George J. Voith, a retired CSX executive and rail and streetcar photographer who was a founding member of the Baltimore Streetcar Museum, died Monday of dementia at his Northwood home. He was 87.
"George is one of the last of the original guys who founded the Baltimore Streetcar Museum. He was a wonderful fellow," said John O'Neil Jr., museum president.
"I first met him when I joined the museum in 1971. He was a good mentor for young members, whom he took under his wing and he urged to take on more responsibilities," said Mr. O'Neil. "He had a tremendous knowledge of the [museum] and rail history in Baltimore."
The son of a tailor and a homemaker, George Joseph Voith was born in Baltimore and raised in the 600 block of Melville Ave. in Waverly.
Mr. Voith worked in the mailroom of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad's headquarters building at North Charles and Baltimore streets while attending Polytechnic Institute, where he was a member of the school's Railroad Club.
After graduating from Poly in 1944, he enlisted in the Navy. He completed training at the Bainbridge Naval Training Center in Cecil County and was deployed to San Diego, where he remained until the end of World War II.
He returned to the B&O in 1946 and eventually became assistant chief in the railroad's treasurer's office.
"He went to law school at night, starting in 1947, and earned his law degree from the University of Maryland in 1953," said his son, G. Randall "Randy" Voith, who works in information technology for CSX and lives in Towson.
Mr. Voith declined to leave Baltimore after the B&O merged with the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway to form C&O/B&O in the early 1960s, when the company's headquarters moved to Cleveland.
He took a management position in the operations planning department, where he remained until retiring in 1985 from what was then the Chessie System.
While working at the B&O, Mr. Voith met his future wife, Charlotte Schmidt, who also worked in the treasurer's office and later in freight claims. They married in 1953.
The couple settled into a home on Kentucky Avenue overlooking Lake Montebello, where they lived until moving in 1957 to Southview Road in Original Northwood.
Mr. Voith had been an active member of the Baltimore chapter of the National Railway Historical Society since 1944, and was one of the organization's members who helped establish the streetcar museum in 1966.
Mr. Voith served as the museum's chief dispatcher in the 1970s, when he was responsible for the cars traveling over the line.
"I was one of his regular weekend people," said Mr. O'Neil, who was a motorman aboard the cars.
He also laid all of the paving stones from the museum to the car house that the museum acquired from the Pennsylvania Railroad's old Ruxton station, which was torn down years ago.
He was also a photographer who recorded the streetcar era in Baltimore — with many images in color as well as black-and-white — from the 1940s until service ended in 1963. He also extensively photographed the Baltimore and Maryland operations of the B&O and Pennsylvania railroads.
Herbert H. Harwood Jr., a retired CSX executive and railroad historian, used many of Mr. Voith's images in his and Paul W. Wirtz's book, "Baltimore Streetcars: The Postwar Years."
"George was, in my opinion, one of the very few people in the 1940s who was photographing Baltimore streetcars after the war," said Mr. Harwood, who lives in Cross Keys.
"He recorded scenes of Baltimore streetcar operations, not just of cars sitting outside of barns. It was very rare in those days to show streetcars in their environment," said Mr. Harwood. "He was a very generous person in sharing these pictures, and not only just to me. If someone asked for a copy, he made sure they got it."
"He was very articulate and very free with information," said Mr. O'Neil. "He was not a flamboyant person and always looked very studious when wearing glasses."
Jim Genthner, a longtime streetcar museum member, said, "George never grandstanded and was not flashy or long-winded, and always had a great camera.
"A Waverly native, he took a number of good photographs of the legendary 17 line, which was one of the first to go after the war," he said. "George took his son, Randy, out on the last day of streetcars and posed him in front of test car No. 3550 in the old trailer yard at the Govans loop."
Mr. Voith was a member of the Baltimore Society of Model Engineers and maintained an extensive American Flyer S-gauge layout in his home. He also collected model trains.
Mr. Voith and his wife, who died in 2012, also had a second home in Rock Hall, where they enjoyed boating and "eating steamed crabs and looking at the Chesapeake Bay," his son said.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Leonard J. Ruck Funeral Home, 5305 Harford Road.
In addition to his son, Mr. Voith is survived by a daughter, Janice L. "Jan" Wilson of Doylestown, Pa.; seven grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun