Thomas T. “Tom” Taber III, Author and Historian, Dies at 93

By Alexander D. Mitchell IV
MONTOURSVILLE, Pa. — Noted railroad author and historian Thomas T. “Tom” Taber III died Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, at Hillside Senior Living Center in Montoursville, Pa. He was 93 years old.

Born May 22, 1929, in Madison, N.J., he was a son of the late Thomas II and Margaret (Gantt) Taber.

Taber graduated from Madison (N.J.) High School in 1947 and with a degree in mechanical engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. After a stint in the Army, he joined the Worthington Corporation at Wellsville, New York, doing time study work. He relocated to Muncy, Pa., where from 1959 until 1971 he worked for Sprout-Waldron Company (now Andritz) as their industrial engineer. Taber then worked at the George E. Logue Company in Montoursville where he was vice president until 1980 at which time he became self-employed.

A Life Member of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society, he had long 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. Taber was honored to receive (along 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, for their three-volume history of the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad. He received the organization’s Gerald M. Best Senior Achievement Award in 2016 for a significant and longstanding contribution to the writing, preservation, and interpretation of railroad history.

Taber amassed a large personal research library, and actively assisted scholars and laymen throughout the nation interested in learning about railroad and central Pennsylvania history. He specialized in corporate railroad history and the logging railroads of the Northeastern U.S., and along with fellow historians Benjamin F.G. Kline and Walter Casler, produced and published in the 1970s what is considered the definitive series on the logging railroads of Pennsylvania, stretching to fourteen volumes. Taber co-authored, along with Casler, Climax: An Unusual Steam Locomotive in 1960, still considered the definitive work on the locomotive type. Taber also authored several books and photo collections on short lines and minor railroads in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as well as the monumental 1987 Railroads of Pennsylvania Encyclopedia and Atlas, which detailed the corporate and operating history of literally every stretch of railroad line constructed in the commonwealth, as well as railroads chartered but never built.

Taber also created the master index (also known as the Taber Index) for the R&LHS Bulletin/ Railroad History from 1921-2009. Although now slightly out of date, Taber’s herculean work is still considered the best index available for locating information published by the R&LHS over a century. He also produced a four-volume work in 1993, Guide to Railroad Historical Resources, United States and Canada, a listing guide of the holdings of various transportation archives throughout North America,and as was his custom distributed more than 100 CDs containing the research guide to various historical societies, libraries, and interested individuals free of charge.

Taber also stepped in to care for the R&LHS’s artifact collection after the R&LHS terminated its agreement with the Edaville Railroad in Massachusetts in 1992. The library and archives artifacts were moved to Taber’s hometown of Muncy where he arranged to store them in the basement of the post office. While the collection was in his care, Taber carefully documented the items and when time allowed, handled reference requests, added accretions and identified and stabilized items requiring preservation. The collection was eventually relocated elsewhere, with some going to the California State Railroad Museum where the R&LHS maintains a library.

In 1962, Taber married his wife, the former Barbara Wilson, who preceded him in death in 2015. They were the parents of one son, Thomas IV, daughter-in-law Debby, and grandparents to their children, Thomas V and Jessica.

From his parents’ influence, Taber remained active within the community. He was a member of the Muncy Historical Society, serving on the board for many years and acting as editor of their Journal. As well, he served as President of the Muncy Public Library and as a council member of the Muncy Borough Council for twelve years.

The Thomas T. Taber Museum of the Lycoming County (Pa.) Historical Society is named in his honor. Along with his generosity to the Lycoming County Historical Society, Mr. Taber has assigned the rights to republish these books to various historical societies throughout the region.

This article was posted on: August 22, 2022