(REVISED) James R. Stuart, a native of the Worcester / Sterling Mass area and former New York Central employee, passed away on August 27, in Townsend, Delaware, just ten days after his 88th birthday.
During the Second World War, Jim worked at Heald Machine in Worcester and the Springfield Armory, building the famous Browning 50 caliber machine gun, variations of which are still in use today. It was there that he met his wife Marion, to whom he was married for 60 years before her death in 2004.
Jim was hired as a signal draftsman-mechanical for NYC in 1952, and was promoted to the Operating Department’s Manager Training Program in the following year. He served as an assistant trainmaster in Cleveland and later as night trainmaster in Chicago. In 1964 he was assigned to the Signal Engineering Department in New York, and during his employment in Philadelphia with Penn Central and Conrail he served, in his words, “as a one-man department having to do with movable bridges.”
Jim was an avid live steamer and was know to say that his father always remarked that he learned to say ‘choo choo’ before anything else.
A founding member of Pioneer Valley (1952), lifetime member of Waushakum and associate of Pennsylvania Live Steamers, he dedicated much of his available time to steaming at all available ¾ “ tracks, frequently accompanied by long-time friend and co-worker Harold Crouch.
While living in Wilmington DE, he and daughter Cathy travelled all over the east coast, visiting local steam clubs and amazing them what could be done with a 20#, ¾” scale ‘Tich’ steamer that was literally, smaller than a toaster and ran like a rabbit.
After his wife Marion died in 2004 and his home in Massachusetts burned to the ground, he was invited by fellow live steamer Bill Shields to live with him and his wife in Townsend, Delaware.
Despite severe vision problems caused by advanced glaucoma, Jim was able to continue his live steam activities, frequently outdistancing more sophisticated locomotives he racked up countless miles on his ¾” Tom Thumb.
At Bill’s house, Jim had nearly completed work on a 3/4” Boston and Maine Atlantic, which he had started in 1946. This model, his pride and joy, was completely self-designed from original B&M drawings and used cylinders that he designed, patterned and had cast when he was working in Chicago for the NYCRR.
Besides raising and caring for his family, Jim greatest joy was being able to introduce others to the live steam hobby. It is safe to say that ‘guest engineers’ have run as many miles behind his locomotives as he did.
Jim Stuart was a quiet, knowledgeable, thoughtful, and gentle man who will be sorely missed by all who had the privilege of knowing him.
Jim’s daughter Catherine lives in Newtown Square PA with husband Nicholas and daughter Colleen.