Workin' on the railroad magazine Glossy quarterly is a labor of love

CARROLL COUNTY VOLUNTEERS

October 31, 1993|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

David L. Eckman is a former railroader with an interest in writing. Richard D. Hawkins is a former printer with an interest in railroads.

Together, as volunteers, they edit the Blue Mountain Express, the quarterly glossy magazine of the 1,050-member Western Maryland Railway Historical Society Inc. of Union Bridge.

The two have co-edited the magazine since the 1991-1992 winter issue.

"They're a couple of very dedicated fellows," said Stanley Johnson, chairman of the society's board of directors. "Without people like that, an organization such as ours couldn't exist."

Mr. Johnson said that the society has members worldwide to whom the magazine provides common ground. "That's what holds the organization together," he said.

Mr. Eckman, who majored in history at Western Maryland College, was a safety supervisor for the Western Maryland Railway for 15 years before he went to work for the Chessie System and Conrail. He has written articles for several railroad and safety magazines, and he writes much of the Blue Mountain Express.

Because Mr. Eckman knew people who used to work for the railway, he is able to write about not only its equipment, but also its characters -- such as the late Jim Henry of Hagerstown, who had been a conductor in 1913 when Civil War veterans rode Western Maryland trains to a 50th anniversary commemoration of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Mr. Eckman said writing about personalities is essential in a magazine that must appeal to all society members, whose interests include such diverse topics as locomotives, historic buildings and the study of coal mining.

He said trains attract people for many reasons.

"Men are just fascinated with the noise and the power," he said.

Railroads also attract people who love to travel, those who enjoy nostalgia and those who remember the days when the railroad was the center of the community, delivering everything from milk to gravestones, Mr. Eckman said.

He has an extensive collection of Western Maryland Railway memorabilia, and once spent a week's vacation salvaging a warehouse-full of the company's old papers that were about to be thrown away.

Mr. Hawkins, who taught printing at a New York state vocational school for 23 years, does most of the magazine's layout work.

He also has a long-standing love of trains. He collects brass HO gauge model trains. His father worked for the Erie Railroad for 45 years.

Both editors' wives are associate editors. Phyllis Ibach Hawkins writes articles for the magazine and helps select photos. Mary Ellen Eckman proofreads the copy.

The Eckmans and Mrs. Hawkins attended Western Maryland College together and have been friends for many years.

Sometimes the magazine work is complicated by the fact that the co-editors live far apart -- the Hawkinses in Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., in the south-central part of the state, and the tTC Eckmans in Yardley, Pa., north of Philadelphia. The couples often meet in Lancaster County, Pa., to confer.

The Blue Mountain Express, named for one of the Western Maryland Railway's old trains, was formerly edited by Jerry Frank Miller of York, Pa. Mr. Eckman said that Mr. Miller transformed what had been a newsletter into a magazine.

"It took four of us to replace him," Mr. Eckman said.

He said the best part of the volunteer job has been that "we've made a lot of new friends all over the world."

There are people in England and in Australia whose hobby is to create models of the Western Maryland Railway, he said.

Society membership costs $20 a year, or $25 outside the United States.

For information, write to Richard Neikirk, membership secretary, 4605 Bailey Drive, Wilmington, Del. 19808.

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