Thomas T. Taber III: 2016 Gerald M. Best Senior Achievement Award

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The senior achievement award is for a significant and longstanding contribution to the writing, preservation, and interpretation of railroad history. The 2016 award goes to Mr. Taber, a Life Member of the R&LHS. He has been active in the organization since his childhood when he accompanied his father, Thomas T. Taber, also an R&LHS member and founding member of the New York Chapter, on numerous trips sponsored by the NRHS, R&LHS and a numerous other railroad history organizations. Mr. Taber was honored to receive (with his father) the 1983 George W. and Constance M. Hilton Book Award presented by the R&LHS annually for an outstanding work of lasting value to the interpretation of North America's railroading history.

Mr. Taber has amassed a large research library and actively solicits questions from scholars and laymen interested in learning about railroad history. He specializes in logging railroads and produced several volumes on the subject. Mr. Taber also stepped in to care for the R&LHS artifact collection after the R&LHS terminated its agreement with Edaville in 1992. The artifacts moved to Mr. Taber's home town of Muncy, Pennsylvania, where he arranged to store them in the basement of the post office. While the collection was in his care, Mr. Taber carefully documented the items and when time allowed, handled reference requests, added accretions and identified and stabilized items requiring preservation. Although he worked diligently to arrange and describe the collection, environmental conditions in the basement remained problematic. Finally, a serious flood forced the R&LHS Board to remove the items from Muncy.

Mr. Taber also created the master index (also known as the Taber Index) for the R&LHS Bulletin/ Railroad History from 1921-2009. Although it is now slightly out of date, Mr. Taber's herculean work is still the best index available for locating information published by the R&LHS. He also produced a 6,000 page work titled "Railroad Historical Researching" and as is his custom, he distributed more than 100 CDs containing the research guide to historical societies and interested individuals free of charge.

Mr. Taber is always interested in helping researchers locate the information they seek. If he does not have the information in his personal archive—an unusual occurrence—he tracks down sources and on occasion contacts them to secure the requested information. The collection of artifacts that fills his home is breathtaking to behold. He welcomes guests and happily answers questions for as long as necessary. Yes, he is opinionated and can sometimes come across as a curmudgeon and perhaps an iconoclast, but who in the railroad history field is not inclined to behave in that manner, at least some of the time.

Robert Holzweiss

The full citation will appear in Railroad History.


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