Engineer “Patsy” Molese and the Budd Car by Dave Keller

 

Engrs. Patsy Molese-Joe Cassidy, Sr. - LI Railroader - 07-1955 (Makse).jpg (147153 bytes)Another old-time engineer known to many was Patrick Molese.  Nicknamed “Patsy” by his fellow workers, as railroad men were accustomed to doing, he was born on September 13, 1896 on the lower east side of Manhattan.  His railroading career began with the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1910, at age 14.

 

He left the PRR and, moving to a house in Bellerose, Queens, came to work for the Long Island Rail Road as a fireman on August 18, 1920.  

Patsy worked some of the last trains out of Camp Upton, which officially closed to LIRR service on April 15, 1922.

 

He was promoted to engineer on May 10, 1929.  He loved operating locomotives and pulling trains and in turn was liked by many of his coworkers. Being Italian, he also was the subject of some joking, as railroad men always made jokes about everybody!  

 

 

 

 

 


Image from the "Long Island Railroader" employee magazine of July, 1955  (courtesy of R. F. Makse) 


Retired LIRR engineer Mark Smith, who hired on as fireman in December, 1941, before being shipped off to war service provided me these short snippets from his memory:

 

I remember "Patsy" as I fired for him at one time. I think it was a PW job (PW interlocking at Pinelawn on the Main Line):  early morning out of Jamaica to serve Grumman and Republic aircraft plants.

 

Two things I sure do remember. One trip our air was not charging back up properly.  Patsy said check the valve to the air pump to see if it was open. I did and it appeared to be open but it was sticking and only partly open. Patsy tried it and he opened it all the way. He said ALWAYS OPEN IT ALL THE WAY AND BACK ABOUT HALF A TURN SO IT WILL NOT HANG UP.  To this day any valve I open is handled that way.

 

Another thing . . . As you know, Patsy was Italian and they called him the “organ grinder.” As we went out the Main Line, some trainmen and others would be on the station platforms mimicking an organ grinder. It seemed Patsy did not like this as we would go faster and faster as Patsy saw this action. No harm was meant in all this. Just other railroad guys joking around as they did to everyone else.  Did you know Patsy also had a son who was an engineer on the L.I.R.R. (“Moe” MoleseDK)  I do not know where he is now but he must be retired.

 

Mark Smith

3/18/06

 

 

As much as he loved running the trains, according to his granddaughter, Joan Thiel, Patsy hated the BUDD cars. 

 

 

A typical view of BUDD RDC1 and RDC2, coupled, in Patchogue-Babylon "Scoot" service passing "BABYLON" tower westbound in 1955. In this view looking east, the lead car is RDC1 #3101. It differed from the RDC2, in that it did not have a baggage compartment. (Jules P. Krzenski photo: Dave Keller Archive)

 

 

 

The BUDD RDCs (Rail Diesel Cars) were designed to operate more efficiently on runs that weren’t too profitable and didn’t have a large ridership.  Instead of operating a full-sized locomotive and several cars, one, maybe two BUDD RDCs were sufficient to handle the ridership.  They were used on a number of shuttle runs, such as the Patchogue-Babylon “Scoot” as well as runs to Oyster Bay, Riverhead and Greenport.   As the engineer was not-too-well protected at the very front of the car, with nothing but a thin layer of stainless steel and steel framing between him and anything else, they could be dangerous to operate on the eastern end of Long Island where grade crossings were numerous and unprotected by only crossing signs and where motorists would race the trains to these crossings.

 

On the morning of October 18, 1967, Patsy and his fireman, John Connelly were in the cab of BUDD RDC car #3101 in the two-car consist of train #204 headed eastbound for Greenport.  The fireman, a qualified engineer, was operating the controls.  He had just left the stop at Holtsville and was picking up speed.  He saw the whistle post advising him of the upcoming crossing of Blue Point Road just east of the station and pulled the cord to warn oncoming traffic of his approach.  In 1967, Blue Point Road did not yet have automatic flashing warning lights or gates.  It was basically an unprotected grade crossing, like so many others on the railroad, with only a crossing sign as warning.

 

Suddenly, appearing in front of him was a huge cement or gravel truck belonging to the contracting firm of Lizza Bros., Inc, who were involved in the construction of the Long Island Expressway being extended through Holtsville at that time.  The truck driver either didn’t hear the train’s whistle, or didn’t care and figured he’d make it across the tracks by speeding ahead of the oncoming train.

 

He figured wrong . . . .

 

Seconds before the BUDD car slammed into the Lizza truck broadside, Patsy Molese responded quickly by shoving his fireman back into the passenger compartment, sacrificing himself as the front of the BUDD car was crushed inwards, killing the 71-year-old veteran engineer in the car that he hated and spoke of as unsafe.  In addition to his death, there were 11 injuries.

 

I’ll let Patsy’s granddaughter, Joan Thiel, describe her memories of her grandfather in her own words:

 

 

"You have no idea how surprised I was to see some reference, any reference, made about my grandfather Patrick Molese, the much-hated Budd car he died in, and reference to the crash on your website.  

 

I would like to correct one bit of information however.  Pop was NOT ready to retire.  Following the required physicals, he would come home and look my nana (Vicenta Vann Molese, aka "Bess Molese") straight in the eye and tell her, "Dr. Gugluizza said, ‘Pat, go get a new pair of coveralls, you’re fine.’"    He would laugh, sit down at the Hammond organ in the dining room and play a song I came to hate over years "Heart of My Heart".......

 

He was a gentle man, who, following my mother’s divorce when I was 6 years old, opened his heart and home to both of us.  I grew up in that house at 91-15 246th Street, Bellerose with the memory of a man who loved and supported his family without question and, who loved his trains more than life.  

 

As was popular during the 50s, the family would take car trips.  My nana would of course have the front seat next to him.  She white knuckled the entire trip since he was given to frequently turning his head to talk to her, forgetting the road was not a track and there were a few more moving targets on the road!    

 

He was quite shy about publicity and I remember one time the Long Island Press may have done a story about the "other" long time engineer who used to "dress" the part (probably Cecil M. Craft – DK)......he was given to practical clothes when working and I don’t believe I ever saw him in the stripes (railroad striped overalls, jacket and cap-  DK).  

 

I guess if I had to sum up who he was as a man and as an engineer.......it was on both counts devoted.   I cannot remember him ever calling in sick or speaking ill of management, except during the Goodfellow administration and the decision to add the Budd cars - he hated them...........he was not per se a union man.....but he worked with those who espoused all causes........He was always calm, self possessed and deliberate.  He had a love of opera, Jackie Gleason, and the New York Yankees.   

 

I have attached the only few tangibles from him.........the early photo was from his long history with the Pennsylvania RR....(he started when he was 14 years old)  the BLE pin and the gold belt buckle were given to me following my grandmother's passing.   The medallions were in his pocket always.  

 

When the railroad returned his personal effects - a duffle bag - inside was a betting slip on a horse named Bushy Tail -  they both loved the track - my mom, pictured next to both of them below - placed a bet on the horse and won $800 - the money was never spent........it was in an old Jamaica Savings Bank envelope -  my nana considered it blood money.     

 

I was working in the city as was my mom the morning the call came to "get home, pop was in an accident".......we both had passes and so when the conductor saw the name, he looked away.......she and I were at opposite ends of the same train.....and at the Bellerose station, at the old police shack, the cops drove us home........when we got in the door, my nana kept asking did we see “so and so” (representative from LIRR - name unknown) walking up and down the street?   He was delivering the news that everyone else knew......

 

My uncle Moe (LIRR Engineer “Moe” Molese – DK) came to the house later that day to be with us........my grandmother was totally out of it........and he told us that the other man in the cab, Jimmy (last name unknown) was actually at the throttle....and that pop was in the other seat.............witnesses said that they heard the whistle a long time before contact with the gravel truck...............you should know that my grandmother received only the sum total of $80,000 and a lifetime pass following his death.   There was no litigation against Lizza or the driver as far as I know.....

 

Pop was a joyful man, the 7th son of a 7th son.  He would come home and tell my grandmother that he had been in an accident at a crossing.........a family in a car and in a hurry trying to beat the train......all died..........she would make him a Dewar's (only one) and leave him alone. 

 

I remember her saying that during the war years he would hop the fences to get to work because they were very poor and he had patches on his pants.........she told tales of the overnights and the card games and only once did he come home minus an entire paycheck and lived to talk about it!

 

He took me to the diesels at Jamaica and Morris Park and how my mom would yell when she saw me covered in soot and oil.......I followed him all over........not sure where it was....but there was a little hole in the wall restaurant where the crews would eat and drink, gamble of course.....he left me with a burger and fries for what seemed like years......finally I got up enough courage to tell someone to please get him......he was so busy playing cards he forgot me!     

 

I remember the wake.....far too many people and rosary beads.........I remember they couldn’t remove all the gravel imbedded in his hands when they laid him out..........

 

The thought of retirement was just that.....a thought......they spoke about it........but the final question was always, "what am I going to do at home?"   And so, the decision to stay was mandated on whether the LIRR wanted/needed him .........He didn’t know anything else..........

 

I remember when, during the 50s, he was hit on the head with a spike because, "they hated the wops"........his friend George Archibald drove him home and offered my nana money for as long as pop was out of work......

 

I smile when I see all the rail fan sites........with their collections of anecdotes and photos, technical talk about this class and that engine.......there was no railroad memorabilia in our home....it was his job........the only thing I have is a rock glass with the “Dashing Dan” logo on it and his shaving mug.........and the things pictured below....but none of those things were the man.......his quiet dignity, letting others have the spotlight, laughing about some trainman who had a monkey ...or maybe laughing at the “organ grinder” imitations from his co-workers....laughing at Engineer Cassidy with his "fancy kids" (Jack Cassidy and Shirley Jones – DK)......Shirley Jones hated visiting the old man........he would tell pop that she would show up in a fur, stay 10 minutes and leave with Jack.  

 

Didn’t mean for this to go on......just really wanted to share the scanned mementoes..............and to tell you that the railroad gave him a great life......and that he was not ready to leave.........he was as my nana would say, "a man's man."        So many photos and other things were lost over the years: There’s one photo I remember of two Pennsy trains in a collision (head to head, I think) from the early 1900s with my grandfather in the foreground, wearing knickers and a cap.........when my mom moved to New Mexico all of it was packed and subsequently lost.......but the vivid pictures from my childhood remain.........and most of all......the man who drove his car like it was a locomotive......... 

 

Joan Thiel (March 15, 2006)

 

As one retired LIRR veteran told me “He could have retired, but I guess he really liked what he did and . . . he died with his boots on!”

 

 

Here’s a view of wrecked RDC1 #3101, taken on October 18, 1970 while it was stored out back of the Morris Park Shops in Queens.  The front of the car shows how the cab was cut away to extract the remains of Patrick Molese.  The unit was sold in December, 1971 to Sarnelli Bros. and scrapped at Corona Yard. (Photo by, and courtesy of, Richard Glueck)

BUDD RDC Wreck-Holtsville - 1967.jpg (161695 bytes)

The wrecked BUDD RDC is laying up at the end of the wye throat at Ronkonkoma after it was towed back from the crash site east of Holtsville.  This view is looking northwest.  (Dave Keller archive)

 

 

Only remaining mementos of Patrick Molese (Courtesy of Joan Thiel)

 

Click HERE to read the official Department of Transportation Federal Railroad Administration Railroad Safety Board’s “Railroad Accident Investigation” (Courtesy of Art Huneke)