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George E. Davis


Name: George Edward Davis
Birth: June 16, 1905, Orange, NJ
Death: July 24, 2001, NJ
Residence(s): Summit, NJ; Springfield, NJ
Spouse: Emilie Klem
Parents: George W. Davis & Annie M. Fleischmann
Date of Hire: 1925
End of Employment: May 31, 1972, retired
Positions Held: Brakeman, Conductor, Engineer, Master Mechanic,
Section Foreman, Superintendent

Biography of
George E. Davis

George E. Davis
Collection of Corinne Clark

George Davis in many ways was the Rahway Valley Railroad. He was born on June 16, 1905 in Orange, NJ to George W. and Annie (nee Fleischmann) Davis, one of seven siblings. Not long after his birth the family moved to Summit, NJ where in his teens Davis began working for the Stephen’s Brothers Coal & Lumber Yard.

Stephen’s was a customer of the Rahway Valley Railroad which had a siding on the shortline. In all likelihood it was here, at the lumberyard, where Davis first became interested in working for the rail line. The railroad first hired him in 1925 as a brakeman, a position he held for a few years.

At the time of Davis’ hire, Roger A. Clark was President and General Manager of the Rahway Valley Railroad. Clark was hired by the railroad in 1919 as an auditor in an attempt to “straighten out the railroad’s books.” Up until then, the railroad had been operated at a loss from year to year. Clark was made president of the line in 1922 and was slowly, but surely, turning the railroad into a money maker. George Clark was later quoted as saying about those days as, “We didn’t know from day to day if we were going to make it. We didn’t even have the money to meet our payroll when we started.” (“New Jersey’s Streak ‘o Rust,” TRAINS Magazine, by John T. Cunningham, October 1950)

Davis stuck with the Clarks and their struggling railroad to see it become a moneymaker by the 1930’s. During that time Davis worked just about every job the railroad had to offer, conductor, engineer, including a working member of the section gang, but his real love was working on the locomotives in the engine shed. When long time Master Mechanic Carl Nees retired in 1948, Davis was promoted to Nees’ old position by railroad President & General Manager, George A. Clark.

George Davis' 1099 Form from 1942.
Collection of Patty Clark Gilbride.

Not long after taking the position of Master Mechanic it was announced that the Rahway Valley Railroad would be switching to diesel power. George Clark made Davis personally in charge of the new diesel and sent him to the manufacturing plant of General Electric in Erie, Pennsylvania to learn the ins and outs of the railroad’s new locomotive.

Davis was later quoted as saying, “. . . The Rahway Valley uses diesel-electric engines. When I started railroading all we had were steam engines, and that was what I learned to railroad with. But the new engines are a lot more complicated, than steam was, especially the electrical end of things. Naturally there were a lot of things I didn’t know about the electric part of a diesel engine and there is a lot I still don’t know . . .” (George Davis’s 1972 Retirement Speech, Collection of Patty Clark Gilbride).

The new diesel, #16, arrived on January 29, 1951 and was immediately placed under the supervision of George Davis. In the first weeks after the diesel’s arrival the railroad “. . . did not put [the diesel] in service right away as [George Clark] and George Davis . . . wanted to play with it and learn its idiosyncrasies around Kenilworth before putting it on the road” (“First Diesel” by Bob Hoeft).

Apparently by that March the diesel was out and about on the railroad and George Clark was none-to-happy about its performance holding Davis directly responsible, as the official “care taker” of the diesel. “I am holding you entirely responsible for this diesel and I want you to tell me just exactly why it is not giving us the anticipated efficiency. I want you to ride this diesel with the understanding that your word is law and I demand and insist any and all handling, maintenance, and operating evils which exist . . .” (Letter from George A. Clark to George Davis, March 31, 1951).

Davis opens up #16 for some repair work.
Collection of Patty Clark Gilbride.

George Davis eases #17 out of the shops.
Collection of Frank Reilly.


Davis immediately went to work on the problems and by that October, George Clark praised Davis as to giving the Rahway Valley Railroad “. . . the cleanest and best maintained diesel locomotive in this territory. Keep up the good work as we are proud of this accomplishment for which you alone are responsible” (Letter from George A. Clark to George Davis, October 29, 1951).

Collection of Corinne Clark

n essence, Davis was George Clark’s “right-hand man” being Clark’s eyes and ears out on the railroad as Clark was relegated to his office on the second floor of the Kenilworth Station most of the time. This relationship eventually garnered Davis the title of “Superintendent of the Rahway Valley Railroad.”

As superintendent, Davis was literally in charge of every last railroad tie on the Rahway Valley Railroad. When he wasn’t tinkering with the diesels in the engine shed, he was out supervising and working with the section gang, or at the scene of a derailment. He was also known to have filled in as engineer on occasion.

George Davis had been a fixture on the Rahway Valley Railroad for forty-seven years.  He retired on May 31, 1972, but Davis just couldn’t stay away from the railroad. Due to restrictions of the Railroad Retirement Board and being a former employee, Davis was not allowed to work “directly” for the railroad after his retirement. He formed his own company called “G&E” which stood for George and Emilie (his wife) so that he would be able to work for the railroad on an as needed basis, which he continued to do so for a few more years.

After his son-in-law, railroad President & General Manager Bob Clark died in 1975, another railroad man by the name of Bernard J. Bernie Cahill came to manage the Rahway Valley Railroad at the same time that Davis was working as an outside contractor.  Davis was an old fashioned railroad man and Cahill was of the modern age in the way things should be done.  Consequently they didn’t “get along.” Davis knew it was time to make his retirement permanent and stopped working as an outside contractor for the railroad not long after Cahill came upon the scene.  For a short while he painted the railroads bridges under the G&E name.  Soon his own health became a factor and he was no longer able to climb ladders to get up on the bridges.

Davis lived out the remainder of his years in retirement before passing away on July 24, 2001, at the ripe old age of ninety-six.  George Davis will always be known as “The Rahway Valley Man.” 


George gives his retirement speech.
Collection of Corinne Clark.

Davis' Retirement Speech - Page 1
Collection of Patty Clark Gilbride.

Davis' Retirement Speech - Page 2
Collection of Patty Clark Gilbride.

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