Raymond Geisendaffer Sr.

Amtrak Passenger Conductor Was Popular Figure On The Railroad Who 'Enjoyed Everything About The Job'

August 31, 2009|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Raymond Morrison Geisendaffer Sr., a retired Amtrak passenger conductor whose railroad career spanned more than three decades, died of bladder cancer Aug. 21 at his Parkville home. He was 86.

Mr. Geisendaffer, the son of a mover and homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised on Lanvale Street.

He was a semi-professional middle-weight boxer during the 1930s in Baltimore and was a 1939 graduate of City College.

During World War II, he enlisted in the Army and served as a military policeman in North Africa and Italy, until he was honorably discharged in 1945.

Returning to Baltimore after the war, Mr. Geisendaffer drove a milk truck for Cloverland Dairy and a taxi.

He then earned his real estate license and sold real estate for a couple of years before going to work in 1952 for the old Pennsylvania Railroad.

"He began his career as a brakeman in freight service and worked at Thurlow Yard in Delaware. He later worked out of Bayview Yard in Baltimore," said his son, Raymond M. Geisendaffer Jr., an Amtrak engineer who lives in Fallston.

The elder Mr. Geisendaffer, who later worked for Penn-Central and Conrail, successors to the Pennsy, remained in freight service before being promoted to passenger conductor in 1978.

During the last six years of his railroading career, Mr. Geisendaffer worked as a passenger conductor aboard Amtrak's Northeast Corridor trains that traveled between Union Station in Washington and New York City's Pennsylvania Station.

"My father loved the railroad. He enjoyed everything about the job," his son said. "He enjoyed being in charge of the train and its crew and he loved the camaraderie that the job brought him."

Mr. Geisendaffer was a popular figure on the railroad.

"Everyone liked working with him and wanted to work with him. Plus, he always extended a helping hand to new employees," his son said. "He was a mentor."

Mr. Geisendaffer was a stickler for safety and following the rules and he impressed this on his fellow railroaders, his son said.

"He was extremely safe-minded and continually stressed this," his son said.

Harry C. Bowie, a retired MARC and former Amtrak engineer, recalled the elder Mr. Geisendaffer as being "a good man and an all-around nice guy."

"I'd see him in the station and he'd always stop and talk to me. He was always very kind to me," Mr. Bowie recalled Friday.

When Mr. Geisendaffer retired in 1984, father and son worked together.

"When I took my first trip to New York as an engineer in 1983, he was my conductor, and when he made his last run in 1984, I was his engineer," the son said.

For years at Christmastime, the elder Mr. Geisendaffer enjoyed constructing a Christmas garden with trains for his children.

"The only equipment he had in the garden was all Pennsy," his son said, laughing.

In his retirement, Mr. Geisendaffer enjoyed vacationing in Ocean City and had traveled to Hawaii and visited the Old West and Grand Canyon.

"When it was possible, he liked to travel by train," his son said. "He also dedicated his life to helping his grandchildren."

Mr. Geisendaffer was a member of Hiss United Methodist Church in Parkville.

Services were held Wednesday.

Also surviving are his wife of 61 years, the former Audrey Robinson; a brother, Robert Geisendaffer of Boise, Idaho; eight grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. His daughter, Marlene Hayes, was murdered in 1981.

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