Claude Taylor, 81, spent 43 years driving trains

August 31, 2002|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Claude Taylor, a retired Amtrak locomotive engineer who helped handle Sen. Robert F. Kennedy's funeral train, died of cancer Wednesday at his Edgewood home. He was 81.

Mr. Taylor was born and raised in Duty, Va., where he attended public schools. As a young man, he worked as a carpenter with his father building the Pentagon in Washington. During World War II, he served in the Army and was discharged with the rank of private in 1945.

A hand injury led him to abandon carpentry and go to work in 1942 as an apprentice fireman at the Pennsylvania Railroad's Potomac Yard in Washington. He later transferred to the railroad's Orangeville roundhouse at Monument and Kresson streets.

He was promoted to engineer, and during his 43-year career with successor companies Penn Central and Amtrak, saw the end of steam, operated the high-speed GG1 electric locomotives, diesel engines, and ended his career at the controls of the Metroliners in 1985.

Mr. Taylor worked in both yard and freight service before being promoted to passenger engineer, where he operated such trains as the Congressional, Liberty Limited, Senator and Broadway Limited.

"When you're operating trains, and especially passenger trains, you have millions of dollars of equipment and people's lives at risk," said his friend of 60 years and retired fellow engineer, Richard G. Frazier of Kingwood, W.Va. "Our job was to stay on time, make your stations and take no shortcuts. And that's what he did."

Charles G. Cochran, a retired Conrail engineer who lives in Northeast Baltimore, was a fireman for Mr. Taylor when the two worked aboard engines switching at Bayview Yard in East Baltimore.

"He was a good teacher and a very pleasant man. He was the kind of man who was always very straightforward," he said.

Promoted to special-duty engineer, a historic highlight of Mr. Taylor's career was helping supervise the engine crew of the two GG1s that hauled Senator Kennedy's 21-car funeral train on its solemn 226-mile journey from New York to Washington in 1968.

"We went down to the tracks at Edgewood to see the train go by, and Dad waved," said a daughter, Sandra Bredlow of Delta, Pa., who was 15 at the time. "It was a sad time, and he didn't talk about it much."

When Conrail painted GG1 No. 4800 in red, white and blue with stars and a replica of the Liberty Bell on its steel flanks to celebrate the nation's bicentennial in 1976, Mr. Taylor was given the honor of operating the engine.

Mr. Taylor, who collected models of Pennsylvania Railroad engines he had worked on, in all scales, also was an unabashed railroad enthusiast who liked visiting railroad museums.

He was also an avid fisherman and boater.

He was a member of the Otter Point Yacht Club, the American Legion in Edgewood and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers. He was also a Mason and member of Lodge 44 AM & FM in Bel Air.

Mr. Taylor, who was proud of his service with the "Pennsy," will be buried with his favorite company keystone tie clasp, family members said.

Services will be held at 11 a.m. today at the McComas Funeral Home, 1317 Cokesbury Road, Abingdon.

Mr. Taylor is survived by his wife of 52 years, the former Charlotte Chalone; three other daughters, Claudette Weaver of Hanover, Pa., Susan Shiner of Edgewood and Diann Neely of Port Deposit; four brothers, Clifford Taylor of Bel Air, Avery Taylor of Baltimore, Carl Taylor and Rayford Taylor, both of Edgewood; two sisters, Violet Livingston and Beulah Compton, both of Edgewood; 15 grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; four step-grandchildren; and six step-great-grandchildren.

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