George Leilich, 76, 'a railroader's railroader'

October 16, 1993|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Staff Writer

George M. Leilich, a retired Western Maryland Railway official, died Tuesday of complications after surgery at Sinai Hospital. The Westminster resident was 76.

"He was a railroader's railroader," recalled Charles L. Amos, retired assistant superintendent of the Western Maryland's Baltimore division. "He ran a tight ship and he had the respect of all the employees and never held a grudge and got stuff out of people they didn't think they were capable of. He was also highly respected throughout the railroad industry as an operating man," Mr. Amos said.

W. Arthur Grotz was president of the carrier from 1952 until his retirement in 1969. He said Mr. Leilich "was a very stimulating railroader who loved railroading completely. He and I converted the railroad from steam to diesel and, because of George's help, that was completed by 1954."

"He knew most of the railroad's employees by first name," recalled his son, Robert Leilich of Springfield, Va.

"He was loved for his compassion and thoughtfulness of others -- even when a steward serving dinner in a business car accidentally dumped a full bowl of buttered peas into his lap when the train lurched."

A Baltimore native, Mr. Leilich grew up in Northwest Baltimore near Liberty Heights Avenue.

He was a 1933 graduate of the Polytechnic Institute, and in 1936 he received a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering from Purdue University.

He was awarded a fellowship and used it to study at Yale Univer

sity, where he earned a certificate in transportation economics in 1938.

He began his railroading career that year an engine wiper with the Lehigh Valley Railroad at the carrier's shops in Sayre, Pa. He then became a trainmaster in Jersey City, N.J., and in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and later was made a division superintendent. In 1953, when he left the carrier, he was superintendent of the Buffalo division.

He joined the Western Maryland in 1953 as general superintendent. At 36, he was one of the youngest ever in railroading to hold that position, according to a published report at the time.

In 1960, he was named vice president of operations and in 1969 was elected to the board of directors. In 1973, he was appointed vice president and assistant to the president of the carrier.

From 1975 to 1977, on loan from the Chessie System -- today known as the CSX -- he was director of the freight car utilization project of the Association of American Railroads. In 1978, he directed the effort to fully merge the Western Maryland into the other Chessie railroads. He retired in 1979.

In spite of having presided over the end of the steam era on the Western Maryland, he enjoyed climbing into the cab of an active steamer and taking the throttle. In the 1970s, he once helped wheel a freight between Hagerstown and Cumberland behind a restored NickelPlateRailroad steamer that was owned by a friend.

He was active in the Maryland Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society and donated many railroad artifacts to its collection. He also enjoyed making movies of trains and once sat in a chair precariously perched atop a train that was crossing Guatemala.

He served on the board of the National Safety Council and was a director of the Engineering Society of Baltimore and a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Railroad Systems Management Association. He had been president of the Yale University Transportation Alumni Group.

He also was active in the Irem Temple Shrine and the Central Presbyterian Church in Towson.

Services were set for 10 a.m. today at Central Presbyterian Church, 7308 York Road, Towson. Interment will be in Loudon Park Cemetery.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife, the former Doris Hansell, whom he married in 1938; and another son, Kenneth Leilich of Myrtle Beach, S.C.

The family suggested memorial contributions to Central Presbyterian Church.

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