.

When Robert was announced as the next speaker, he walked from the back of the room with cap and cane at a slow gate.  When he spoke into the microphone, he spoke with an old man's voice (which surprised me since I had just spoken to him in the back of the room).  He introduced himself as his grandfather, Allen Parrish,  a Pullman porter for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad (CSX) on the train, "The Champion."  Robert continued as his grandfather telling about the life of a Porter.  He mentioned that things were different once you got south of Richmond, VA - The Mason-Dixon Line.  He mentioned how supportive the wives of the Porters were and that they had their own organization, "Wives of the Brotherhood Union" or "Auxiliary."  He said the Champion was so fast that it's nickname was "Ballast Scorcher."  And he said the RR cooks were called, "Lizard Scorchers." 

Porters were the 'main man' in the black community, the most respected.  The hierarchy was Porter, Preacher, Funeral Director, Numbers Man, and Pimp.

After his excellent presentation, he received a standing ovation from the guests.  He walked back to the microphone, took off his hat, and became Robert West.  We remarked what an outstanding presentation it was, and he confided that he had been writing the presentation up until the minute he walked to the podium.  He also mentioned that this was the first time he had given the talk, and that he planned to give it as he visited schools and civic groups.  We assured him it would be a successful venture. 

We then adjourned to the back of the room where he had set up a few of his large paintings - another of his many talents.  He has been a railroad artist for 25 years, self-taught.  He said he would have prints at the next evenings event.

Robert showing how he used neon paint in this Chicago scene and how the black light affected it.   From the CNN interview (linked to my Links page in this report), I learned that  his paintings take 100 to 200 hours each, but the painting above, with fluorescent paint that shows up with black light, and also has Oprah's image in the clouds, took 600 hours to complete!

Robert West in costume for his grandfather's, Allen Parrish, presentation.
Robert West as himself.

Matt Melzer presenting speaker gifts from the Depot Inn & Suites, The West Winery - The Railroad Winery.

Information from Robert West's Business Card

Mainline Memories
  • Technical Illustrations
  • Architectural Delineation
  • Combat Aviation
  • Master Railroad Illustrator

Robert West
Box 87241
College Park, GA  30337
(404) 357-6951

Richard Luckin, spoke next showing his excellent DVD,

"America and the Passenger Train"

followed by a short without words, just music, for use at trade show booths on the


The video was a good history of Passenger Trains (Dave might want a copy for his PTHS archives).

Of the routes outlined in the video, Richard says he tells people that they can "still ride that route on Amtrak."  As I write this report returning to California, I'm riding on the route of "The Chief."

The first dome car was built by Standard Dome and in 1947-48, it toured as the "car of the future."

The California Zephyr, a dome train, had 3 operators for it's trip from Chicago to San Francisco:  Burlington, Rio Grande, and Western Pacific.

The first bi-level was on the Santa Fe - El Capitan.

Automobiles cut into RR passenger service more than airplanes.  Also, the loss of the mail contracts (when they sorted the mail on the train) went to planes and trucks.

The US Congress in 1970 passed the Amtrak bill which took control of passenger equipment and began service May 1, 1971.  Amtrak had 500 stations and served 46 states.

Richard designed the china for the GrandLuxe and showed us the 10-minute loop, with music, that he had been commissioned to film, but the GrandLuxe was sold.  He finished the video on his own and it never was used.

Richard confirmed a rumor I had heard about the purchaser of the GrandLuxe on which I reported for (See:  The purchaser of the GrandLuxe was Phil Anschutz, Denver Millionaire, who also owns the Grand Canyon Railway and many other rail operations.  One rumor is that he will upgrade the train for an LA to Grand Canyon run.

Matt Melzer again presented speaker gifts to Mr. Luckin.

Lunch this day was again "on your own," so this time we decided to go to 115th St. again, but west one block to Cal-Harbor.  I'd say Mike had properly described it as a 'greasy spoon.'  But, it satisfied these railfans knowing that we had a Pullman Town Tour after lunch.

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