B&O Museum to Present Final Guest Speaker for Summer Series

The Oakland B&O Museum is pleased to present the final guest for the Summer Speaker Series, James D. Porterfield, columnist and author whose work focuses on aspects of railroad history, fiction, culture, and food. The presentation will take place at the Oakland B&O Museum on Thursday, August 19th at 7:00pm. The event is free and open to the public with plenty of parking.

Join us for a masterful presentation on the work of railroad police and the crimes they dealt with over the years. It may come as a surprise to many that, until the FBI was created in 1935, the only police forces in America with horizontal authority — as opposed to “vertical” authority (local police>county sheriff>state police) — to investigate crimes and make arrests along a broad swath of geography were railroad police. The variety of crimes they encountered stretched from pickpockets in rural communities to an unsolved 12- or 13-victim serial killing of hobo’s in a large yard in Ohio during the Great Depression. Given this geographic and gory latitude, it should not surprise you that over the years railroad police have played roles in numerous mystery novels, both individual titles and in series.

James D. Porterfield is the author of 11 books, a Contributing Editor for Railfan & Railroad magazine, and the Director of two not-for-profit organizations — the American Society of Railway Artists, representing more than 50 of the nation’s leading railroad artists, and the center for Railway Tourism at nearby Davis & Elkins College.  His books include his own Dining by Rail: The History and the Recipes from America’s Golden Age of Railroad Cuisine, now 28 years in print.  He edited and introduced Jack Orr’s acclaimed biography of O. P. Orr — Set Up Running The Life of a Pennsylvania Railroad Engineman 1904 to 1949, and Harry Bedwell’s classic railroad novel, The Boomer: A Story of the Rails. His monthly “On the Menu” column for R&R has grown from covering dinner trains to addressing numerous issues facing the railroad heritage industry in the 21st Century. Jim is a contributor for the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy’s Inspiring Movement magazine and website, the creator of The Railroad Tourist, both a Facebook page and a website devoted to identifying broadly-defined railway heritage venues, and served as a website host for the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Gozaic travel division.  Jim has been a frequent guest on “Let’s Talk Travel,” a regional radio and Podcast talk show devoted to travel destinations. He wrote a marketing column for the quarterly journal of the Association of Tourist Railroads & Railway Museums and is a popular presenter before both rail history groups and the general public.

A graduate of Edinboro State College (now Edinboro University of Pennsylvania), Jim was an adjunct professor in marketing at Penn State University’s main campus for 22 years. His children now grown and with their own careers, he currently lives in Elkins, West Virginia, from whence he indulges his growing willingness to mosey aimlessly along blue highways in search of America’s railway heritage.


Jim Porterfield will exhibit yet another interest of his that is atypical of the railroad heritage industry, namely the work of railroad police and the crimes they dealt with, including an in-depth look at several spectacular crimes committed on or around trains. And no, we are not talking about train robberies. Think murder, murder, murder, and murder. His commentary will fall into three broad categories: The creation and evolution of railroad police, some noteworthy crimes in a railroad setting, and railroad police in literature, television, and the movies. A bibliography will be made available. Please call Oakland City Hall at 301-334-2691 with questions.