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This feature was published in the August 2001 issue of the Bull Sheet

Remembering the B&O Magazine

(and its editor, Virginia Tanner)

[By Allen Brougham]

I was saddened recently to hear that Virginia Tanner, long-time editor of the B&O Magazine, had died. For more than two decades, Miss Tanner had been the very pulse of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. Her talents reached every member of the great B&O with its folksy, family-oriented, monthly publication. It was complete with photos, reports of business initiatives, visits to the B&O Holly Tree, Red Cross blood drives, financial statements that made sense, letters from the company president, promotions, retirements and obituaries, with a touch of history thrown in.

My earliest exposure to the magazine came in the late 1940's, before I reached the age of 10. A family friend worked in the company's personnel department in Baltimore, and visits to her house were incomplete if I did not get to read the latest collection of the then-called "Baltimore and Ohio Magazine." If I behaved, I could even take some of the back issues home with me. What a treat!

Virtually any employee who worked for the company for more than a few years would see his or her name mentioned in the magazine at one time or other, often with a photo. The accomplishment need not have been great - getting a fishing trophy would qualify - all that was needed was for the magazine's staff to learn about it. Children of employees were accorded automatic membership (dues-free) in the BandO Club; photos of them were always welcomed for publication.

And what a thrill it was that my OWN photo appeared in one of the (then-renamed B&O) magazines when I was 15. The occasion was a televised documentary from Camden Station, in which I appeared as a military bugler - but as I was not (yet) a B&O employee, my name was not mentioned.

Miss Tanner, who joined the B&O in 1942, followed the tradition of a truly hallmark railroad publication. Begun in October 1912 as the Baltimore and Ohio Employee's Magazine, and renamed Baltimore and Ohio Magazine in 1920, its pages are as complete a picture of the B&O family as anything around. Correspondents from all over the system dutifully sent items to the editor for publication. Blessed are those who have complete sets of the magazine (there are some).

Hired in December 1942 as an office editor, she was named assistant editor of the magazine a month later. In January 1949 she became its editor, a post she held until the magazine was discontinued in the early 1960's. According to her June 2 obituary in the Baltimore Sun, Miss Tanner was the first woman in the nation to be the chief of a railroad magazine. Later she was the first woman to become president of the American Railway Magazine Editors Association.

I had the pleasure of meeting Miss Tanner a couple of times after I joined the railroad. On each occasion it was while I was serving in the ticket office in Camden Station in the early 1970's. On one occasion, as a manager of public relations, she sought my help in identifying historical artifacts for a company survey. With little need for prompting, I showed her the cast iron ticket window grates that surrounded the office, and the ornate chandeliers that adorned the main waiting room. But a surprise, even to her, was an old hitching ring I knew of at one corner of the building. To each of these items she made copious notes, taking photos of each for departmental records.

Times have changed, and so have budgets. With its consolidation with the C&O, the company's employee publication became a tabloid called Chessie News. Currently, CSXT has a tabloid called CSX Today. But much of the current news comes to employees by company computer as a "Midweek Report." It's functional, but it will never replace the family-oriented focus of the B&O Magazine.

In 1991, CSXT's Baltimore Division introduced a quarterly safety magazine that was similar in style and content to the former Baltimore and Ohio Magazine. It even had baby pictures. But it was expensive to produce, and the publication was short-lived. Once again, times have changed.

Through the years I accumulated a collection of B&O Magazines - mostly from the 1950's and early 1960's. They became reading material at the tower. Whenever I wanted to reflect upon old times, I would leaf through my collection where the names of old timers I have known, or their family connections, invariably popped up. They have also been a source of historical information for articles in the Bull Sheet. On occasions, I would venture to the B&O Museum to look through their collection of magazines dating back to the very beginning in 1912. That could keep somebody occupied for months at a time.

Special thanks to the B&O Museum Library for assistance in preparing this article.