I have just received an email reporting the death of P.E. Gamber, my Uncle Paul. Some of my memories of railroading with him appear earlier on this blog. Look here, here, here, here, and here. While his death was not unexpected, he was a nonagenarian, I find myself nearly wordless to explain his importance in my life. It’s all wrapped up with the powerful metaphor that the Pennsylvania Railroad was for me as I was growing up. To me, Uncle Paul’s profession was a high calling. He was “playing” with real trains, unlike me playing with the models in my basement. He gave me a way to absorb knowledge about the railroad and experience its operations.
Here’s a quick montage of memories. Seeing the teletype in the crew room reporting the track arrival number of approaching trains. Learning the purpose of the protection sleeper for westbound trains parked on a short siding at the east end of the station in Harrisburg. Standing in the the vestibule of a Norfolk and Western sleeper as he took train orders hooped up by the operator at Lemo tower (the former J tower). Riding in the cab of EP22 5707 in the early hours of a winter morning between Hagerstown and Chambersburg on Train 638. Pulling the cord in the vestibule of “The Juniata” at Harrisburg, eastbound to Philadelphia, to signal the motorman on the GG1 to start our train. Getting a tour of a Chesapeake and Ohio sleeper with it’s roomettes placed over the trucks and the bedrooms in the middle of the car. Riding in the tail of “Mountain View” on the eastbound Broadway Limited while it was still an all-Pullman train. The view of the PRR’s real estate, track structures, stations, electrical plants, flying junctions, towers and interlockings was truly breathtaking. So much of that world is gone. And now so is an uncle who wrote indelible experiences of that history into my life. Thank you dear Uncle.