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About Martin F. O'Rourke

The library and this page are dedicated to the life of Martin F. O'Rourke, a life long railroad buff and historian and longtime member and officer of the Washington, D.C. Chapter NRHS.

Martin Francis O'Rourke of Fairfax, Virginia was the son of Hugh Martin and Frances Ann Shugart O'Rourke of Westernport, Maryland. He was born in Keyser, West Virginia on October 1, 1935. After serving in the United States Air Force, he spent the majority of his career working in the Washington, D.C. area. He ended his career with Bell Atlantic Corporation and retired in 1994.

Martin joined the club in 1979 was a member and leader of our Chapter for over twenty-five years. He served as Secretary 1988 - 1997, Senior Vice President 1997 - 2001, and finally as President from 2001 - 2005. He also volunteered annually as a counselor at RailCamp. Martin spoke most fondly of his experiences with RailCamp. He truly enjoyed the challenges that the teens presented. Those who knew him, will remember how he would almost ‘light up’ when he was talking about certain things and RailCamp one of those topics. He had his hands full keeping teenagers in line, but always lived up to the challenge.

Martin was a talented electrician and a qualified mechanical officer for our 1923 Pullman car DOVER HARBOR which he spent many hours working on and accompanying on the trips that began in 1983. The first picture shows Martin (white shirt) riding the vestibule on a trip in 2001 to New Orleans.

Martin twice received the Bent Spike Award, our Chapter's highest honor, for his dedication and service to our club. Martin was extremely good to the NRHS, private railcars, railroad history, and those who had contact with him. He fostered good will and caring. Through his work on the DOVER HARBOR, he kept railroad history in the limelight by making sure that all riders on that car experience the golden years of railroading.

Martin also enjoyed electronics and model railroading. His favorite railway was the Western Maryland, which he grew up watching.

As our Chapter Secretary, Martin was instrumental in beginning the Chapter's collection of books, maps, timetables, periodicals, and other railway ephemera that was the genesis for the Chapter's library. He worked with members and the public at large to secure donations and gifts and stored the materials in his home. Martin also bequeathed much of his personal book collection to the Chapter.

Martin passed away June 14, 2005 and was cremated and subsequently interred at the Columbarium, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia, Monday July 18, 2005. He was preceded in death by his parents and infant brother Malachi O'Rourke. He is survived by his wife Barbara High O'Rourke, Fairfax, Virginia; a son Martin Francis O'Rourke Jr., and his wife Donna, Skiatook, Oklahoma; a daughter Stephanie Sutherland, Sterling, Virginia; a daughter Susanne O'Rourke and husband Brian Critchley; and a son Christopher O'Rourke, Vienna, Virginia; two grandchildren Sarah and Ian Adamson, Herndon, Virginia; brother Frank O'Rourke of Princess Ann, Maryland; brother Dennis O'Rourke of Nevada, Missouri; and sister Emily Rice of New Boston, Virginia.

Martin, you may be gone, but you are far from forgotten!

Exemplary Western Maryland Railway Livery


Standing by the DOVER HARBOR at DOVER PARK.

On Saturday, September 22nd, 2007 in a formal dedication ceremony, The Washington, D.C. Chapter NRHS dedicated and opened The Martin F. O'Rourke Memorial Railroad Library at Bowie Tower. Chapter members, along with the Mayor of Bowie, City Councilmen, Mrs. O'Rourke and family, staff from the City of Bowie Museums Division, and the general public were present. The pictures shows Chapter President Jim Lilly speaking to a crowd of about 100 people during the ceremony.


* DOVER Park photo by David Splitt. Grand Opening ceremony photo by Alex Mayes. Other photos by J. Lilly

thanks to the J. Lilly, The Timetable, Tony White, and the O'Rourke family for their contributions to this tribute.

a project of the National Railway Historical Society, Washington, D.C. Chapter, Incorporated, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.
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