A web exclusive story from Trains magazine

Part three — David P. Morgan:

A Passion for Trains

By Thomas M. Jacklin

Trains' editor David P. Morgan peers down from the engineer's window on ex-Reading 4-8-4 Northern No. 2102 in October 1976. By then, No. 2102 was owned and operated by the Allegheny Railroad. Photo by John B. Corns

Like his editorial vision of Trains magazine, the railroad idea encompassed nostalgia as well as economics, romance as well as realism. It connected past with present and future in a way that embraced both continuity and change, tradition and innovation. As the “sick 70s” wore on and the industry took one hammer-blow after another, however, the careful balance among all these forces — and the feelings they could evoke — became ever more difficult for Morgan and his predominantly enthusiast following to maintain.

Amtrak posed less of an issue for Morgan than one might have expected. He had effectively given up on the passenger train years before Congress and the Department of Transportation cobbled together a quasi-public corporation devised to run a barebones nationwide service beginning on May 1, 1971. To be sure, Morgan recognized that Amtrak did relieve the railroads of a money-losing trade, and he dutifully followed the organization’s fluctuating fortunes and tangled politics in “News and Editorial Commentary” from the beginning. In those and a few longer pieces, he grumbled about operational blunders, botched scheduling, political meddling, indifferent service, and more, wondering aloud whether or not the taxpayer was getting his or her money’s worth out of it all. Still, he eventually accepted the need for it and summoned some mild enthusiasm when his friend and railfan-railroader W. Graham Claytor, Jr., took over the system, fighting hard for more political support and better service.

Amtrak advocates among his readers perceived the resultant blend of resignation and lukewarm support, along with Morgan’s occasional carping, as outright, unqualified hostility, which was not the case. After 20 years of campaigning for a renewal of passenger service, Morgan reluctantly concluded that the family Ford and the jumbo jet had won the real battle. Consequently, he could not bring himself to crusade for look-alike equipment, airline-style meals, small windows, and surly crews, when memories of the Super Chief, the California Zephyr, the 20th Century Limited, and so many other “dream trains” he had known remained so vivid.

“for the first time ever the industry was unanimous in the belief that it can no longer go it alone.”— DPM

But the other formative event of the sick 70s, the emergence of Conrail from the wreckage of Penn Central, constituted a crisis so severe and so pervasive that it moved the preacher’s son to apocalyptic fear, challenged his faith in the railroad idea, and sent him into the past for respite if not refuge. Before the PC bankruptcy filing, he noted ruefully, “we could preserve and perpetuate the pretext that all was well” or that “our problems were neither insuperable nor lethal.” Now serious talk of nationalization, not heard since the 1930s, surfaced again. Even more frightening, he wrote, “for the first time ever the industry was unanimous in the belief that it can no longer go it alone.”

The importance of Penn Central to the Northeast’s infrastructure meant that the political establishment finally started to focus on what Morgan would eventually capitalize as “The Railroad Problem.” Then, too, the gravity of the problem grew, as one connecting road after another, from the Reading and the Lehigh Valley to Erie Lackawanna and Jersey Central, followed Penn Central into receivership.

Morgan’s worst fears, expressed in Churchillian language, seemed more than justified by the aftermath. Protected from creditors and granted $100 million in loan guarantees by Congress, PC floundered as both new managers and court-appointed trustees failed to turn things around. They could not do otherwise, in Morgan’s view, because they faced the same obstacles that had frustrated railroad management in general since the end of World War II: “too much payroll, too much track, too many passenger losses.”

Just as important, according to Morgan, the trustees wanted to implement “scheduled, controlled, unit-consist, piggyback/container trains” to compete with trucks on the Interstate highway system that paralleled the railroad’s major main lines, but admitted that its physical plant would never handle the strain of such operations. He chided the solvent railroads for “an unbecoming, short-sighted, hands-off attitude” toward the expanding debate about how to save Northeast railroading. But “most galling of all,” he wrote in 1973, was “the certain knowledge that deep inside, and fighting to get out” of Penn Central and connecting bankrupts existed a “lean, sharp, muscled railroad machine,” one that could give the Northeast a “distribution system” that would once again be envied by other nations.

The subsequent history of railroading in the region did little to change Morgan’s overall views. Morgan saw legislation in 1973 and 1976 creating the U.S. Railway Association, a non-profit corporation operating under the U.S. Department of Transportation, as another political contraption, similar to Amtrak and ever vulnerable to the play of interest-group politics, the major achievement of which would be to freeze the status quo. In other words, beholden to politicians and labor chieftains with a mosaic of parochial interests, Conrail offered no real hope for change. Committed and energetic though they may be, Morgan pointed out, the USRA planners were playing with a deck that had been stacked for decades in an industry that was customarily resistant to fundamental reform in any event.

More ominous from his standpoint, a subsidized Conrail could and did reach deep into Uncle Sam’s pocket to pay for too much help on too much track with obsolete — read boxcar — technology. Privately owned railroading, already frail from lack of innovation and bound by traditional labor agreements and regulatory restraints, could not survive in this environment. Government ownership of all railroads would surely follow.

You've met the man, now meet his locomotive: Rock Island GP38-2 No. 4315 "David P. Morgan." It was named in Morgan's honor as part of a series of locomotive namings by the Rock "as a modest tribute to our friends and supporters who have cared closely about this railroad and to the people and communities we serve in 13 states." Photo by Jim Claflin

Conrail did experience some rough going at first. The new management seemed to be unable to get control of the organization. The railroad itself required massive maintenance and more cash to deal with the day-to-day realities of countless derailments, annulled trains, aged and inoperable locomotives, and slow orders from one end of the system to the other. Morgan hoped that Conrail would succeed as a private enterprise — which it eventually did in the 1980s, when a combination of factors gave Chairman and CEO L. Stanley Crane the opportunity to build upon the accomplishments of his predecessors and create something at least resembling the lean, efficient, productive transport machine that DPM repeatedly claimed lay hidden inside the wreckage of the northeastern bankrupts all along.

Calling the magazine his “pulpit” and the editorials his “exhortations,” Morgan preached, but the tone had changed from the uplift and spiritual enlightenment inherent in his concept of the “railroad idea” to millennial warnings that the end was near. Reviewing technical and marketing progress in the 35th anniversary issue, for example, he conceded that good things — including ever more productive diesel locomotives, welded rail, and auto-rack trains — had at least allowed railroading, against odds, to survive subsidized competition and monopoly-era regulation, but that was it, and it was not enough. Yet talking in the third-person, he concluded the essay as follows: “Criticized by readers ... for his gloom-and-doom editorials,” the “Editor searched all the harder to find genuine cause for optimism.”

Finding little optimism, the editor said he “rejoiced all the more at the respite afforded by the rebirth of a splendid 4-8-4,” that is, the Southern Pacific GS-4 Daylight engine Doyle McCormack had rescued from a park in Portland, Oregon, and restored to power the American Freedom Train west of the Mississippi. “No. 4449 would have been welcome in any season,” but in 1975 the locomotive “constituted a blessing among blessings.”

David Morgan, left, with an unidentified railfan, enjoys a trip behind Norfolk & Western 4-8-4 No. 611 on a Norfolk Southern excursion in 1982. Photo by John Gruber

Morgan continued his long practice of cultivating other contributors who, in his view, had fresh and incisive things to say about and on behalf of the railroad idea. The most controversial of those was John G. Kneiling. The “battle of Kneiling,” as it came to be called in the magazine, began in the 1960s when Morgan issued a messianic call for the concept of the integral or “true” train, in its various stages of mechanical sophistication, as the ultimate technological expression of the railroad’s inherent advantage over truck, plane, and barge.

Like a lot of things sold as new during this bedeviled era, the concept had been around for a long time. Morgan knew that full well, but now the idea sounded more compelling than ever before. With little change in the status quo, railroad management could use existing technology to get a primitive version of the train going right away, thereby taking the initiative and competing effectively at a time when the rails were getting a constantly shrinking portion of a growing traffic bounty. In fact, a few railroads were already running such trains in captive coal movements, and Morgan wrote tributes to these operations on Southern Railway, Louisville & Nashville, and others. These efforts, he claimed, forecasted “25,000-ton single-commodity consists ... so productive that they’ll combine barge-tow loads with railroad speed on rates neither water nor pipeline operators can match.”

Enter Kneiling, an engineer for a New York consulting firm, who, during an interview in the winter of 1965, had presented Morgan with “a picture of the damnedest thing you ever imagined coming at you on the high iron.” Morgan hired Kneiling and Trains had a new columnist, “The Professional Iconoclast,” whose monthly commentaries on the industry occupied page 5 for the next 20 years.

Like Morgan, he focused on management, labor, and public policy as the principal obstacles to change. But where Morgan tempered his exasperation with carefully crafted and complex argument in which the legitimate interests of all sides got at least a rhetorical nod, Kneiling showed no such restraint. Instead, he typically portrayed railroad management and labor alike as obstructionist buffoons who were unable to grasp, much less implement, technical and marketing innovations. As a consequence, some of these pieces struck readers as downright nasty and mean-spirited. Morgan felt obliged to come to Kneiling’s defense. He portrayed the admittedly “sarcastic, inflammatory” columnist as a prophetic figure, correctly diagnosing the industry’s ills and prescribing the cures long before others did. Kneiling wrote his last column in 1986, a year before Morgan retired.

Other contributors gave serious thought to the decline of railroading and how to cure its ills. Some of the new breed came from inside the business, while others might be called informed and sympathetic outsiders. All were railfans and shared Morgan’s belief that railroading could be done better. A few — professional railroader Herbert H. Harwood, Jr. and academic economist George W. Hilton come to mind — became familiar figures because both wrote sophisticated analyses of everything from rate-making to slack action in lucid styles that won over many readers.

By the same token, Morgan believed that the magazine needed a new and politically knowledgeable voice to supplement and enhance its coverage and analysis of the current scene. He chose Don Phillips, then United Press International reporter, longtime Trains contributor, bona fide enthusiast, and an accomplished writer on transportation. Phillips wrote with an even-handed approach and leavened his “Potomac Pundit” column with asides about the avocation, including a biting portrayal of “jerks” within the fan ranks.

As the 1970s wore on, the combination of DPM’s brooding commentaries, Kneiling’s over-the-top polemics, and Phillips’s political analyses touched off a minor but revealing revolt among some readers. In retrospect, the growing number of complaints published in the Railway Post Office indicated that trouble was festering just beneath the surface. Readers’ gripes usually focused on Kneiling, but some pinpointed the editor, and a few took aim at other contributors whose articles explored the economics and engineering aspects of contemporary railroading.

Trains' staff in 1975, from left: George Drury, Nancy Bartol, Rosemary Entringer, J. David Ingles, David P. Morgan.

In any case, well-known rail fan Robert S. Korach, then assistant general manger of the Lindenwold Hi-Speed rapid-transit line in New Jersey, gave forceful expression to the general problem in an essay Morgan published in the January 1978 issue. Titled “I Cannot Believe That I Am Alone, “ it set forth Korach’s views on why he was “turned off by the almost paranoiac approach the magazine” took on railroad issues “that far exceed a hobbyist’s knowledge, desire, or enthusiasm.” The “editorial policy of consistently carping on the deficiencies of Amtrak and Conrail while at the same time cajoling the private sector of railroading to ignore economic and social problems” did not fit a magazine he picked up “after dinner, to relax ... and enjoy vignettes of historical or even modern railroading” in all its “color” and “glory.” Return the magazine to “the hobbyists who made it all possible,” Korach warned, or risk losing it altogether.

The comments prompted robust letters, pro and con, for three months afterward. The content of them seemed to suggest that opinion was split 50-50, but such was demonstrably not the case. The long-standing policy for letters was what Morgan once termed the “ricochet of opinion,” not representative sampling of same. The idea was to keep the exchanges provocative and interesting, not defend the magazine. Both Kneiling and Don Phillips did respond, however, and the latter’s essay, called “Rose-Colored Glasses,” received especially effusive praise in subsequent issues. Morgan, as might be expected under the circumstances, stayed silent.

The incident seemed curious in a number of ways. First, two separate content analyses, one for the issue in which Korach’s piece appeared and another for the entire year leading up to it, show that “serious commentary,” including both columns, along with News and Editorial Comment, averaged out to 8 percent of any given issue. Add feature articles dealing with economic organization or related matters, and the figure creeps up to about 14 percent, with normal variations up and down over the course of any given year. Second, through the 1970s and into the next decade, Morgan and his staff worked together to pioneer fresh ways of presenting and celebrating the “romance” and “glory” of railroading in both word and image. This included steadily increasing the use of paintings, instituting the “Fallen Flag” retrospective series, plus publishing more first-hand accounts of what it was like to deliver locomotives, fire on the Pennsy, maintain track, toil in the shops, and worry about keeping the railroad fluid, to mention a spare sampling.

Morgan always claimed that he aimed to provoke as well as entertain — and he had obviously done so. But his own dogged sense of mission and unwavering loyalty to the community of enthusiasts may have inadvertently contributed to the frustration Korach and the like-minded evinced. Rev. Kingsley J. Morgan’s son preached to them, and some no doubt fidgeted in the pews. A few nodded off, and some cared not. Circulation, in any case, grew steadily during and after the revolt.

David Morgan and his wife, "Midge." Trains collection

The death of Rosemary Entringer on July 29, 1977, following a long struggle with cancer, added to the cumulative shocks of the 1970s. As managing editor since 1954, Entringer had kept Trains moving in an orderly, professional manner. Morgan cared about Rosy and made no bones about saying so in his columns, burnishing her no-nonsense image consistent with his own self-portrait as the absentminded editor. The feeling was mutual. Rosy fretted more about his health than her own, confiding in a longtime contributor and friend that she wasn’t sure which of his two vices, smoking or drinking, would nail him first.

Morgan promoted Nancy Bartol to copy editor and later production editor with much more responsibility than she had as editorial assistant beforehand, inheriting some of Entringer’s old chores, such as editing the “Railway Post Office” column and working with individual writers and columnists. As a result, contributors and readers noticed little, if any changes, in how the magazine operated. Equally important in the new order, Associate Editor J. David Ingles took on ever expanding duties, eventually becoming managing editor and thus reviving Rosy’s old title.

Other aspects of his life changed little during these years except that, within limits, he became more socially active. He found himself drawn to the Milwaukee Press Club at various times, and contacts in that circle included Edward H. Blackwell, an African-American editorial writer for the Milwaukee Journal, whose powerful and poignant piece, “There Aren’t Any Nigger Engineers,” Morgan reprinted as a Turntable essay in January 1971.

Morgan also became enchanted with the growing number of fan-inspired and fan-organized grassroots efforts in historic railway preservation. While Trains had a preservationist dimension from the beginning, Morgan expanded this effort by devoting more space to capturing the industry’s past in words and images. What really impressed him from 1975 onward, however, was a new “season of train-watching” that was kindled by enthusiasts “so knowledgeable, so industrious, and so engrossed in the railroad scene.”

His effervescent wife Margaret joined him as he rode on excursions, went to special events, and visited historic railroad sites. In August 1975, he showed up in Nashville, Tenn., for the annual convention of the National Railway Historical Society, He found the convention nothing less than inspirational. It “brought together and unified a catholic, cosmopolitan assembly of old and young and black and white and poor and prosperous.” Coming together freely and without discrimination, people went there “to enjoy something beautiful and useful — the railroad.” The meeting “reaffirmed the fact that train-watching has come of age” as a “worthy preoccupation.” Seaboard Coast Line Vice-President Richard D. Sanborn and Southern Railway’s W. Graham Claytor, Jr., came to tell the conventioneers “that steam was good, that railroading was not a lost cause, that their support was important and appreciated, that professionals and avocationists were united in a great and common cause.”

Morgan as an intent listener. Trains collection

Those words, of course, reiterated the gospel of Morgan, and one wonders if the normally low-key editor had to resist a swoon. In any event, excursions and operating museums not only testified to the “ingenuity of the railfan,” but also gave physical reality to DPM’s growing absorption with the idea of heritage as involving, among other appeals to mind and heart, an almost mystical connection between generations that were sometimes torn asunder during a turbulent era in American history. He cited in evidence the “extraordinary revival” of a Frisco Decapod and a Burlington E5 steaming and chanting on the right of way of a former interurban at the Illinois Railway Museum. “Why,” DPM asked, “should the over-forty generation be in exclusive possession of the sight and sound of machinery as compelling” as these?

Not all railroad professionals, however, seem to have gotten the word. Morgan scolded many railroad leaders for their lackluster speeches. The “thin porridge of industry discourses,” he feared, may stem from the deeper malaise that had worried him for a decade — “the trade is no longer fun for its practitioners.” While speeches contained references to the unit train, few extolled “the beauty of its efficiency.” No one appeared willing to rejoice in a mechanism that toted 10,000 revenue tons with only 12,000 horsepower in a flexible mile-long container with “built-in guidance system which can be operated on roadway of 20-foot width.” These were fundamentals, the heritage distilled. Ignorance of or indifference to the iron horse heritage was especially frustrating when deregulation and other developments pointed to a railroad rebirth — if the industry recognized and implemented “its innate virtues.”

Rooted in tradition yet attuned to shifts in the climate of opinion, Morgan led Trains into the 1980s by maintaining the balance between enthusiast interests and serious but accessible inquiry into all aspects of the trade. The magazine had begun to look a little dated, but DPM continued to draw upon new contributors as well as old to keep its content lively and wide-ranging.

Consider William Viekman’s 1982 article on women in railroading. The piece, together with Viekman’s earlier article on African-American railroaders, was rich in social history — complete with time-lines, bibliography, and several one-on-one interviews with people who were breaking down old barriers within the industry. Morgan’s broadening definition of railroad history and culture also led him to expand the magazine’s treatment of other human-interest subjects — not one of his previous strengths. He recognized good material when he saw it, as in Ted Benson’s 1983 two-part biography of Charles Edison Tyner, whose 48-year career on Southern Pacific in California eventually landed him on the right-hand seat of the cab on the diesel-powered Daylight. This was a landmark piece in many ways.

Trains Magazine covers from the Morgan Era

Capping off the emphasis on people, Morgan introduced a feature called “Selected Railroad Reading.” Offered at first on an occasional basis, these collections of short- to medium-length reminiscences by professional railroaders and railfans alike exposed readers to a wide range of railroad experience — a process that Morgan actually started in earnest a decade earlier by printing autobiographical accounts of engine service on the Pennsy by John R. Crosby and Lloyd Arkinstall, two of the most popular series of articles ever to appear in the magazine.

By the same token, Trains continued to reflect what some now regard as Morgan’s limited view of the industry and its followers. Few trolleys, for example, ever rattled through the pages of Trains when Morgan edited it. Interurbans and short lines fared a little better, but the space allotted to these topics was small, given their historical significance and undeniable appeal for many readers. Morgan also wasn’t shy about touting personal favorites, which included his beloved L&N, the Baltimore & Ohio’s Capitol Limited, the Reader Railroad tourist operation, the Milwaukee Road and its Skytop cars, the Santa Fe Railway, and Southern Railway Ps4 4-6-2 steam engines. What’s more, not every issue from the 1950s through the 1980s was spectacular. Disciples tend to remember only the best ones.

The same could be said of Morgan’s prose. It sometimes seemed too rococo, too self-conscious in its striving for effect. On substance, he shared with many professional railroaders what at this distance can only be described as a fetish about a government takeover of the railroads. The truckers and airlines had learned to use government as a partner when the circumstances required it, just as railroads themselves had worked with local, state, and federal governments in the interest of promoting commerce and economic growth in the 19th century. His “messianic complex” about the integral train sometimes blinded him to the implications of the technical improvements railroads had put in place in the 1980s. Honest debate about his historical writing continues.

“the magazine was stronger and more influential at his retirement in 1987 than at the time he took over as editor more than three decades before”— Thomas M. Jacklin

While worthy of note, these concerns seem less than earth-shaking when placed against the larger legacy that Morgan left behind. Start with the most immediate: from almost any perspective, the magazine was stronger and more influential at his retirement in 1987 than at the time he took over as editor more than three decades before — in a field far more crowded with magazines than when he revived Trains in the 1950s. A company man to the end, he constantly faced the tension implicit in his own vision of the magazine as “both a trade publication and a railfan publication,” according to George Drury.

Gil Reid, who probably knew Morgan on the job just about as well as anyone could know him, made the arresting suggestion that Morgan preferred focusing on the romance, the history, the nostalgia, but never let himself do so as a matter of conscience and duty. If trains were going to be around for future generations of enthusiasts to enjoy, then the industry had to start making changes and doing business “decently and in order,” as a good Presbyterian would say.

The trick, as Kevin Keefe observed, was to “have a feel for what readers want and what readers need,” then “finding the right combination.” Morgan “nailed it almost every time.” Economics remained the key to survival and the enthusiasts could help — if they were informed. That mixture of advocacy and enthusiasm, reflecting Morgan’s own deepest values, gave the magazine its singular identity. Talented writers and staff gave it a singular voice.

David and Margaret Morgan relax in a Milwaukee Road Skytop lounge car. Trains collection

Sometime after Morgan passed from the scene, leaders at Kalmbach Publishing Co. eventually realized that no one magazine could do justice to both sides of the equation. Trains remained focused on the industry in its contemporary setting with expanded coverage to include rapid transit and other issues, adding several new writers to its stable of columnists, contributing editors, and regular correspondents, the better to stay on top of the current scene in a comprehensive way. The new kid on the block, Classic Trains, emerged as Kalmbach’s recent reincarnation of a magazine with a tangled history going back to the extinct but now legendary Locomotive and Railway Preservation pioneered by Mark Smith and affectionately known to its devotees as Ellen Arpee. The new periodical picked up the other side of the Morgan equation with fresh coverage of history and nostalgia. It also continued to explore DPM’s broadening definition of both, retained old columns like “Second Section,” and renewed the single-theme issues of the Morgan era.

Meanwhile, Morgan progeny and imitators began to appear as the avocation grew more sophisticated and multi-faceted (just as DPM said it would back in 1962). New general-coverage magazines like Railfan and CTC Board found niches and loyal followings. Topical magazines like Passenger Train Journal and Extra 2200 South flourished, as did regional news magazines such as Railpace, among many others. Morgan had inspired a whole new generation of railroad journalists and historians, and many of them still set their railroad watches by Milwaukee time.

As for some of the more subtle aspects of his legacy, those are harder to track down with precision. Though people continue to visit the place as if it were a shrine, they quickly discover that Morgan’s spirit does not haunt the darkened halls and creaky elevator of the building he loved so well. The edifice at 1027 North 7th Street now belongs to Milwaukee Area Technical College. The spirit cannot be found lingering inside restaurants and taverns nearby. It never hovers around the crossing gates on the Canadian Pacific — forever the Milwaukee Road so far as DPM was concerned — near the last apartment he and Margaret enjoyed together in Elm Grove, Wis.

“He explained things. He entertained. He inspired. He shaped and legitimated an avocation.” — Thomas M. Jacklin

His spirit instead lives on in the yellowing pages of a magazine and in the minds and hearts of those read it as scripture. Morgan was, as Reid put it, “an oracle.” He explained things. He entertained. He inspired. He shaped and legitimated an avocation. Aside from the writing itself, his relevance endures in his all-encompassing concept of the railroad, for example, in this credo he delivered in 1983: Let us be aware that an SD40-2 (to seize upon a common denominator) may be one person’s birthright, yet another’s pottage. Let us respect our eiders, for they have witnessed at trackside those treasures only available to our scrutiny in pictures and museums. Let us rejoice in youth that sees in, say, Conrail, vitality instead of the residue of predecessors. For there is an awe and an innocence in the eye of a 10-year old observing B23-7’s wrestling tonnage that should shame the blasé in us, as there is an evaluation and an understanding in the gaze of an octogenarian who sees shadows of Saints and Scouts and Supers in the wake of the Southwest Limited that ought to humble us.

There he was respecting the past, appreciating the present, looking to the future — not to the F3 generation, but one that grew up with SD40-2s. According to J. Parker Lamb, “Morgan came to be highly respected not only for the quality of his presentations but also his long-term presence on the railroading scene. And yet for all this, very few people really knew him personally, which 1 think was his wish.”

The editor walked out the door — without a retirement party — for the last lime in the summer of 1987, 39 years after he had joined Trains as an editorial assistant. Ingles inherited the old staff and some promising newcomers when he took over as editor. Bartol, Drury, and George Gloff stayed on board, and Ingles hired Kevin Keefe as associate editor partly, Ingles explained, to address the “omnipresent generation gap.” As the years went by, Ingles made changes in the magazine, as Morgan had done, even as he reassured readers that the “mission” would always stay the same: “to inform and entertain those fascinated with railroading” by serving up “accurate, balanced, and readable content” on its past and present.

Morgan the writer, gathering information on board an excursion train pulled by Southern Pacific 4-8-4 No. 4449 in June 1975. Photo by Bill Robertson

In retirement, DPM kept a close eye on the “mag,” examining how stirring it looked, how elegantly it read, how accurately it reported. Kudos and missteps, along with recommendations, arrived at Kalmbach’s new quarters in Waukesha, on postcards addressed to the members of the staff. The typed message, whatever the content, precisely filled the amount of space available. He kept at it in other ways, too. With drink in hand and Margaret by his side, he held court every Thursday night at a bar and restaurant, Pitch’s 113 Club, in Milwaukee’s western suburbs. The regulars included photographer and friend John Gruber, railroader and later columnist Ed King, and Peter Bundy, an attorney with ties to railroading and historic railway preservation. Ingles, Drury, and Keefe drifted in and out as the Morgans entertained, sometimes late into the night.

On January 10, 1990, his worldly journey was over. Two months shy of his 63rd birthday, he died of complications from emphysema, still a youngish man. But he had lived long enough to see the stirrings of a new era — the rebirth of the railroad idea. Hopefully he is now relaxing, Canadian Club in hand, as the big Skytop lounge car rolls toward eternity.