An Extra Special Baked Ham Supper

About 65 years ago, on Thursday, March 18, 1954, from 5:00 to 8:00 p.m., there was an “extra special baked ham supper” at the Lancaster Station. The Pennsylvania Railroad Women’s Aid Society would often hold fundraiser dinners like this one to fulfill their charitable mission of helping sick and out of work railroaders.

A sign advertising this meal is part of a Women’s History Month pop-up display in Rolling Stock Hall, spotlighting some interesting Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania collections. Catcher, our ubiquitous mascot, invites you to check it out. Among the items on display are:

• A 1943 Reading Company ad listing available railroading positions for men and women including brakemen, machinists, boilermakers, laborers, car repairers, cleaners, signal helpers, linemen, firemen, machinist helpers, boilermaker helpers, car inspectors, car repairer helpers, freight handlers, signal maintainers, Morse operators and watchmen.  Job applications were accepted in Room 313 in Reading Terminal, Philadelphia.

• A woman’s trainman hat, worn by Sophie C. Brown when she took over her husband’s trainman position with the Pennsylvania Railroad during World War II. The hatband is made from wool rather than metal, since metal was being rationed due to war efforts.  BTW: Sophie’s husband, William J. Brown, resumed his job when he returned from the war.

• Two membership pins with ribbons, worn by members of the Ladies Auxiliary to the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen of Lodge No. 86 in Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania in the late 1800s.  This women’s organization was a support group, which was open to immediate relatives of members of the brotherhood.

• Four membership pins from the Ladies Society of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen, worn by Nelly Adeline Thompson Plummer.  Nelly’s husband, James Ward Plummer, was a fireman and engineer for the Pennsylvania Railroad in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Mrs. Plummer was an officer and president of the society during the 1950s and 1960s.

• A Pennsylvania Railroad Women’s Aid Society cream pitcher, used by the society, a group comprised of spouses and daughters of Pennsylvania Railroad employees, most active during the 1930s through the 1950s.

Although their contributions have often gone unnoticed or unremarked, women have played critical roles throughout the history of the railroad industry.