LaVere Neale, 78, CSX chief dispatcher

January 27, 2000|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

LaVere Neale, a career railroader who retired as chief train dispatcher of CSX Transportation, died Saturday of cancer at his White Marsh home. He was 78.

From his Camden Station office, Mr. Neale directed passenger and freight trains traveling to and from Harpers Ferry, W.Va., to Philadelphia and points in between.

"It was more than just a job to him," said Thomas Swearman of Forest Hill, a colleague at CSX. "He started as a telegrapher and knew everything about the railroad."

Born in Arkport, N.Y., he attended local schools there and worked briefly on a farm until he was summoned to Baltimore by his uncle, Isaac Neale, an employee of the old Baltimore & Ohio Railroad.

His first job was a leverman in the Lee Street tower, an elevated, rectangular-shaped building that sat alongside the tracks near what today is Oriole Park at Camden Yards. In the 1940s, dozens of trains passed that spot. Mr. Neale's job was to throw a set of mechanical levers that set the switches and signals that guided trains in and out of the then-busy station.

"Telephones were used in those days, but there were still parts of the B&O that relied on the telegraph," said Robert W. Boyd, a retired CSX train master who lives in Bel Air. "I trained Neale in telegraphy in the basement of my aunt's house on Edgewood Street. We set up a line connected to batteries."

Once schooled in the dots and dashes of the electromagnetic telegraph key, Mr. Neale was assigned to many jobs on the dispatching side of railroad work, but he never operated a locomotive.

During his 43-year career with the B&O, later the CSX, he ran the trackside towers at Poplar near White Marsh, Bay View in Baltimore, Aikin in Cecil County, Harpers Ferry, W.Va., and in Washington.

In the early 1970s, he was named chief train dispatcher.

When he retired in 1982, the railroad gave him a send-off party in a club car on the platform at Camden Station.

Mr. Neale spent his career on the railroad, except for the World War II years, when he was an Army infantryman in the 104th Division, which was known as the Timberwolves. He was wounded by an exploding shell in the Battle of the Bulge in February 1945. His life was saved by a German medic who ministered to him as he lay bleeding.

A past president of the Perry Hall-Kingsville Kiwanis Club and the Morse Telegraphers Club, he was a member of National Association of Retired and Veteran Railway Employees, the White Marsh Civic Association and the 104th Timberwolves.

In 1948, he married Iva Wright, who survives him.

Services will be held at 10: 30 a.m. Saturday at Camp Chapel United Methodist Church, 5000 E. Joppa Road, Perry Hall.

He also is survived by two daughters, Pamala Estilow of San Francisco and Patricia Minarik of Fallston; a brother, Robert Neale of Tonawanda, N.Y.; a sister, Oral Ames of Hornell, N.Y.; and four grandsons.

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