Philip G. Craig, who had over 50 years of experience in the rail transit and railroad field and was a prominent active railfan, died on Thursday, December 8, 2016 at his home in Montclair, N.J. He was 79.
Phil suffered a stroke two and half years ago on a high-speed Shinkansen train during the ERA tour of Japan that seriously affected his capability to communicate. Complicating his recovery was a congenital heart condition, pneumonia and finally weakness arising from a broken pelvis two months ago, which eventually resulted in complicatons leading to his death. As late as April, 2016 he was riding streetcars at the Branford trolley museum.
Phil became managing editor of Headlights in 1963 and took over as editor from 1967 through 1970 when Jack May departed to live in the Netherlands. “He stepped in to become indispensable in helping me work on Headlights in 1963 when the job of putting out a monthly news publication became increasingly time consuming,” commented Jack. “I met Phil in 1959, right after I joined the ERA. We became good friends, seeing eye-to-eye and sharing many likes and dislikes on all matters. He had the gift of writing clearly and concisely, and took control of that task, allowing me to edit contributions from ERA members and other reporters, compose feature articles and do the layout and paste-up. He felt that it was not enough to establish that facts were verifiable, but to make sure that all the information necessary for a full understanding of the subject was presented. Phil was a stickler on accuracy, believing the reader deserves the entire story and stated on many occasions that half the truth may be more insidious than an outright lie.”
Phil had over 50 years of experience in the rail transit and railroad field. In addition to being an ERA member since March 11, 1952, he was vice-president of the New Jersey Association of Railroad Passengers (NJ-ARP), a member of the Light Rail Transit Association (Great Britain), a member of the North Jersey Electric Railway Historical Society, and a member of the prestigious Lexington Group in Transportation History. Phil held significant management positions with transport organizations serving large metropolitan areas in the U.S., Great Britain and Greece, as well having been a consultant on rail projects in Canada, India, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey. He was especially proud of his work in St. Louis that led to the implementation of MetroLink and his involvement with the test of Toronto CLRVs in Boston.
While at NJ-ARP, some of Phil’s successes included working on the extension of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail to Englewood in Bergen County as a member of the Light Rail Panel; inauguration and planning of weekend service on the Montclair-Boonton Line; and attempting to correct the deficiencies of the ARC tunnel. Almost every month he would appear in front of the NJ Transit board and present well-thought out ideas for improving the lot of New Jersey residents and commuters, while also raising specific constructive criticism of the organization’s activities when necessary. Prior to that he also worked on the original Montclair Connection (appearing in front of the Montclair Town Council to support the project and urging the line’s electrification).
Phil was also a videographer and an author. In the feature article “A New Light Rapid Transit Railway for Boston” (The Modern Tramway, September 1959), he described the 1959 conversion of the Boston and Albany Railroad’s Highland Branch into a precursor to today’s light rail transit systems. A feature he wrote for Tramways & Urban Transit (November 2006, pages 298-299), “New Jersey’s Best Kept Secret Revealed,” described NJTransit’s completion of a light rail transit link between Newark’s Pennsylvania Station and Broad Street Station.
Philip G. Craig was born in New Jersey on April 1, 1937. Until a short while before his passing, Phil was quite cognizant of current events, especially developments on the rail and transit scene. He was a ‘true believer’ in the importance of public transportation and the role of rail as the most efficient mode for moving large volumes of people, even in the distressing years when urban and suburban highway construction was running amok and rail transit lines, particularly streetcars and interurbans, were being scrapped. He fought for the retention of these systems as he wholeheartedly believed in fighting for what was right, not backing down in the face of industry opposition that could harm his working career.
Phil never hid the fact that he was a railfan, even when the term was maligned in the board rooms of transit operators and so-called “industry” publications. He traveled worldwide to visit and study rail operations, and would ride trains whenever time permitted. Upon retirement in 2014, he said it was now time to travel and enjoy railfanning. He joins the ranks of rail transit stalwarts like Ed Tennyson, Gordon Thompson, Jon Boyer, Frank Miklos and Jack Boorse who “never lost the faith” and are unfortunately no longer with us.
Phil’s survivors include his wife, Susan, two daughters, Jessica and Andrea, and a grandson, Lorenzo. As he wished, he was buried in Chicopee, Mass., near his wife’s family.