Milton W. Brown, railroader worked during Maryland's worst train wreck

May 13, 1994|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,Sun Staff Writer

Milton W. Brown, a fourth-generation railroader who was working on the main line in an Amtrak signal tower when Maryland's worst train wreck occurred in 1987, died Monday of heart failure at the Veterans Medical Center in Baltimore. The Gardenville resident was 61.

Sixteen people were killed and 170 were injured on Jan. 4, 1987, when Amtrak's Boston-bound Colonial Express hit three stalled Conrail diesel locomotives in the eastern Baltimore County community of Chase.

Mr. Brown was stationed at the Bay View tower in East Baltimore that Sunday afternoon when he routed three locomotives north over the main line of the railroad. The locomotives -- without a train -- were headed to the Enola Yard near Harrisburg, Pa.

He was 45 minutes from completing his shift when the Colonial slammed into the locomotives -- a wreck blamed on mistakes by Conrail engineer Ricky L. Gates and brakeman Edward Cromwell. Mr. Gates, who admitted smoking marijuana along with his brakeman before going on duty and violating safety procedures, served a prison term on criminal charges related to the crash.

Mr. Brown grew up in Northeast Baltimore, attended St. Anthony of Padua School and was a 1953 graduate of Calvert Hall College. He served in the Army Medical Corps in Texas from 1953 to 1955, when he was discharged with the rank of corporal.

Mr. Brown -- whose father and grandfather worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad and whose great-grandfather also was a railroader -- began his career with the Pennsy as a towerman in 1965. He subsequently worked for the Penn-Central and Amtrak, from which he retired in 1991 with a medical disability.

Tom Donovan, a retired Amtrak labor relations clerk who had known Mr. Brown for 23 years, said, "I never had a better friend. He was a fine man and loyal to the company.

"In his work as a block [signal tower] operator, which requires a

great deal of concentration, he always made sure that things were done the right way and he never got into any trouble."

Mr. Brown was a member and officeholder in the Brotherhood of Railway and Steamship Clerks Local No. 514 and later Local No. 570, which merged into the Transportation Communications Union. With the TCU, he was vice division chairman of system board No. 86.

He collected railroad memorabilia, including Official Guides, timetables and pictures. He had been active in Scouting and was a member of American Legion Post No. 180 in Rosedale.

He was the first president of the recently formed St. Anthony of Padua School Alumni Association.

He was a member for 55 years of St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church, 4420 Frankford Ave., Baltimore, where a Mass of Christian burial was to be offered at 10 a.m. today.

Other survivors include his mother, Margaret Brown; three sons, Daniel, Gene and Bill Brown; two daughters, Ami Peregoy and Margaret Scales; five grandchildren, three step-grandchildren; and a step-great-grandchild. All are of Baltimore.

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