This article appeared in the JD Tower Issue of the Bull Sheet, April 1992
Some of the People
Here are some of the members of the JD Family - past and present - who through the years significantly contributed to the tower's legacy. Much is based upon the personal accounts of such noted retired operators as John Sim and Donald Breakiron, who themselves are included herewith, and from whatever other sources became available. Regrettably, many members of the JD family from the earliest days of the office, who properly should have been included, are not. History does have a way of becoming lost. Time, however, will never dim the glory of their deeds. The legacy of the place belongs to all who have served here... all of them.
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Otho Byron Sigafoose
If any one operator at JD Tower is to be most remembered, Mr. Sigafoose would likely be the one. Known by the name of 'Siggy,' he worked first-trick at JD Tower for nearly 30 years. He began his career as an operator in Baltimore in December of 1898. At that time operators worked, if required, on both the old Baltimore and Cumberland divisions. His first regular job was at Tuscarora, Maryland. He came to JD in the early 1930s from KG Tower at Point of Rocks, Maryland. Retired operator Donald Breakiron recalls posting (training) with Siggy at JD in 1951. He was a good railroader but not a railfan, according to Donald. Donald recalls an incident when he was handing up orders under Siggy's direction, and the orders got caught on the engineer's neck. The engineer stopped the train and ran back to the tower to vent his anger. But Siggy took up for Donald. It seems that the fireman had been in position to properly get the orders, but the engineer got in front of the fireman at the last second. According to a retirement item in the B&O Magazine of October 1959, Siggy remembered 'snapper' engines, a locomotive with its cab over the boiler similar to camel-back engines. He retired on July 31, 1959 - about three months before his 80th birthday - completing a career of 60 years, seven months and 17 days. He died several years later.
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He came to the B&O in 1936 and took the daylight job in 1959 after the retirement of Otho Sigafoose. He had earlier worked on the Seaboard and the New Haven. While on the B&O he moonlighted doing television repair work, and he is described as being a good Morse man. He retired on a disability in 1969 and died at the age of 73.
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He came to the Baltimore Division from Ohio in 1942 and to JD Tower several years later. A small man of about 120 pounds, it was he who taught John Sim his Morse code. Mr. Nutter is described as an excellent teacher and a practical railroader. He left the tower in the mid-1950s and went to work as a B&O agent.
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He came to JD from Canada in the late 1940s having been what is known as a 'boomer,' a railroader who drifts from one company to another without spending much time at any one place. He left and then returned again in the mid-1950s. He is remembered as an operator who would never stick around upon transfer time, and he enjoyed going to race tracks in his spare time.
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Born in Kansas about 1890, his parents were originally from Switzerland. He had worked previously for the Pittsburgh & Lake Erie, Santa Fe and Southern Pacific. He knew shorthand, and had also been a newspaper reporter and an employee for a law firm. He came to the B&O in 1944 working on the extra list, taking the relief job at JD in the mid-1950s after Donat Terrien retired. Mr. Charvoz, who is described as having not very legible handwriting, retired about 1960. He died at the age of 92.
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He went by Les and he came to JD from nearby F Tower in 1951 having been on the railroad since 1943. He had previously worked on the Southern and the Washington & Old Dominion. He was also a meat cutter. He worked the third-trick job at JD until he retired in the early 1960s, and contact with him after that time was lost.
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As an operator at JD in 1940, Tom, now retired, is the only living operator to trace his tenure at JD so far back in time. Third-trick at JD was his first regular job. His career also included duty in Philadelphia, a number of jobs in Baltimore, and on the Old Main Line at Gaither and Mount Airy Junction. He was one of the first operators to work at PA Tower at Fort Meade Junction, Maryland, a job that was established before the tower itself was even built. For a number of years beginning in the 1960s until shortly before he retired, Tom was the first-trick operator at HX Tower at Halethorpe, Maryland, which for much of that period was JD's next tower to the east. He retired in 1982. He is originally from Meyersdale, Pennsylvania. His father, the late Fred Swearman, was an operator for 47 years working mostly the towers at Sand Patch and Manila, Pennsylvania. Tom and his wife now live near Queenstown on Maryland's Eastern Shore.
Tom Swearman (left) in 1990 photo at HX Remembrance Day, and John Sim in 1987 photo at his retirement party
Originally from Troy, New York, he moved to Hyattsville in 1941. Much of what he learned of JD Tower was through railfan visits to the place, and, later, from visits of a more official capacity while working an after-school job as a mail helper at the nearby Hyattsville station. He began his official railroading career in 1945 on the extra list at Shepherd Junction, and the following year he took the regular third-trick job at JD. In 1951 he went to PA Tower, in 1952 to QN, in 1960 back to JD, then back to QN in 1962, and finally back to JD in 1970 where he was its first-trick operator until he took early retirement in 1987. John, a railfan, kept in his collection copies of both his first and last train orders. He and his wife seasonally live in both Florida and College Park, Maryland.
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He went to work with the Railway Express Agency following duty in the second World War, and started with the B&O in 1951. While on the extra list he variously worked a number of locations including JD, and he eventually saw duty as an operator at Gaither, Carroll, Lee Street, RG Tower, Aberdeen and QN Tower, and as an agent at Takoma Park, Hyattsville and Georgetown. In the 1960s he had regular jobs at JD on all three tricks until 1970 when he went to QN. In 1981 he came back to JD on second-trick, remaining there until his retirement in 1983. Donald has kept very much in touch with his former coworkers through attendance at railroad veterans' functions and by frequent revisits to QN and JD towers. He has written a number of articles for the Bull Sheet, and he was a participant in the ceremony that was conducted at JD when it closed.
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He goes by the name of Sonny, and for many years he had a roving relief job that included five different towers in a five-day week. Known also sometimes as a 'rabbit' job, because it hops from place to place, it covered each tower's 'wild' day which, at JD, was first-trick on Monday. Other locations on the circuit included QN Tower in Washington, and Riverside, Brooklyn and Bay View in Baltimore. Of these, only QN now remains open, and Sonny's roving relief job, as such, was abolished several years ago. He is now a CSX ticket agent at the MARC station at Odenton, Maryland, but he maintained qualification in the towers and was often called upon to work weekend vacancies at JD when needed. He has hosted a number of parties for retiring employees at his home in Pasadena, Maryland, and he is looked upon as an elder statesman within the ranks of contemporary operators.
Photos (left to right): Donald Breakiron, Hoy Clodfelter and Bonnie Torney
Of the four regular operators who were assigned to JD when it closed, it was she - with a tenure of more than nine years - who had been at the tower continuously the longest. She started on the railroad in 1979 after having been a legal secretary, and she took the regular third-trick job at JD in February of 1983. Her father, Al Torney, is a retired division superintendent. Asked to write some thoughts about JD, Bonnie offered the following: "Many have come and gone during my nine-year tenure at JD, all of whom I've been glad to have known. Some will remain my friends for life. My job at JD has taught me a lot. For the most part, I had a lot of fun. The closing of JD is very sad for me. I'll have to find another 'home' and another 'family,' but I am glad I had the opportunity to be here until her demise."
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He came back to JD for several months in late 1989 taking the regular first-trick job, but during that brief tenure he implemented a number of pleasant changes that enhanced the appearance of the place. These included the installation of formica table tops fabricated from spare material donated by then-extra operator Steve Owens - a bulletin board for 'pictures and things of JD Tower,' a pair of roll-up bamboo blinds, and carpeting that covered most of the tower's floor. He was featured in an article in the Bull Sheet of November 1989 describing his ingenuity. His nickname of 'Froggie' was bestowed upon him in the mid-1970s because of his deep voice, and fellow workers now know him by that name almost exclusively on the job. He is now a yardmaster in Baltimore.
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He was the relief-turn operator at JD at the time of its closing. He came to JD on a mostly regular basis in 1985 following the closing of HX Tower at Halethorpe, Maryland. He is especially remembered for his dog Crystal, which accompanied George to the tower on many occasions. Crystal, a samoyed, was very friendly, and liked to howl when enticed to do so by anyone making a similar sound. Crystal died in 1990. George started on the railroad in 1974 and he worked as a crew caller and as a yard clerk before becoming an operator at Bay View in 1976. He subsequently worked all of the towers in the Baltimore Terminal before coming to JD. He is also an extra Baltimore Terminal train dispatcher at Halethorpe.
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The regular first-trick operator at JD at the time of its closing, he joined the B&O in 1974 following a brief stint as a clerk on the RF&P. Prior to that he worked for brief periods as an order-puller in the U.S. Government Printing Office, as an airport luggage inspector, as a brakeman on the Seaboard Coast Line, and as a radio station announcer. He is a first cousin of singer Rosemary Clooney. Mike was coined the nickname 'Saucerman' a number of years ago owing to an incident explained elsewhere in this issue. He also frequently works ticket agent jobs to fill vacation vacancies. Asked to write some thoughts about JD, Mike offered the following: "On January 22, 1974, I drove up to JD at 6:45 A.M. and entered a world I had only dreamt about. It has been a distinct pleasure to be a part of a small but vital function of the railroad. A lot of operators have passed through the doorway. A lot of friendships have been made. A lot of trains operated. The people have been a pleasure to work with. I will carry with me always the many memories of JD Tower."
Photos (left to right): George Lacock, Mike Maser and Allen Brougham
OK, I suppose I ought to include something about myself... assuming anyone would ever want to read it... I joined the railroad in 1970 following four years in the Navy, one year with Westinghouse, and over five years with my family's business. I was on the Baltimore operators' extra list for five years, then went to Brooklyn (BX) briefly as my first regular job and then to Halethorpe (HX) serving there for over 10 years until 1985 when it closed. I was also an extra train dispatcher briefly in the late 1970s. I took the second-trick job at JD in 1985, and I was there to close it.
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Photos (left to right): Jim Carpenter Sr., operator; Melvin Hite, operator; Jerry Welborn, operator; Frances Carthern, operator; and Chuck Potter, signal maintainer.
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Photos (left to right): Steve Reed, operator; Dale Rockwell, operator; Mike Smith, operator; Debbie Falkenhan, operator; and Tom Tebbs, signal maintainer.
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Photos (left to right): Cindy Derrick, operator; Suzy Keefover, operator; Rich Lanham, operator; Duane Holt, operator, and Greg Sotheron, signal maintainer.
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Photos (left to right): Steve Owens, operator; Tom Johnson, track inspector; Joe Andrzewski, track foreman; Jennifer Anderson, operator; and Lou Fell, track foreman.
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Photos (left to right): Jim Carpenter Jr., operator; Ray Young, track foreman; Brian Jaeger, operator; John McLemore, operator; and Herbert Mason, neighbor.