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DCNRHS' Legend Bernie Gallagher [1928-2017]

posted Dec 5, 2017, 4:56 PM by James Lilly   [ updated Dec 11, 2017, 8:05 PM ]
Bernard "Bernie" Gallagher, founder of DCNRHS' Equipment program, our Legendary Chief Mechanical Officer and the Majordomo behind the Dover Harbor for 38 years, a railroad worker, model railroader who made his own O-scale steam locomotives, and an extraordinary gentleman, father, husband, leader, dedicated Union Man, historian, and friend, passed away December 5, 2017. A December 7, 2017 article in Trains Magazine's Newswire described Bernie as  a "railfan and force behind modern private car movement."

A memorial service will be held next Wednesday, December 13, at 11:00 am at St. Joseph's Catholic Church, 11007 Montgomery Road, Beltsville, MD 20705.

In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations in  Bernie's memory be made to DCNRHS.  This may be accomplished on-line at or by sending a check to:

1325 G ST NW STE 500
WASHINGTON DC 20005-3146
Please make the check payable to DCNRHS and include a note so that we can be sure to know the gift is in memory of Bernie.

Bernie Gallagher - Mishaps

All funds received will go to further the operation of the railway equipment Bernie so enjoyed working on and labored so hard to keep "on the rails."

Bernie was born in Alexandria, Virginia November 19, 1928. A railfan from an early age, he grew up a few blocks from Alexandria Union Station and spent time there watching the trains of the RF&P, C&O Pennsylvania Railroad, ACL, SAL, Washington & Old Dominion, and Southern, his favorite. He said the crush of traffic during WW II was impressive.  In 1946 he got a job working for the Southern Railway in their Alexandria, Virginia shops as a machinist apprentice.  3 years later, Bernie, now a full machinist, was laid off the Southern and took a job at Fruit Growers Express repairing reefers in Alexandria.  Then 3 months later he landed a job at the Washington Terminal Company in Ivy City in Washington, D.C. where he worked til 1957.  He left there shortly after the B&O ended much of its service in the Northeast, and took a job as a machinist at the Allen Mitchell Company, a machine shop in DC, where he worked the rest of his career. 

In 1948 he joined the US Army Reserve and was called up in 1950, serving during the Korean War. He also served in a U.S. Army Railway Operating Reserve Battalion. 

While at Allen Mitchell he did a lot of contract work for Amtrak at their Ivy City Shops and made or continued a number of friendships and kept up on his railroad knowledge.  So in 1979 when the National Railway Historical Society, Washington, D.C. Chapter, inc. was considering purchasing a railcar for operations, Bernie spotted one in Silver Spring and asked an inspector from Amtrak to come out and look it over.  Turns out, a car which many thought was derelict, was in better shape than much of Amtrak's equipment, or so Bernie relayed in a story.  The rest is history. The Chapter acquired the car in 1979 on November 30th, and Bernie became the Chapter's first Chief Mechanical Officer. Under his steady leadership, and tutelage, and with an incredible amount of work from Bernie and other volunteers,  Dover Harbor made its first trip in 1982 and became Amtrak certified in 1986.  For more information about the Dover Harbor, click here

Over the years Bernie made trips on the car all over the United States and into Canada, but more importantly with his steady hand helped tirelessly, to maintain the car, teach others about the car, all with a sense of humor and a smile.  Just about any Saturday would find Bernie at Silver Spring, and after August 1990, at Dover Park, working away on various car projects, maybe having a beer and cigar at lunch.  At the end of the day if you left before him he would always say "Well, you're not going off and leaving us in this mess are you?"  That was Bernie's way of saying "Thanks for your efforts, see you next time."

Bernie also served on the Board of Directors of DCNRHS for many years and helped to expand the Equipment Program in 2007 when the Chapter took ownership of two 1949 Budd Cars. Bernie earned DCNRHS' highest honor, the Bent Spike Award, for bending over backwards to help the society. 

We were fortunate in 2012 and 2013 to capture about 3 hours worth of oral history from Bernie which we have digitized.  A few bits are on the internet on Youtube (search for Bernie Gallagher DCNRHS).  One of the best is A Story about Amos.

Directions to church from I95N/I495N Capital Beltway - Exit 25 - US 1 - Baltimore Avenue North towards Laurel/College Park (.84 miles). Turn right on US 1 towards Laurel. Left on Montgomery Road (.2 miles) - St. Joseph's is on the right.

  If you have photos, please send to info @


Trains Magazine Carries Article on Bernie's Passing on Newswire.

On December 7 Trains Magazine carried an article about Bernie's passing. The article is written by John Hankey.  You can see the article here. It is also attached as a PDF to this page.

Borrowing from an old poem, The Ship, one of our members has given us a way to remember Bernie.

The Train
by Jim Lilly

I am standing trackside, a train leaves the station with Bernie on-board waving at us from a Pullman, starting for his next station in life.

The train is an object of beauty, and I stand watching until at last it passes around a curve and out of sight, the light from the last car fading.  Someone at my side says “There he goes.”



Gone from my sight that is all.

The train is just as large, steely, and strong as it was when I saw it last, and just as able to bear our special passenger to its destination.

The diminished size, fading sounds, and loss of sight is in me, not in the train or its passenger,  and just at the moment when the train passes out of sight, its marker lights dimming, someone at my side says, “There he goes.”

But there are others down the line who are at that same moment watching the headlight coming into view, and others take up a glad shout:

“There he comes.”

And that my friends is how we can remember Bernie.


Obituary for Mr. Bernard Henry Gallagher

Bernard Henry Gallagher of Beltsville, MD died on December 5,2017 at Corsica Hills Nursing Home. He was 89. 

Mr. Gallagher was born on November 19, 1928, a 5th generation native of Alexandria, VA. He graduated from George Washington High School. In 1948 he joined the US Army Reserve and was called up in 1950, serving during the Korean War. He completed his military career as a Sergeant First Class. He married Charlotte Ward on June 24, 1957 and the couple made their home in Landover Hills, MD, later Beltsville, Md. He worked in the railroad industry, starting his career in 1946 with the Southern Railroad, later moving to the Fruit Grover’s Express and then the Washington Terminal Company. He was a Steam Locomotive Machinist and Carman. He went on to work for Allen Mitchell & co. of Wash D. C. a machine shop and was a contract machinist at NASA Greenbelt. He retired in 1990.

Mr. Gallagher was a member of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Beltsville, MD; the Knights of Columbus, and the National Historical Railroad Society, he was instrumental in the restoration of the Pullman Car “Dover Harbor” , and held the title of Chief Mechanical Officer Emeritus. He was dedicated in the service of his brother Machinists serving as a shop steward and Local Officer. He was an accomplished model railroad train builder and railroad historian.

He is survived by his loving wife, Charlotte Mary Gallagher of Beltsville, MD; his children: Madeline Mitchell (David) of Alexandria, VA, Bernard Gallagher of Beltsville, MD and John Gallagher (Jeanine) of Cordova, MD; a sister, Jean Whalen of TX; grandchildren: Blaine (Jessica), John, Austin, Juliana, Alexander and Scott; and 4 great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his parents, Bernard Travers Gallagher and Eleanor Kate Kingsley Gallagher; a daughter, Marie Miller; and a brother, Michael Gallagher. 

A Memorial Mass will be celebrated at 11 am on Wednesday, December 13 at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church in Beltsville, MD. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the National Railway Historical Society, 1001 G St. NW, Ste. 800W, Washington, DC 20001; or to the Alzheimer’s Association, PO Box 96011, Washington, DC 20090

Clok here for the source link to Obituary on Funeral Home Web Site.

Washington Post Death Notice (December 10, 2017).


Bernie, you are missed, terribly.  Thanks from all of us for all you did.

Aboard Collinsville Inn in April 2013 - Photo by Jim Lilly

Bernie at the writing desk of the Dover Harbor in 1992- Photo by Dave Warner

Bernie in his office aboard the first baggage car at Dover Park - Photo by Jim Lilly

Bernie and Chief of On-board Services Sally Scribner on the road with Dover Harbor at Jacksonville, Florida 1997 - Photo by Jim Lilly

Bernie at Brunswick, MD December 2007 inspecting MARC cars
for DCNRHS operations - Photo by Jim Lilly

The Dover Harbor Gang  - Reunion

In 2014 many of the surviving original Dover Harbor "Gang" from the 1980s and 1990s goy together aboard the car for a mini reunion. From Left to Right Kevin Tankersley, Karl Scheetz, Jim Lilly, Jean Scheetz, Pam Brandon (face hidden), Mark Piotrowski, Pat Clark, Bernie Gallagher, and Charlotte Gallagher - Photo by Scarlett Wirt

Supervising track and roadbed work at Dover Park - April 5, 2014
Bernie supervises some track and roadbed work at Dover Park - April 5, 2014 - Photo by Jim Lilly

At the controls of his O-Scale Layout
At the controls of his hand-built O-scale Layout - Photo by Jim Lilly

Bernie's Handiwork - Photo by Jim Lilly

James Lilly,
Dec 9, 2017, 6:58 AM