Raymond H. Holter Jr.

The Chessie System executive started his four-decade railroad career with the B & O in the late 1920s

February 25, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

Raymond Henry Holter Jr., a retired Chessie System executive whose more than four-decade railroad career began on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad in the late 1920s, died Saturday of a heart attack at St. Joseph Medical Center.

The longtime Loreley resident was 100.

Mr. Holter was born at home on his parents' 13-acre farm in Upper Falls, where he spent his early years. In 1922, the family purchased a 134-acre farm in Loreley, where he lived the remainder of his life.

He attended Towson High School until he was 14, when he dropped out to help his father run the farm.

After farming for five years, Mr. Holter began his railroading career in 1928 as a $52-a-month passenger department mail clerk in the B&O Building at Baltimore and Charles streets.

"Thus began a long 46-year career and love affair with the B&O, the only company he ever worked for," said a son, Raymond Harward Holter of Fort Myers, Fla.

In order to complete his education and advance his career, Mr. Holter worked at the railroad during the day while taking night courses at City College, Baltimore Business College and Baltimore College of Commerce.

Mr. Holter was promoted to stenographer and later rate clerk in the passenger department, where he held various positions until being appointed in 1946 to general passenger agent, responsible for establishing passenger rates throughout the B&O system.

When the B&O went before the Maryland Public Service Commission in 1949 to ask permission to eliminate two locals, No. 60 and 61, that operated between Baltimore and Singerly, Del., near the Maryland line, the end of service had professional and personal consequences for Mr. Holter.

For more than 20 years, he had ridden from Loreley to Camden Station, and along the way, he courted his future wife, the former Elinor Louise Moulsdale, whom he married in 1936, who also traveled aboard the weekly commuter train.

Mr. Holter testified before the PSC that the two trains had an average of six daily passengers - he rode free on a company pass - and were losing more than $25,000 a year.

"It's no longer economical to operate them," he told The Baltimore Sun at the time. "I'll just have to ride the bus or drive my car."

As railroads throughout the nation began eliminating or reducing passenger service during the decade that followed, Mr. Holter played a key role in representing the B&O in those matters.

"Between 1950 and 1960, he traveled extensively, testifying before public service commissions in all the states where the railroad had service, notifying public and many private groups of the B&O's intent," his son said.

Mr. Holter also was involved with the termination of service in 1958 on the famed Royal Blue Route between Washington and New York City.

"Ray Holter was the passenger department's representative testifying at the state hearings on the New York discontinuance petition," said William F. Howes Jr., a retired CSX executive who served from 1967 to 1971 as the B&O's last director of passenger service.

"He also would have at the very least have been involved with the revising and filing with the Interstate Commerce Commission the tariffs reflecting the change in service as well as the 1956 in-depth study that looked at passenger problems on the B&O," Mr. Howes said.

"It was also likely that he was deeply involved in the preparation of the traffic and financial statements that accompanied the railroad's petition," Mr. Howes said.

In 1960, Mr. Holter left the passenger department when he was named general freight agent, and two years later was promoted to freight traffic manager, where he was responsible for establishing freight rates throughout the B&O system.

"Ray was another aspect of the Jervis Langdon [who had served as president of the B&O and later Chesapeake & Ohio/B&O from 1961 to 1964] revolution. One of his chief goals was to do something about railroad pricing," said Herbert H. Harwood Jr., a retired CSX executive and a railroad historian and author.

Langdon "had strong feelings that the system they were using was counterproductive. He wanted new ideas, and Ray was the kind of guy who could do that kind of thing. He had both ideas and the ability to get it done," Mr. Harwood said.

Mr. Harwood said in the era before railroad deregulation in 1980, railroads gathered to set freight rates.

"Ray had the ability to get through those horrible monthly meetings, and the railroad needed someone like him who could work in such an atmosphere that was complicated because the B&O had such little market penetration at the time," Mr. Harwood said.

Jack Spurrier, who worked with Mr. Holter, was also a longtime friend.

"He was a good boss and very bright. Ray picked up the freight rate structure, which could be very complicated, very quickly," he said. "He was well-liked and respected not only on our railroad but other railroads across the country."

At the time of his 1974 retirement from the Chessie System, Mr. Holter was assistant vice president for merchandise freight pricing.

Mr. Holter spent his retirement gardening. His wife of 72 years died last year.

He was a communicant of St. Stephen's Roman Catholic Church in Bradshaw, where a Mass of Christian burial was offered Wednesday.

Also surviving are another son, Jerome C. Holter of Abingdon; four daughters, Regina H. Walsh and Nancy H. Collins, both of Baltimore, Judy A. Plowman of Fallston and Marjorie H. Robinson of Perry Hall; eight grandchildren; and 11 great-grandchildren. Another son, Raymond Allen Holter, died in 1939.

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