From: "Paul R DOT Tupaczewski" paultup AT comcast DOT net
Date: Sat, 9 Jun 2007 20:11:02 -0400
Subject: In Memoriam - Earle Gil
"Untitled-Scanned-13_resize.jpg" - image/jpeg, 1260x840 (256c)
Whippany Railway Museum member and Morris County Central founder Earle Gil
passed away early yesterday morning. Earle started the first "true" steam
program in northern NJ, and had a good relationship with the EL. Below is
his memorial and some photos over the years of Earle at his best.
Earle Richard Henriquez-Gil, Sr.
December 24, 1928 - June 8, 2007
After an 18-month battle with cancer, Earle Richard Henriquez-Gil, Sr.
passed away on June 8, 2007.
Earle was born on Christmas Eve, December 24,1928 in Mountain Lakes, New
Jersey, to Carlos and Dorthea Henriquez-Gil, the 7th of 7 children. His
father, Carlos Henriquez-Gil was born in Madrid, Spain and was said to have
been a brilliant individual...having graduated college at the age of 16. As
an adult, Carlos was employed as the Export Manager for the A.C. Gilbert
Co., the makers of the legendary American Flyer model trains and the equally
famous Erector Sets.
Several years after Earle's birth, the family moved to "Thornwood Farms" at
number 4 Whippany Road, Morristown, NJ. The 28-room farmhouse with its 11
fireplaces was on an idyllic setting where the family raised horses,
chickens and sheep. From all accounts the family lived comfortably, even
during the darkest days of the Great Depression. Photos still exist of a
young Earle sitting at the controls of his extensive American Flyer layout
set up in a large room of the farmhouse.
Destined to become a life-long aficionado of railroads and steam
locomotives, Earle, through his efforts and self-taught talents, became one
of a unique band of visionaries who set out to preserve the image of steam
railroading in the United States. His early 1960's restoration and operation
of 1907 Baldwin-built, Southern Railway 2-8-0 No. 385, and former U.S. Army
0-6-0 No. 4039 (ALCO 1942) became a cause of celebration for "steam-starved"
fans not only in New Jersey, but from all across the country.
Gil was the founder and president of the Morris County Central Railroad
(MCC)...one of the first steam preservation railroads in the U.S. Originally
located on the Morristown & Erie Railroad at Whippany, NJ, the MCC made its
first revenue run on Sunday, May 9, 1965. On that day, Locomotive No. 385
proudly led a string of restored ex-Jersey Central RR commuter coaches of
1915 vintage, trailed by a 1923 wooden, ex-Pennsylvania RR N6b Cabin Car. By
the end of the day nearly 1,500 passengers had climbed aboard for a
nostalgic journey into the past. The melodic whistle and distinctive "stack
talk" brought back the sounds of a fondly remembered era to not only those
who rode the train, but to the throngs of people witnessing the event from
The MCC's reputation became established in Whippany as a wonderful place for
people of all ages to visit. The clean, family-friendly atmosphere reflected
Gil's leadership and characteristics. With the assistance of his loyal crew
of company directors, employees and volunteers, the Morris County Central
continually grew, amassing a fine collection of locomotives and rolling
stock. Each year, returning visitors would see something different at the
site...whether a newly acquired piece of equipment or some improvement to
the property or in the type of entertainment provided to the public.
After 9 years at the Whippany location, Gil and his officers made the
decision to relocate the entire operation 25 miles to the northwest at
Newfoundland, NJ on an unused (at the time) section of the New York,
Susquehanna & Western Railroad. In December 1973, every piece of rolling
stock owned by the MCC was prepared for the move and gathered together as
one train. Engines 385 and 4039 were fired up and assisted diesels in
leading the vintage collection of freight and passenger equipment over the
Erie Lackawanna Railway and the Lehigh & Hudson River Railway to the new
location. After a 3-month winter lay-over in Sparta, NJ both steam
locomotives powered the train over Sparta Mountain and down into
Newfoundland. On July 4, 1974 the Morris County Central Railroad reopened to
the public at the new location.
Though the future looked promising for the MCC at Newfoundland, the
economics and the recurring gasoline shortages of the late 1970's brought an
end to the Morris County Central. Earle Gil's dream and consuming passion
ended its days as an operating excursion railroad on December 14,
Though the MCC had come to a close, Earle did not sit idle. He was a
founder, Charter Member and Trustee of the Whippany (NJ) Railway Museum
where he could be found on weekends, lending his talents and expertise. He
was equally at home working onboard the train, conversing with passengers,
selling tickets, or most of the time, busily working to restore or repair a
car or engine in the Museum's collection.
Extremely gifted, he was one of those individuals that could create nearly
anything that he set his mind to. He became an expert at wood crafting and
found the work relaxing and profitable, selling many of his creations at
local crafts shows and markets.
Earle could produce nearly any number of items from lumber. He built
full-size, "four-poster" Victorian-style beds for friends and acquaintances,
rebuilt sofas, chairs and desks, along with a wide variety of other unique
items...all in his fully equipped home machine shop. For the Whippany
Railway Museum, his talents were immeasurable. In late 2003, using early
20th Century diagrams from the Pennsylvania Railroad, Earle first built a
recreation of a 1911 Railroad Crossing Watchbox. This was followed in 2004
by a wonderful recreation of of 1905 PRR Scale House, which serves as the
Museum's Ticket Office. A 1909 PRR lineside Telephone Booth (for train crew
use) was also built in 2004. In September 2006, while in the midst of a
grueling six-month round of chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Earle
kept active by building a garage for the Museum's 1948 International Coal
Delivery Truck. The garage perfectly compliments the Museum's 1904 Freight
House in style and construction.
For the better part of 2004-2006, Earle led a group of capable volunteers in
a renewed effort to complete the interior restoration of the wood work on
the Museum's former Central Railroad of New Jersey Commuter Club Car,
'Jersey Coast'. This work involved selecting the proper materials to match
what remained of the original, but heavily damaged inlaid-wood that is a
feature of the car. Earle selected the types and grades of lumber required
to replace what had been destroyed by vandals and the elements. Through
Earle's efforts, the remainder of the restoration crew was able to work
behind him, and replicate the original 1927 interior paint and stain tints.
All 40 window frames in the car were fashioned from mahogany by Gil in his
As if his passion for railroading were not enough, late in life Earle
discovered yet another interest and started to amass a fine collection of
vintage farm equipment, including tractors, Amish buggies, buck-board wagons
and a restored, operating, antique pick-up truck.
But it is the Morris County Central Railroad that will be his legacy. Though
the railroad and its creator are no longer with us, the MCC is remembered as
a highly-respected example of what a conscientious group of individuals, led
by a true visionary could accomplish with moderate resources and good taste
in the effort to preserve historic railroad equipment and present to the
public a bit of bygone Americana.
Rest In Peace, Earle. We miss you so very much.
Donations: In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to:
Compassionate Care Hospice
4949 Ogletown Stanton Road, Suite 107
Newark, DE 19713
(please make checks out to "CCHF")
Credit Cards may be phoned into the office at the following numbers:
Toll Free 800-999-8744
For more information visit the Hospice website at