Engineering Research Success

Engineering Research Success

Q. My uncle was a B&O Railroad engineer from the 1930s to the '50s. Family legend has it that he “drove” one of President Eisenhower's victory trains. B&O says its records are gone, and the Eisenhower Presidential Library says train engineers weren't recorded. How can I prove this story?

 

A. Although some wonderful railroad records do exist, the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad is one of the sad stories. According to the B&O Railroad Historical Society <www.borhs.org>, many late-1800s and early-1900s records were lost due to moves and file purging as the company changed ownership.

You may, however, find that items such as payroll records, letters and photographs are still around. The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum <www.borail.org> in Baltimore, Md., holds some corporate records, as well as the company’s employee publication, B and O Magazine (renamed Baltimore &Ohio Magazine in 1920). The museum just reopened this fall, after an 18-month closure for weather-damage repairs. Unfortunately, the library remains closed — check the Web site for updates and additional resources. Use an Internet search engine such as Google <www.google.com> to find the magazine in repositories and on auction Web sites.

The Railroad Retirement Board, a government agency begun in the 1930s to administer railroad workers’ benefits, also may have records on your uncle. Staff will search its records for a $27 fee — see <www.rrb.gov/geneal.html> for information.

Indexes to major newspapers might help you narrow the dates for victory trains your uncle could have driven. Then look for information in newspaper stories, starting with his hometown papers. Also read up on the B&O in publications such as Railroad History magazine <www.rrhistorical-2.com/rlhs>, published by the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society. Even if your uncle’s name isn’t mentioned, you may find helpful historical background on the victory trains.

The Eisenhower Presidential Library <eisenhower.archives.gov> staff knows its records, but you’ll feel better if you check for yourself, so study the library’s online finding aids. Who knows — your uncle’s name could be buried in correspondence about travel arrangements. If you do find a promising collection, be prepared to visit the library and search through records box by box, page by page, without the benefit of an index.

From the February 2005 Family Tree Magazine

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