George Williams

[Age 84] The veteran engineer operated passenger trains from Washington to New York and Baltimore for 20 years.

December 02, 2007|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,Sun reporter

George Daniel Williams, a veteran locomotive engineer whose career began with the old Pennsylvania Railroad and ended with Amtrak, died Nov. 25 of complications from a stroke at Lorien Mays Chapel Nursing Center in Timonium. He was 84.

Mr. Williams, the son of a farmer, was born and raised in Johnston County, N.C. After graduating from high school in 1941, he worked during World War II in a defense plant in Elizabeth City, N.C.

He moved to Baltimore in 1945 and went to work for General Motors' Fisher Body Division on Broening Highway.

In 1951, his father-in-law, a Pennsylvania Railroad engineer, got him a job on the railroad.

"He started out at the Orangeville roundhouse near Bayview Yard firing K4s steam engines," said a son, William H. Williams of Shrewsbury, Pa., a former locomotive engineer.

Promoted to engineer in 1965, Mr. Williams spent the first 14 years of his career in freight service.

"George ran freight out of Bayview, to and from Potomac Yard, to Harrisburg and Enola Yard, as well as trains to Philadelphia and New Jersey," said Harry C. Bowie, an engineer who trained with him early in his career, and recently retired from MARC.

"He ran coal trains down the Pope's Creek branch to the Pepco plants at Morgantown and Chalk Point. He handled truck trains, grain trains, iron ore and mixed freights," he said.

"George was a good guy. He helped me, and many others, learn the ropes as new firemen," he said.

Mr. Williams, who later worked for successor railroads Penn-Central, Conrail and Amtrak, operated GG1 electric locomotives, Metroliners and an assortment of other electric and diesel engines.

"He loved the GG1s and had a special feel for them. He liked the way they handled a train," his son said.

"He ran everything the railroad had. He was a good hoghead and knew all the nuances and tricks of the trade," he said. "He had a knack for handling trains. It almost came naturally to him."

In the Ashland Cafe in Cockeysville, where Mr. Williams was a regular customer, the walls are lined with railroad memorabilia, including a framed picture of him leaning out of the cab of a Pennsy GGI.

"The hours for railroad work are inconvenient, and he had to work weekends and holidays," his son said. "But he took it very seriously and enjoyed it."

For the last 20 years of his career until retiring in 1985, Mr. Williams operated fast passenger trains on the Washington-to-New York run, as well as Baltimore-Washington commuter locals.

In his more than three-decade career, which saw him travel thousands of miles, Mr. Williams was never involved in a railroad wreck, and he retired with an unblemished record.

An avid tenpin bowler, Mr. Williams had been a member of three leagues, and regularly bowled for years at the old Colt Lanes in Towson, Country Club Lanes in Rosedale and Timonium Fairlanes. He also enjoyed playing Keno.

In 1987, his wife, the former Dorothy Elsie Gerting, lost her sight.

"He was devoted to her and cared for all of her needs for the last 20 years," Mr. Williams said.

Services for the Mays Chapel resident were held Wednesday.

In addition to his wife of 55 years and son, Mr. Williams is survived by another son, Don Williams of Raleigh, N.C.; four brothers, Robert D. Williams of Baltimore, Egbert F. Williams of Orange Park, Fla., Henry R. Williams of Charlotte, N.C., and Curtis E. Williams of Clayton, N.C.; three sisters, Melda Lynne of Baltimore, Marie Trouwer of Norfolk, Va., and Joyce Woodard of Raleigh, N.C.; two grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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