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ASLRRA launches 'Hall of Fame,' will honor Blabey, Fuller, Silver

"The Hall of Fame idea came from the membership who wanted to recognize the pioneers of our industry. Each year we will induct three individuals, one of whom will be posthumously, into the Hall of Fame," said ASLRRA President Chuck Baker.
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The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) announced yesterday that this year it will induct three individuals into the organization's inaugural Short Line Industry Hall of Fame.

The new annual recognition program will honor short-line visionaries and stars who through their dedication, commitment and achievement best exemplify the qualities of innovation, entrepreneurialism, perseverance and service that have helped advance the short line industry, ASLRRA officials said in a press release.

This year, the association will recognize Eugene Blabey II, Mortimer Fuller III and Marjorie "Maggie" Silver, who will be honored posthumously. The initial inductees were chosen by a panel of five industry leaders, ASLRRA officials said.

"As an industry, we have been blessed to stand on the shoulders of strong leaders who have driven our continued success,” said ASLRRA President Chuck Baker. "The Hall of Fame idea came from the membership who wanted to recognize the pioneers of our industry. Each year we will induct three individuals, one of whom will be posthumously, into the Hall of Fame."

Each honoree began their careers when the modern short-line industry was in its infancy. They were among the first to understand the market forces that stemmed from the Staggers Rail Act of 1980 and used those forces to preserve thousands of miles of under-utilized and dilapidated rail line, ASLRRA officials said.

The inductees will be recognized at the ASLRRA's 2020 convention, scheduled for May 4.

Blabey combined a career in journalism with a 50-year involvement in the short-line industry. He retired in 1987 as vice president and general manager of United Press International in Europe. He became intrigued with short lines as a young UPI reporter, when he wrote about a community's effort to preserve railroad service and later followed up with an account of how that effort led to the formation of Livonia, Avon & Lakeville Railroad (LAL).

Later, Blabey personally invested in the venture and joined the short-line's board, serving as treasurer and VP. In the 1970s, he joined two colleagues to form the Maryland & Delaware Railroad (MDDE) and the Virginia & Maryland Railroad (V&M), operating light density lines on the Delmarva Peninsula.

Blabey no longer is connected with the MDDE, but continues as a director of Arkansas & Missouri Railroad, V&M's successor. In 2001, he raised the capital to form Western New York & Pennsylvania Railroad LLC, where he continues his involvement as chairman and managing partner.

Fuller served 40 years as chief executive officer and chairman of Genesse & Wyoming Railroad Inc., which grew from a 14-mile short line in upstate New York with 1977 revenue of $4.4 million to an owner of 122 freight railroads operating in the United States, Canada, Australia and Europe.

In the 1980s, Fuller was a founding member of an ad hoc group of short-line and regional railroaders, the Regional Railroads of America (RRA), which sought to change a variety of New Deal era laws that affected the railroad industry. Later, the RRA would merge with the American Short Line Railroad Association to form ASLRRA.

Fuller also launched the first Railroad Day on the Hill. He has served the ASLRRA as a board member representing the Eastern region and is the 2018 recipient of the Thomas L. Schlosser Distinguished Service Award.

Silver began her rail career as an accountant in the short-line company owned by her father, Sam Pinsly. When he died in 1977, his senior executives advised her to sell the business, presuming that a woman could not make it in railroading. She rejected their advice and went on to pursue a 40-year career as the owner and creator of short lines, serving as the chair of the Pinsly Railroad Co.

Silver was one of the first short-line railroaders to understand and embrace the changes that stemmed from the Staggers Act. She was a member of the American Short Line Railroad Association's board, and later served on the ASLRRA's board. She remained active in association and board activities after her retirement in 2007. She died in 2014 at the age of 88.