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Short line pioneer and former Pinsly leader Maggie Silver: 1925 to 2014


Short-line industry pioneer and longtime Pinsly Railroad Co. leader Marjorie “Maggie” Silver died on March 9. She was 88.

When she retired from Pinsly in 2007, Silver ended a more than 40-year career at the company her late father Samuel Pinsly created in 1938. She worked at the railroad from 1965 until her father’s death in 1977, when she succeeded him as president. In 2000, Silver became chairman of Pinsly's board, and her son, John Levine, became president.

Pinsly owns and operates seven short lines: the Arkansas Midland, Florida Central, Florida Midland, Florida Northern and Pioneer Valley, Prescott and Northwestern and Warren & Saline River railroads. The company also operates Railroad Distribution Services, which provides warehouse, reload and distribution services.

In 1978, Silver joined the board of the American Short Line Railroad Association, the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association's (ASLRRA) predecessor organization. She was extensively involved in the association, serving on ASLRRA's Eastern Region Board since 1979, including five years as the region's vice president. Silver became director emeritus of ASLRRA at the end of her term in 1994, and remained active in association and board activities after her 2007 retirement. She also was a past president of the New England Railroad Club and held a leadership role at the Massachusetts Railroad Association.

When her father died, Pinsly’s senior executives advised Silver to sell the company, but she declined. She was one of the first short line presidents to understand and embrace change brought on by the Staggers Act of 1980, which fundamentally changed the rail industry, displaying the good business sense, energy and determination that enabled her to grow Pinsly Railroad, ASLRRA officials said in a press release.

"She was at the time a woman in a man's world and yet came to be one of the most important and dominant short line presidents in the country," said ASLRRA President Richard Timmons.

Silver also served as a mentor for hundreds of women beginning their rail industry careers. She was proud to see an increasing number of women entering the business, and generously shared her wisdom and her wit, ASLRRA officials said. Judy Petry, an ASLRRA board member and good friend of Silver's, considers her the leading lady of the railroad industry and "my mentor."

"When I first began attending national industry meetings, it was just me and Maggie," said Petry, the president and general manager of Farmrail System Inc. "In later years, she often remarked that only she and I remembered when there were no lines in the ladies restroom."

Silver also devoted untold hours to improving ASLRRA's meeting process, and her impact on the association's conventions and events still resonates today, ASLRRA officials said.

"She was one of the most thoughtful, forward-thinking individuals that I have ever known," said Kathy Cassidy, ASLRRA's vice president of meetings and member services.

Silver is survived by her husband, Robert, three sons, a daughter, two step daughters and eight grandchildren. A memorial service will be held tomorrow in New York City.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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