Friday, July 4, 2014

In Memoriam Richard Hendrickson 1931-2014

Author, Aviator, Teacher, Freight Car Historian Richard Hendrickson departed this world too soon for those of us left behind during the last week of June. 

Richard in his study, 2006, courtesy John Signor

I knew Richard for over twenty five years, but did not know him well enough and was a fool for not getting to know him better. Our first and last face to face encounters were at Santa Fe conventions, the first in the late 80s where I was afraid to approach this great guru, the last in Flagstaff last year.  That was as always too short, with interruptions at such events as everyone seemed to want a piece of his time. I had a chance to exchange a few words with Richard and Tony Thompson as we moved through the buffet for dinner.  I did come to know him better through exchanges of email, the last where I asked his advice on QC’ing my input for painting this current Shake_n_Take project.  Richard confirmed my synopsis, but gently suggested one detail that I had forgotten.  I did update my post to incorporate that extra detail.  We will no longer be able to make those casual queries that were answered so completely and rapidly.  

Richard surprised me earlier this year when he purchased one of my excess brass locomotives.  He had done the original data package for it back in the 60's and wanted an intact one for his diorama.  In packing it, I noticed it was missing a step.  The conversation about what to do was the first I had with Richard by phone.  Fortunately I had a second loco of this class, although it had foam residue which we agreed to substitute as he had to have it stripped to paint anyway.  

Richard was very generous of his time and knowledge, and gave me advice on interpreting hand scrawled notes of freight car numbers in response to a query I made of him regarding correcting sources last year.  That advice came with an unsolicited photo of a two dome tank car that was very likely as sister to the one that I had enquired about.  My original post can be seen here: and  Richard’s reply to me follows:  

John, those of us who have worked with conductors' time books, switch lists, etc. well know that the handwriting of trainmen and switchmen was often obscure and sometimes illegible, and those errors have often made their way into transcriptions made from those handwritten documents.
So I have no doubt that what was seen as an "N" was in fact a "W" and that the car in question was a WEOX car, especially since the number matches.

White Eagles was, of course a Kansas City-based subsidiary of the Socony-Vacuum Oil Co. (that is, Standard Oil Co. of New York).  The cars of all the S-V midwestern subsidiaries later were combined into a single fleet with SVX reporting marks, and still later the name was changed to the Mobil Oil Co. with MOBX reporting marks.  Car numbers, however, often did not change, and I'd be willing to bet that the attached photo of MOBX 228 shows a car in what was formerly the WEOX  200-249 series.  At any rate, it was a two compartment 8,000 gal. car (and those are pretty rare) and was built by GATC in the mid-1920s.

In 1943 Mobil did not market retail products in the Pacific Coast states, but of course tank cars were pooled under the wartime authority of the federal government, so at that time a WEOX car could have been routed anywhere.

Richard Hendrickson

 MOBX 228 Courtesy Richard Hendrickson

WEOX 238 was interchanged from the ATSF to the SP at Port Chicago in November 1944.  It will become a fixture on my eventual layout.  

The above interchange demonstrates the thoughtful, gracious, generous person that he was.

We will all miss Richard for who was, a friend, fellow flier, historian, modeler and teacher.  He taught us much throughout his life and has left a legacy through his work, his friends, and his admirers.  He continues to teach us from the great beyond through his legacy.  But even his sudden departure has a lesson in it, that life is unpredictable and that we should live it well as any day could be our last.  That is a lesson that I have failed to heed in the past and resolve to pay it more heed.

My deepest sympathies to Richard’s wife Sandra, their family and friends.

John Barry
With great sadness this Independence Day 2014

Cameron Park, CA

1 comment:

  1. Hello John,

    I stumbled across this post on your very informative blog. Interestingly, the two-compartment MOBX car is a Petroleum Iron Works (PIW) product. PIW purchased Pennsylvania Tank Car Co. in 1927 and then GATC purchased that entity. These cars would often have GATX maintenance stencils and could easily be confused with GATC cars since they did bear a resemblance i the underframe. Richard was aware of PIW as I have seen other writings by him reference their cars. Regardless, I know most of what I know about tank cars either directly or indirectly from him!