Who knew it would be this difficult?
When Terry Arbogast of Fairmont, West Virginia contacted
Brownsville’s Dave Gratz in 1995 to ask him to write a history of the
Monongahela Railway, the plan that evolved during discussions between the
two men was simple. The new
book would include Dave’s detailed history of the Monongahela Railway
illustrated with several hundred photographs from two rich sources:
the 11,000-negative photographic library of the Monongahela Railway
that Dave had purchased in 1990, and the thousands of contemporary railroad
pictures that Terry, who is a rail buff, has personally photographed over
the past forty years.
Their task -- to produce a comprehensive history of the Monongahela
Railway that would be packed with hundreds of photographs – was a daunting
but straightforward one, a labor of love that would be their nostalgic
tribute to a lost railroad. Dave
began writing the text in 1995, while Terry worked in his darkroom producing
high quality prints, many from glass plate negatives that were as much as
one hundred years old.
Dave Gratz had worked for the Monongahela Railway for most of his
adult life, so his reason for wanting to produce the definitive history of
the Monongahela Railway is more easily discerned than that of his co-author,
“Did you work for the
railroad at any time in your life?” I asked Terry, who spoke with me by
telephone from his home in Fairmont.
“No one in my family ever
worked for the railroad,” Terry chuckled ironically, “but my uncle Jack
Smith was always interested in trains, and on weekends he would take me to
see them at a rail yard near my home. I
grew up walking the Monongahela Railway tracks here in Fairmont, became
interested in trains, and in the early 1960s took a lot of snapshot
pictures, particularly of steam engines.”
“So you have been taking
rail pictures most of your life?”
“I estimate that I have
taken over 40,000 slides and 20,000 negatives,” Terry said.
“I’m 58, so that represents about forty years of photographic
“You prepared most of the
photographs for the book that you and Dave Gratz have co-authored,” I
said. “What background do you
have in that area?”
“For eighteen months in
the late 1960s and early 1970s, before I began my 25-year career as a
science teacher in the Monongalia County schools in Morgantown, I worked for
the Fairmont Times and the West Virginian. While
working there I gained valuable experience in the layout of text and
illustrations, photography, and the publishing business.”
“I am curious,” I said, “as to what led you to contact Dave
Gratz with the idea of producing a history of the Monongahela Railway.”
“I knew Dave Gratz long
before we collaborated on this book,” Terry revealed.
“Back in the 1970s, I visited him at the Monongahela Railway
offices in the Union Station building in Brownsville, and he permitted me to
examine the railroad’s photographic files and use the darkroom facilities
there to print some of them, with a copy for the railroad.”
“Are the glass negatives
difficult to work with?”
“You just have to be more
careful with them. They are
“So by 1995 you had known
Dave for quite some time, and you knew that he had purchased the
railroad’s photographic records. When
Dave agreed to write the railroad’s history, what was to be your role in
co-authoring the book?”
“I printed about 85% of
the pictures that are in the book. Dave
had a lot of prints in addition to the negatives, but some of them were
printed decades ago and were yellowing.
I reprinted them for the book. I
also drew the 26 maps that are found throughout the book, maps which show
the sidings, railroad structures and mines, and also contain other
information based upon my examination of Monongahela Railway documents,
timetables and siding diagram books that Dave supplied.
I drew the maps back in the mid-1990s, and then I wasn’t satisfied
with them, so I re-did all of them.”
Terry wrote some of the
book’s text too. “I wrote
the chapter on the Scotts Run Railway,” he said, “and Dave wrote the
other chapters and all of the captions for the pictures.”
Dave Gratz worked for three
years writing the history of the Monongahela Railroad and during that time
Terry worked in his home in West Virginia, creating the maps and preparing
the photographs they had selected for publication.
By all reasonable expectations, they had hoped to have the book on
the market by 1997 or 1998. The
book was finally published last month.
I asked Dave Gratz what
caused the delay. The story he
told me was replete with unfulfilled good intentions, disappointing
setbacks, and plenty of frustration.
“The first publisher we
worked with,” Dave said, “did really nice books, and he agreed to do our
book. It was his custom to do
one book at a time, working out of his house, where he had a nice working
lab. He usually published three
books a year.”
“You wrote the text,” I
reviewed, “and Terry prepared the photographs, drew the maps and wrote one
chapter. What was the publisher
supposed to do?”
“His job was to lay out
each page on his computer,” Dave explained, “arrange to have the book
printed, and market it. He
would scan each photograph into the computer, which is a time-consuming
process, create the layout of each page, position each captioned photograph
in the appropriate place to match the text, get the book printed and help us
sell it. He intended to put
together several chapters every three or four months, so I was captioning
all of these pictures and sending them to him to be scanned.”
“Sounds like a good plan.
When did you hire this fellow to do your book?”
“Terry and I signed our
contract with him on June 4, 1995. We
were hoping that the book would be done by 1996 or 1997.
“But then the publisher
got sick, so he was not able to keep working on our book.
By 1998 he had recovered from his illness, but we saw that he had
other books going, and I started wondering what was going to happen with
ours. I was frequently in touch
with him about it, but it became clear he was not going to be able to get
our book done in a timely fashion. We
tried to be patient with him, but we eventually had to ask him to return our
pictures and materials. He was
reluctant to do that, so then we had to hire an attorney and get a court
order in order to get our materials back from him.
I finally got them back in September 1999.
We lost several years there.”
“Not to mention that you
were back to square one in your search for a publisher.”
“That’s right. After we
had the materials back, I searched around for some other way to get the book
printed. I was able to make
arrangements to meet with another publisher, and I took my stuff out to him.
He looked it over, agreed to do the book, and after a couple of years
of working with him, we finally have it finished.”
“It can now be
I received the first hardbound copy from the printer about three
weeks ago. We had 2,000 copies
printed, and most of them are now at my house.
Some have been placed at the Flatiron building for sale, and we hope
to market it through rail fan magazines and web sites and at other venues as
Next week, our series will
conclude with a detailed look at the contents of this impressive new book,
“The Monongahela Railway: Its
History and Operation, 1903-1993,” by David E. Gratz and Terry Arbogast.
We will also learn about the Monongahela Railway photographer who
took many of the historic pictures that appear in the book, and I will
provide details on how interested readers may order this book by mail.
These articles appear weekly in the Saturday Uniontown HERALD-STANDARD. If you enjoy reading them, please let the editor know. You may e-mail your comments to editor Mark O'Keefe at email@example.com
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