Jim Stuart passed away August 26th after a long battle with cancer just 10 days after his 88th birthday.
Jim was a long time loyal employee of the New York Central and, like his live steaming buddy Harold Crouch of the Finger Lakes Club, relished telling stories about his time on the Central. He was a PLS member back in the ‘seventies while assigned to the Philadelphia region following the disastrous Penn Central merger. When he ran at Rahns he sat, with legs crossed, on a tiny riding car behind his 3/4″ scale Tich 0-4-0 as it scooted around the multigauge track, regularly outdoing the performance of the more sophisticated locomotives of the day.
Upon retirement in 1985, Jim returned to his home town in Massachusetts. After his wife passed away he was struck by still more misfortune when his house burned to the ground making him, quite literally, homeless. It was then that Bill Shields, a man of boundless generosity, talked Jim into coming to live with him and his wife at their home in Delaware. From then on they were constant companions at most PLS run days and when travelling to other northeastern clubs, Waushakum and Pioneer Valley in particular, where Jim had close friends from “back in the day”.
The inseparable pair’s principal activity at our club focused for several years on a free lance 3.5″ gauge “Tom Thumb”-type locomotive with a vertical coal-fired boiler and twin-cylinder vertical engine. That little work-horse buzzed around the multigauge track non-stop, hauling one or both men to their endless delight. More recently, Jim was ever present hostler as they unloaded and fired up Bill’s 1.5″ scale 2-8-0 Camel. Jim would have liked to run the big engine more than a few times, but declined to do so because of failing vision, although he certainly was transfixed as a passenger.
Back at Bill’s, he returned to his free-lance design 3.5″ gauge Atlantic he had started in 1946. Bill built a copper boiler for it, and Jim had almost completed the locomotive when poor health overtook him.
Jim could tell stories endlessly about his experiences on the railroad; in fact, he regularly wrote articles for the NYCS Historical Society Central Headlight newsletter, one of which was in preparation at the time of his death. He was not one to attract attention with flashy equipment, but he certainly knew how to derive supreme personal pleasure from modest equipment and share it with any novice engineer wishing to be ‘bitten by the bug’ .
Jim Stuart was a quiet, knowledgeable and thoughtful gentle man who will be sorely missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him.
(Written by Bob Thomas of PA Live Steamers)