Joseph Crouse Jr., 83, railroader for 43 years

February 27, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Joseph F. Crouse Jr., a retired railroader whose 43-year career rumbled from the age of steam to his operating Metroliners, died Saturday of a heart attack at his Fullerton home. He was 83.

Born and raised on Francis Street in Northwest Baltimore, Mr. Crouse graduated from city public schools. He was a meat-cutter for Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. when he decided to go to work for the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1941.

"A lot of people who came into the store at 25th and St. Paul streets were railroaders, and I think he got caught up in the lore and romance of it all. He also liked to travel," said his son Richard J. Crouse Sr. of Millers.

Mr. Crouse's career began in the Pennsy's Orangeville freight yards in East Baltimore, where he learned to fire steam yard engines, eventually graduating to road engines and long-distance runs.

"Early in his career, there was a flashback from the firebox which burned him pretty badly, and he used to say that because of it he knew what hell felt like," said the son.

"He had many stories about the backbreaking and dangerous work of coal-firing the boilers to produce the steam that delivered the power required to move more than 20 million tons of steel and freight for hundreds of miles," he said.

Mr. Crouse was promoted to engineer and was assigned to freight service, operating long coal hauls from Enola Yard near Harrisburg, Pa., to Baltimore and freight trains on the old Northern Central Railroad line from Baltimore to York, Pa., and Harrisburg.

During his career, which included Penn Central Railroad, Conrail and Amtrak, Mr. Crouse operated every type of power, from steam to diesels to electric locomotives such as the famous GG-1 electric engines.

In the 1960s, he left freight service and began to work on such famous Pennsy passenger trains as the Broadway Limited, Senator and Congressionals between Washington and New York's Pennsylvania Station.

When the Pennsy introduced its high-speed Metroliner service in 1969, Mr. Crouse was selected to operate them. In doing so, he earned the nickname "Metro Joe" from fellow railroaders.

"Joe was a real dedicated and all-business type of engineer. He always ran a good train and had a reputation for being a smooth engineer," said Harvey A. Bowman of Madonna, a retired conductor and golfing buddy of more than 50 years.

"We used to joke with him that when the railroad ran out of shovels, he went over to diesels. He was a great joker, and if you didn't ride him, he didn't think you were very friendly," Mr. Bowman said.

In 1984, Mr. Bowman was aboard with Mr. Crouse's family and friends for Mr. Crouse's last passenger run between Washington and New York, when he stepped down from the engine cab for the last time.

"He was right on time and was one proud cookie," said Mr. Bowman.

In the 1950s, Mr. Crouse and family members operated a well-known Christmas tree lot at the triangle of Reisterstown Road and Pennsylvania and Fulton avenues.

An avid outdoorsman who enjoyed hunting and fishing, Mr. Crouse was a founding member of Hunters Haven Rod & Gun Club in York County, Pa.

He also enjoyed playing golf, was a member of the Mount Pleasant Golf Course Seniors and was a life member of the Maryland Police and Fire Golf Association. He was also a longtime member of the Cardinal Gibbons Council of the Knights of Columbus.

Mr. Crouse was a devoted family man who enjoyed treating his children and friends to Oriole games at Memorial Stadium.

"He loved his church and always preached humility," said Mr. Bowman, who praised his friend as "one heck of a family man, despite being away from home a lot because of his job."

Mr. Crouse was a member of St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church, at Belair Road and Willow Avenue in Overlea, where a Mass of Christian burial will be offered at 10 a.m. today.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of 61 years, the former Valerie Rose Kavalas; a daughter, JoAnn C. Dunn of Perry Hall; two brothers, Robert Crouse of Baltimore and Frank Crouse of Parkton; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

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