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New York, Susquehanna & Western owner and short-line industry leader Rich dies

The short-line industry has lost one of its most “tireless and dedicated” leaders. Walter Rich, chairman, president and chief executive officer of The Delaware Otsego Corp., and owner and head of the firm’s New York, Susquehanna & Western Railway Corp. (NYSW) subsidiary, died yesterday after an eight-month battle with cancer. He was 61.

Rich had served holding company Delaware Otsego since 1971 and was chief executive officer of NYSW — a 400-mile short line operating in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania — since 1980. In 1988, he headed an effort to save the bankrupt Delaware & Hudson Railway, which NYS&W operated under emergency orders from the Interstate Commerce Commission until the property was sold to Canadian Pacific Railway.

In 1993, Rich was appointed as a member of the New York State Public Transportation Safety Board, and a year later, was appointed to serve on then New York Governor-elect George Pataki's transition team and a transportation subcommittee. He previously served as a member and past chairman of the Eastern General Managers’ Association, where he worked to improve rail safety and organized numerous industry seminars on the subject.

Rich also chaired the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) for five years.

“Walter was an influential and powerful spokesman for the short line industry for over 25 years during the explosive growth of the 1980s and 90s,” said ASLRRA President Richard Timmons in a prepared statement. “As chairman of the association, he dealt with some of the most challenging problems of that growth at both the state and federal levels, and tirelessly dedicated himself to the expansion of the small railroad network.”

Since joining ASLRRA as president in September 2002, Timmons often sought Rich’s advice on numerous issues.

“He was always available and thoughtful in providing timely and valuable insights and recommendations,” said Timmons. “I will miss him as a friend and his wise counsel concerning short line railroads. He will long be remembered as a leader who faced tough problems head-on and never stepped back from difficult problems.”

Rich is survived by his wife, Karine, and children Stephanie and Derik. Funeral services will be held Aug. 14 at 1 p.m. at Christ Church in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 8/10/2007