Jerome E. Murphy, who spent a lifetime collecting documents, thousands of photographs and hardware related to the old Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad, more affectionately known as the Ma & Pa, died March 6 from pulmonary disease at the Massanutten, Virginia, home of his caregiver and personal representative. The Baldwin resident was 95.
Jerome Edward Murphy, the son of Daniel Murphy, a Stewart & Co. warehouseman, and his wife, Roseann Healy Murphy, a homemaker, was born in Baltimore and raised on Cecil Avenue. He was a graduate of Loyola High School.
“He loved telling the story of how while he was a student at Loyola High School he learned to say ‘Go to hell’ in five languages," said Patti Jones, Mr. Murphy’s caregiver and personal representative, who moved to Massanutten from Glen Arm several years ago.
Mr. Murphy was 17 when he began working in the mailroom of the Social Security Administration, which at the time was headquartered in the Candler Building in downtown Baltimore. By the time of his retirement in 1978, he had risen to supervisor and was working in Woodlawn, where the SSA had relocated.
The object of Mr. Murphy’s veneration and infatuation was the old Maryland & Pennsylvania Railroad, whose trains rolled on a single set of tracks (with passing sidings) on a circuitous 77.2-mile route that began on Falls Road in the Jones Falls Valley and wandered across bucolic Baltimore and Harford counties — including 476 curves and 114 bridges — before terminating in York, Pennsylvania.
His interests in the line were further stimulated by the fact that his uncle, Henry Crilley, was the station agent and postmaster at Long Green from 1883 until his death in 1935, and lived with his family in the station.
Passenger service ended in 1954, and three years later operations in Maryland were abandoned.
“When he was a young boy, he’d spend weekends with his uncle at Long Green,” said John O’Neil, president of the Baltimore Streetcar Museum and a friend for more than 40 years
“Over the years he amassed a tremendous amount of information on the Ma & Pa. He had corporate records from York, detailed maps of the right of way and thousands and thousands of pictures,” said Mr. O’Neil, a Monkton resident. “He had an unbelievable amount of stuff. Binders and binders full of things. ”
“He had albums of material arranged chronologically, and he had pictures of stations, rolling stock and random shots that were taken along the line,” said Stewart Rhine, a member of the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad Historical Society, formerly of Sparks who now lives in Alna, Maine.
“When you first met Jerry, he could be a little standoffish, but once he got to know you, you had a friend for life," Mr. Rhine said. “He had a deadpan expression that never changed. I remember one time showing him a Ma & Pa lantern from the early 1920s, and all he said was, ‘Very nice. Very nice,’ and his expression never changed.”
Mr. Murphy was generous with his Ma & Pa material and memories.
“He loved openly sharing his knowledge and memories, which went back to the heyday of the Ma & Pa,” Mr. Rhine said. “He knew that railroad like the back of his hand.”
During the month of June until his health began to fail a few years ago, Mr. Murphy spent Sunday afternoons at the Old Line Museum in Delta as part of its “Ma & Pa Days,” showing off to visitors his vast collection of photos and other memorabilia related to the railroad.
One of Mr. Murphy’s prized possessions was the Long Green station sign, which he had hanging over the fireplace of his Baldwin rancher.
Ms. Jones first became acquainted with Mr. Murphy more than 20 years ago when she encountered him standing alongside Harford Road at an auction.
“He loved telling people I had picked him up,” Ms. Jones said with a laugh
“I stopped to ask a question to the man that had all the answers to anything and everything about Harford County and the Ma & Pa,” Ms. Jones said. “We exchanged phone numbers, and then my husband and I purchased a home very near the Glen Arm station and Jerome gave me pictures that showed my house. Some were from a hundred years ago.”
Ms. Jones began helping Mr. Murphy with his Ma & Pa slide shows, which he took to senior centers, churches and other venues throughout Harford County.
After his wife of 22 years, the former Betty Jane Mullinnix, died in 1998, Mr. Murphy became closer to Ms. Jones, her husband, Hugh, and their children, and enjoyed spending holidays with them, telling his stories of the old days.
“Jerome watched me and Hugh travel, and he asked my husband if he would let me take him to Ireland ― after all, he was 99 percent Irish,” Ms. Jones said. “So we were off for a two-week bus tour with a bus full of local Catholics who called me ‘Protestant Patti.’ ”
The pair ended up taking trips to Italy, Canada, and even a cruise on the Mississippi Queen.
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“I took him to the cog railway in New Hampshire and every steam train railroad across the county. I had this wonderful friendship because I stopped on such a road,” Ms. Jones said.
In addition to his railroad interests, Mr. Murphy was a sports fan, having attended his first Orioles game in 1930. He had also been the radio announcer for the Baltimore Clippers, Ms. Jones said. He established a hybrid rose organization and grew 250 varieties himself.
He was a collector of HO-gauge, Lionel, American Flyer and antique Standard Gauge trains.
“Most of his Ma & Pa collection will go the the Maryland and Pennsylvania Railroad Historical Society,” Ms. Jones said.
He was a communicant for more than 70 years of St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, 13305 Long Green Pike, Hydes, where a Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.