Friday, May 20, 2016

Melbourne General Cemetery, Australia

For this week’s Cemetery Traveler installment, I would like to introduce my guest blogger, Samantha Kent. Samantha lives in Australia and posted some interesting photographs on Instagram recently. They piqued my curiosity and so I asked her if she would share her experience at this particular cemetery with our readers. Enjoy! – Ed Snyder


Melbourne General Cemetery, Australia 
by Samantha Kent

My interest in photographing historic cemeteries began in August 2015 and has turned me into a serious taphophile and admirer of ironwork and stonemasonry. The beauty and history leaves me in awe and I have to make sure I have at least two hours to explore each cemetery because I get so enthralled in what I find. The majority of the cemeteries I have explored and photographed have been in and around my home town of Brisbane, Australia but recently on a trip to Melbourne, Australia I made a visit to the Melbourne General Cemetery and within minutes of being there it became my current favourite historic cemetery! I adore the statues and crosses within the grounds with most still in excellent condition despite being decades old.


Melbourne General Cemetery was opened in 1852 covering 43 hectares (106 acres) and is now considered one of the most important and historically significant cemeteries in Australia. The cemetery has different sections including chapels, gardens, 3 mausoleums added in the 1990’s, and religion sections specifically for individuals of different faiths including Church of England, Roman Catholic, Baptists, Methodist and Presbyterian. The cemetery holds several notable interments including Prime Ministers, Premiers, explorers and entertainers. The cemetery holds 300,000 burials which will mean several more visits by me in future.

Claude Cricket Williams' headstone

On this visit I came across several graves of interest. The first is that of Claude Cricket Williams. Claude’s grave inscription says he was “accidentally killed at the Bijou Theatre fire in 1889.” He was 28 years of age. My research has revealed that Claude was the hall porter at the theatre and Claude died along with Captain Parsons, 33 years old, of the East Melbourne Brigade. The inquest found that there was “abundant evidence to show that both men came by their deaths through disobedience of order.” In Captain Parsons’ case, he was with a group of fire fighters who placed a ladder over a narrow gangway in an attempt to get onto the stage. Despite being warned by others that the walls could be heard cracking from the heat, the men proceeded with the ladder until the east wall gave way, striking Parsons in the head. In the case of Claude it was deemed he stayed in the burning building in an attempt to assist with the fire “without any right as he was not a member of the fire brigade.”

A "Father" of the Australian Labour Day

The second grave I came across is that of James Stephens who the founder of the “8 hour system” in Victoria, Australia. James was a stonemason, Trade union official and Chartist who on 21 April 1856 lead a group of stonemasons who walked off the job demanding the 8 hour system (8 hours of work, 8 hours of recreation, 8 hours of sleep) be introduced in Victoria, with the same pay. The movement worked and a public holiday called “Labour Day” is now held every year to remember this achievement.

This grave really caught my eye because it is the grave of a local undertaker, John Allison. I look forward to my next visit and what other stories I will find.

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Check out Samantha's photographs on Instagram. Just click that link and log on with your Facebook ID (if you're not already on Instagram). Cut and paste Samantha’s Instagram identifier into the search box: "sammy_eternityandchurch_pics." Please visit and enjoy her work!

Sources:

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Ebeneezer Tucker, of Tuckerton, N.J.

I’ve been wearing the same old pair of jeans for a few weeks now, in order to jog my memory so I would write this blog. I bought them last summer under a strange set of circumstances which has to do with death and cemeteries. You’ll see.

In the summer of 2015, I flew off to a distant land to attend the funeral of my friend’s wife. The day of the funeral coincided with the week my wife and I rented a place on the Jersey shore. Plan was that she and my daughter would drive down to the shore (from where we live in Philadelphia), then I would fly back to Philly after the funeral and drive to Long Beach Island, where we would be staying.

A hectic week, that was. I flew back to Philly on a red-eye flight, and caught a few hours’ worth of sleep at home. Next morning I threw my stuff in the car and headed to LBI to spend the remainder of the week at the shore. I was quite diligent about including my photographic gear in that stuff, as I’d planned to stop at a cemetery I’d never been to on the mainland opposite LBI. Tuckerton, New Jersey, was my stopover destination, a small fishing village on the bay.

On scenic Route 9, in South Jersey!
Just about the time I was to get off the Atlantic City Expressway and head north on Route 9, I had one of those heart-stopping realizations – I had forgotten my clothes! I remembered the camera gear, of course, but I neglected to grab my suitcase with a week’s worth of clothes! Atlantic City was an hour south of Philadelphia, so there was no way I was turning back. But I didn’t want to be late getting to the shore to see my wife and daughter. What’s a guy to do?

This guy figured he had two options:
  •       Stop at the Atlantic City outlet mall and blow a few hundred dollars on casual clothes; or
  •       Stop at the Goodwill on the Black Horse Pike just outside AC and blow but a few DOLLARS on a week’s wardrobe!
I opted for the latter. I think I spent a total of thirty dollars. My wife would be appalled, of course, but hey, when in a pinch….

On scenic Route 9, in South Jersey!

So anyway, these jeans I’ve been wearing the last week, they were one of the thrift shop scores. Half the clothes I threw away since last summer, but a few shirts and these cheap jeans I kept. Every time I looked at them, I thought, “I gotta write that blog.” So they served that purpose, at least.

On scenic Route 9, in South Jersey!
Every photographer who travels the fine roads of New Jersey knows that Route 9 is a visual feast of roadside attractions, such as giant milk bottles, tiny Victorian houses, and dinosaur statues. And that’s only within a ten-mile stretch. Eventually I made it to Tuckerton, where a friend of mine lives. My stop was not at his place, however. It was Old Methodist Cemetery, a new notch on my “Cemetery Traveler” belt. (This cemetery, by the way, is also called Greenwood Cemetery on some maps.)

Old Methodist Cemetery, Tuckerton, New Jersey

This cemetery is tiny – maybe it takes up the space of sixteen single-family homes. An easy analogy, as Old Methodist is in a residential area, surrounded by single-family homes. The major cross street is North Green Street, a few blocks north of Route 9, or Main Street, as its called here in Tuckerton.

A permanently ajar rusty gate at the corner entrance and low stone walls on two sides separate its overgrown grass from the well-manicured middle-class lawns around it. As is my wont, I seldom do research on a cemetery BEFORE I visit it. Sure, I miss stuff that later on I kick myself for, but generally, I like surprises. So, coming upon old Ebenezer Tucker’s tall white marble obelisk was a bit exciting.

Ebeneezer Tucker's monument at rear
I kind of figured this sleepy little fishing village had a founder named Tucker. Tucker, oddly, was born in Tucker’s Beach, New Jersey, but later moved to what is now Tuckerton, which was in fact named after him.  So what did he do that was so noteworthy as to have the town named after him? consider the following excerpt from the website Tuckerton.com:

"It was from Ebenezer Tucker (1758 – 1845) that Tuckerton received its name. In March 1789, Mr. Tucker hosted a feast at 'Clamtown' for the residents at which time they officially changed the name to Tuckerton. Tucker was prominent as its first Collector of customs; a soldier of the Revolutionary War and served at the battle of Long Island. He was a member of Congress from New Jersey 1825-1829; a Judge of the Court of Common Pleas; Justice of Court Of Quarter Sessions and Judge of the Orphans Court."

That’s all very quaint, and it's not surprising that the locals put him on a pedestal for his good deeds. But there's a little known fact about Tuckerton, this sleepy little seaside village, that surprised me - and made me wonder why Tuckerton is not better known outside of South Jersey. The website, Tuckerton.com, states:“Tuckerton became the Third Port of Entry of the United States, with Ebenezer Tucker appointed Collector; his  commission bearing date March 21, 1791 signed by George  Washington, president and Thomas Jefferson, Secretary of State.”

Odd Fellows Symbol on headstone
Apparently, Ebeneezer Tucker was quite a big deal, as was Tuckerton itself! What were the first two points of entry into the United States, you may ask? New York City and Philadelphia. At one time, for sure, Tuckerton played a major role in the growth of our nation. Today, people might think it unusual for a town this small to have THREE cemeteries, but then back in the day, it's population must have been much larger.

http://www.theus50.com/newjersey/seal.php
Walking through Old Methodist Cemetery you certainly do get a sense of history. Some of the headstones are very old, dating to the late 1700s. Established in 1699, Tuckerton was originally called “Clamtown,” as you read above. Tuckerton must have been a major source of this sea food before it was all fished out. So let's see, what else can I tell you about this little graveyard?

New Jersey State Seal
One thing that baffles me is the fact that, given the hard Atlantic coast weather, with the ocean salt spray and all that, why the detail has not worn off the soft marble grave markers? Further inland where there is more pollution and acid rain (I assume), such detail has long vanished from similar stones. Here, you can see the Victorian symbols of death quite clearly, the willow, the lamb. Even the New Jersey State Seal on old Ebeneezer Tucker’s 1845 marble obelisk is still plainly visible!

References and Further Reading:

Friday, May 6, 2016

Antique Cemetery Roses!

Old City Cemetery, Sacramento, CA (http://www.examiner.com/article/more-secret-gardens-of-the-sacramento)

I suppose I’ve been living under a rock all this time. Even my MOTHER knew about “antique roses” when I asked her if she had ever heard of them. Now, unless you're totally into horticulture, you might never think to put those two words together (unless you're naming a new rock band - "Antique Roses" is at least as good a name as "Stone Roses,” the name of a well-known British band). But Google "Antique Roses" and you will find something surprising, especially if you are a taphophile or coimetromaniac!

For those unaware of the names people use to describe us cemetery travelers, a “taphophile” is one who loves “funerals, cemeteries and the rituals of death” (according to Wiktionary.org) and (according to www.wordinfo) a "coimetromaniac" is someone who exhibits “an abnormal attraction to and desire to visit cemeteries.

So anyway, its apropos of the season that I am writing this, as it is springtime and so many flowers are in bloom. Live flowers in cemeteries banish the darkness, the dread, and this is one of the reasons Victorian cemetery architects designed it that way.

Roses Gone Wild
I would assume that most people don’t realize that some of the roses growing in our old Victorian-era cemeteries might very well be the actual roses that were planted there a hundred years ago! If a cemetery is well-maintained and families trim the bushes around their ancestors’ graves, there’s no reason to assume that a particular rose bush might be “antique.” But it is certainly possible.

If an old cemetery is allowed to grow wild, like the 1855 Mount Moriah Cemetery in Southwest Philadelphia, one can see the effect of bushes and trees that are not maintained. A fifty-year-old rose bush can grow into a ten-foot ball of thorns, totally obscuring a headstone or monument. This has happened at Mount Moriah. Since taking responsibility for the grounds keeping in 2011 (when the cemetery was abandoned), the all-volunteer Friends of Mount Moriah Cemetery, Inc. has cut back a large portion of the bushes grown wild, the invasive trees, and Japanese knotweed that do their best to hide (and sometimes topple) the grave markers.

On a recent tour of Mount Moriah Cemetery that I gave to representatives of the University of Pennsylvania's Morris Arboretum (see link at end), I pointed out such an overgrown rose bush, which would soon blossom and equip itself with thorns that could pierce armor. Bryan Thompson-Nowak (Assistant Director, Continuing Education & Penn Student Outreach of the Morris Arboretum), replied simply, “antique roses.”

This was the first time I ever heard those two words together. I asked him to explain. It seems that people who know a lot about roses and want to propagate the old varieties, will visit old cemeteries and abandoned houses to get clippings of the rose bushes! Clippings can be used to start a new plant. Why bother? In addition to their unusual beauty and historical significance, hundred-year-old-rose variations are hardy. They may have lasted behind that abandoned house for fifty years with no need for humans to care for them.

“In addition to their long and rich history, old roses have many benefits over many of the modern hybrid varieties found in today’s gardens … these beauties are able to thrive under difficult conditions – and for good reason. You see, old or antique roses grow on their own roots, so they can tolerate winter’s freezing temperatures. In fact, they’re often referred to as “subzero roses.” Additionally, old roses are drought-hardy and easily stand up to hot summer sun and drying winds – once established.” - http://www.learn2grow.com/gardeningguides/roses/basics/TheseBudsAreForYou.aspx

Hundreds of rose varieties from the 16th through 20th centuries have been identified and are cared for in many cemetery horticulture gardens around the United States. See links below for websites that describe such gardens in Denver, Lynchburg, and Sacramento.

This weekend, in fact – Mothers’ Day Weekend – is the Annual Antique Rose Festival at the Old City Cemetery in Lynchburg, Virginia!

For an amazing tour of Sacramento, California’s Old City Cemetery historic antique Rose Garden (500 roses!), please visit their website:

References, Further Reading, and Photos Galore!
(Several of these links were graciously provided by Bryan Thompson-Nowak of the Morris Arboretum)

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Holocaust Remembrance Day

May 4-5, 2016, according to Reform Judaism, is Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. This is not to be confused with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which is observed on January 27 (“On 27 January 1945, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, was liberated by Soviet troops” – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Holocaust_Remembrance_Day).

“Shoah, which means catastrophe or utter destruction in Hebrew, refers to the atrocities that were committed against the Jewish people during World War II. This is a memorial day for those who died in the Shoah. The Shoah is also known as the Holocaust, from a Greek word meaning "sacrifice by fire." - http://www.reformjudaism.org/jewish-holidays/yom-hashoah



Over the years, I’ve written about the formerly abandoned Jewish Cemetery in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania (a suburb of Philadelphia), known by various names, Har Hasetim, Mount of Olives, and the Gladwyne Jewish Memorial Cemetery. The latter is the name given to the burial ground by the Friends of the Gladwyne Jewish Memorial Cemetery, which is managed by the Beth David Reform Congregation in Gladwyne  (newly-granted legal owners of the cemetery).

I’ve included some of my photographs here, as well as links at the end to blogs I’ve posted about this cemetery nestled deep in the woods. In honor of Yom HaShoah, Villanova University Department of History is presenting a three-hour research symposium entitled, “People and Place: The Making and Meanings of Har Hasetim in Gladwyne, PA.” Below is the formal announcement.

Thursday May 5, 2016   4:30 PM to 7:30 PM
Villanova University, 800 Lancaster Ave, Villanova, PA 19085 -
Driscoll Auditorium 134.

Villanova University Department of History Presents People and Place: The Making and Meanings of Har Hasetim in Gladwyne, PA, a Graduate Student Public History Symposium.

Join Professor Craig Bailey and his class of graduate students from Villanova University's Department of History as they present their research on the Har Hasetim Cemetery, also known as the Gladwyne Jewish Memorial Cemetery. This semester long project culminates with the retelling of Gladwyne's hidden Jewish cemetery. From immigration to Philadelphia to being interred in Gladwyne, the projects completed during the semester demonstrate the importance and history of the cemetery to understanding Philadelphia and Gladwyne. The presentation will open with a blessing and moment of silence in observance of Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
This event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. Reservations are not required but recommended by visiting Eventbrite:

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/people-and-place-the-making-and-meanings-of-har-hasetim-in-gladwyne-pa-tickets-22279473505     

Dr. Craig Bailey joined forces with the Friends of the Gladwyne Jewish Memorial Cemetery to embark on dedicated research mission to uncover hidden history and facts about Har Hasetim. The mission of the Friends of the Gladwyne Jewish Memorial Cemetery is to ensure dignity for those interred at Har Hasetim and their families while honoring the historical, cultural and natural significance of the site. We will achieve our mission by working together with volunteers and with the support of community partners primarily through restoration and maintenance of the graves and natural features, sharing the story of the cemetery, and providing access to information about those interred at the site.


The purpose of the Friends of the Gladwyne Jewish Memorial Cemetery is:
  • To care for, maintain, restore, manage, operate and secure the property known as the Gladwyne Jewish Memorial Cemetery, located in Gladwyne, Pennsylvania on behalf of the owner of the Cemetery, Beth David Reform Congregation
  • To provide and maintain a suitable religious burial ground for those persons buried in the Cemetery;
  • To stimulate public awareness and appreciation for the Cemetery as a historical site and to solicit the participation of the community in its maintenance and preservation
  • To receive and administer funds for the aforesaid purposes.
For more information contact either Dr. Craig Bailey at Villanova University mailto:craig.bailey@villanova.edu or Jill Cooper, Executive Director of Beth David Reform Congregation, 610-896-7485 x104, mailto:jcooper@bdavid.org

References and Further Reading:
Friends of the Gladwyne Jewish Memorial Cemetery on Facebook
Friends of the Gladwyne Jewish Memorial Cemetery Website
http://thecemeterytraveler.blogspot.com/2015/11/progress-for-gladwyne-jewish-memorial.html
http://thecemeterytraveler.blogspot.com/2015/05/a-new-era-for-abandoned-jewish-cemetery.html
http://thecemeterytraveler.blogspot.com/2012/04/passover-and-gladwynes-abandoned-jewish.html

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Odd End to Philadelphia's Odd Fellows Cemetery

William Dick Elementary School, Philadelphia (former site of Odd Fellows Cemetery)
Coffin piece from Odd Fellows Cemetery?
A few weeks ago I received an email from a woman who was wondering about the resolution of this situation. In December of 2013, wooden coffins were surprisingly unearthed under a schoolyard in north Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Water Company was digging under the playground at the William Dick Elementary School (shown above) when caskets and other remains were found. When the story hit the news on Dec. 4 (see links at end), there was much media coverage. I went to the site to check it out. As far as I can tell, none of the graves that were excavated at that time were moved - seems like the Philadelphia Water Company just did their piping work and filled the ground back in. There were pieces of old pine board laying around in the mud of the site, one of which I picked up. Possibly part of an old pine box.

I lost track of the story and began wondering myself whatever became of this find. I see no further mention of it on the Internet. At the time of the incident, I missed an email from a reporter asking me to comment on the situation. Had I made the interview, I would have suggested he contact The Odd Fellows Cemetery Company in northeast Philadelphia for comment. The site in question (24th and Diamond Streets), was originally the site of Odd Fellows Cemetery, which had been established in 1848.

Latest occupant of the land once occupied by the Odd Fellows Cemetery

About a hundred years later, in 1951, the City of Philadelphia displaced Odd Fellows Cemetery and used the space to build a housing project and this public school. About 80,000 bodies were supposedly moved to Lawnview Cemetery in Rockledge (a Philadelphia suburb in Montgomery County), and Mount Peace Cemetery, at 3111 West Lehigh Avenue, Philadelphia. Both locations were, and are still, owned by the Odd Fellows Cemetery Company. The woman who wrote to me had a vested interest in the situation. It seems that many of her ancestors had originally been buried at Odd Fellows Cemetery.



Ironically, a few months prior to the unearthing of the coffins at Odd Fellows' original site, she had requested copies of her ancestors' burial records from the Odd Fellows Cemetery Company in Rockledge. Her ancestors had been buried there in the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s. She received the records, which were stamped "Moved to Lawnview in 1951," complete with lot numbers of the graves. She had accepted all this as fact until the coffins were discovered. Now she's not so sure.

Plaque on monument in Odd Fellows Cemetery

When a cemetery or graveyard is moved, those in charge most likely try to move all the bodies. However, its fairly common that stragglers are left behind, and found years later by accident. But if stragglers are later found, should they not be relocated as well? The Philadelphia Water Company temporarily halted its work in December 2013 so archaeologists could examine the findings. As I was doing research for this article, I did see that an attempt was made by Philly.com to contact Odd Fellows Cemetery Company at the time of the schoolyard excavation. Calls were not returned.


Lawnview Cemetery field where tens of thousands of bodies were reburied

Why the name "Odd Fellows?"
"The Independent Order of Odd Fellows began in 18th Century England, it was deemed odd to find people organized for the purpose of giving aid to those in need without recognition and pursuing projects for the benefits of all mankind." - http://www.ioof.org/

Plaque at Odd Fellows Cemetery
Odd Fellows began as a fraternal organization in America in 1819, and continues to this day. Currently, the organization sees itself as a "...family of Odd Fellowship, composed of Men, Women, and Youth, believing in a supreme being, the creator and preserver of the universe, who have come together in our local communities having the same beliefs and values as others, that; Friendship, Love and Truth are the basic guidelines that we need to follow in our daily lives"(ref.). Friendship, Love and Truth are usually symbolized by the three chain links seen in the photo at left; sometimes the letters F-L-T are written within the links.


Sidewalk at 24th and Diamond Streets
The photo at right was taken in April 2016. It shows the new sidewalks at 24th and Diamond Streets which were poured after the opened graves had been filled back in, subsequent to the Philadelphia Water Company finishing its work. The fence encloses the playground of the William Dick Public School. There is no memorial plaque or anything to indicate that portions of the Odd Fellows Cemetery still exist under the playground.

Lawnview Cemetery, Rockledge, PA
Lawnview Cemetery has been the recipient of tens of thousands of relocated graves over the years, from other cemeteries besides Odd Fellows. The most notorious being the twenty thousand graves from Philadelphia's Monument Cemetery, which was razed in 1956. The rumor was that all these bodies were dumped into a mass grave. If you talk to the people at Lawnview, they tell you that they have a record showing the actual plot where each body was buried. No reason not to trust that, except that, as people found out in north Philly in 2013, not all the graves (from Odd Fellows) were actually moved.

If you drive through Lawnview Cemetery, there is a vast field with no grave markers. This is where the burials from Monument Cemetery and Odd Fellows Cemetery are. There are no monuments, headstones, or markers of any kind because most of them were dumped into the Delaware River (you can read about that here). Some markers from Odd Fellows Cemetery remained, albeit buried, at their original location. News reports say that marble headstones were found during the Philadelphia Water Company's excavation in 2013. If you drive through Lawnview, I will tell you that the sight is a bit unsettling. The field in question looks flat at first glance. But if you drive, the lateral view you get is a decidedly unflat grassy field. The peaks of the many trenches they must have dug to accommodate the tens of thousands of bodies are quite obvious.

Fields of Graves - Lawnview Cemetery, Rockledge, PA

I realize that I've posed more questions than answers in this blog post. If anyone can shed light on the topic, please post a comment here or email me at mourningarts@yahoo.com.


References and Further Reading:

Sunday, April 17, 2016

A Roadside Memorial Like No Other

Unless you were purposely driving to the “Geigertown Central Railroad” in Geigertown, Pennsylvania, you would never see this roadside memorial to a lost son. And if you WERE driving there on purpose, you would probably know that the “Geigertown Central Railroad” is not an actual, official railroad line. It is a memorial to the man who amassed a large collection of trains.

People mourn, grieve, remember, and memorialize the dead in countless ways. I can respect that. Roadside memorials are quite common, in urban as well as rural areas. The big difference between the two is the sheer scope of land one can dedicate to rural memorials. Such is the Geigertown Central Railroad in southeast Pennsylvania – 150 acres, to be exact.

According to the Pottstown (Pennsylvania) Mercury, “D. J. Shirey was an active train enthusiast and collector and was killed in 1993 at the age of 26 when a crane overturned on him as he was trying to right a derailed train in Hamburg, Pennsylvania. The Geigertown Central Railroad Museum Inc. is a nonprofit corporation which the Shirey family has set up in D.J.’s memory. Essentially, they keep his collection in place.

Unlike most train enthusiasts who collect HO gauge model trains, Shirley collected the real thing. If you see the acres of railroad track and antique locomotives, cabooses, and other rail cars rusting on this 150 acre-rural property, you would gather that Shirey’s hobby was somewhat more expansive (not to mention expensive) than most.
 
Shirley  was a member of a family who owned (and still owns) a trucking company (Shireys Trucking) in Geigertown, PA (about ten miles south of Reading). The “memorial” sprawls over acres of farmland along the side of 1403 Geigertown Road, directly across from the trucking operation.

Inside a caboose
"From a young age, his dream was to create his own railroad, which he named the 'Geigertown Central Railroad,' complete with engines, freight cars and tracks that would circle his farmhouse in the rolling hills of Geigertown,” according to the Oct. 6, 1993, article in the Mercury. D.J. Shirey married his wife Frances aboard a steam locomotive in 1991, and had moved from Geigertown to Hamburg with his wife and baby daughter about a year before his death.

While the average railroad enthusiast might build an HO gauge model railroad setup in his basement, Shirey bought and collected real trains! He had tracks laid on the family property on which to set the many steam locomotives, cabooses, and other types of rail cars amassed in his collection. If I were to guess the number of pieces on the property I would say about thirty. He even has old rusting cranes, bulldozers, and steam boilers. Piles of railroad ties, track, and spikes dot the landscape. There are railroad signs, sheds, and lights. Everything has been sitting there in the field rusting since D.J.’s death in 1993.

“With the help of his grandfather, Dave “Bob” Shirey, D.J. amassed quite a collection of rail cars, old trains, and rusting engines. Meanwhile, D.J. learned everything he could about railroading. For two years he drove the diesel engine in Pottstown that pushed the old Ironstone Ramble steam train. He was chief operating engineer for the Blue Mountain and Reading Railroad, where he had done “almost every job,” including driving and inspecting diesel and steam engines and shoveling coal into the locomotive’s fire box. Just a few months before his death, he became a locomotive steam boiler inspector.”

Back in 2005, some of the collection was auctioned off by his father, David Shirey. About thirty pieces remain, as a memorial to his son. How (and why) D.J. amassed this collection at such an early age is downright intriguing. Amidst the row of cabooses can be seen rusting steam shovels, bulldozers, and other old industrial equipment. Manual pumper cars and steam boilers sit idly alongside massive locomotives and other railroad cars. It is quite a scene. The photo below is in fact what you see from Geigertown Road.

Steam locomotives alongside Geigertown Road, Geigertown, Pennsylvania

If you donate some money, the family may let you roam about the property to view the cars up close, and even go inside them. (Photo at left shows inside of one train car looking out its door at the caboose.) The donation is for the upkeep of the collection, which it appears, probably amounts to cutting the grass in summer. When I was there this past winter exploring and making photographs with a friend who lives in the area, he nonchalantly suggested we come back again in the fall. I asked, why wait until fall? He said, “You wouldn’t want to be in these weeds when the rattlesnakes are around.” I figured I’d defer to his good judgement and not return until next fall.

References and Further Reading: