Erik Delfino was an artist, author, railfan, garden railway enthusiast, friend, brother, library professional, and a great guy. Whereas Martin O’Rourke collected the core collection for what would become the Library, and Stephen Patrick facilitated a physical presence in a unique railroad setting, Erik turned a rag tag collection of books and periodicals into a professional library.
Erik trained at Rutgers University, where he received a master’s in library science and a BA. For 28 years, he was an employee of the Library of Congress. Erik was also an adjunct faculty member at Catholic University of America in the School of Library and Information Science.
Erik joined the National Railway Historical Society, Washington D.C. Chapter (DCNRHS) in 1998 and worked some of our excursions and public trips as a volunteer. In 2007 when The City of Bowie (Stephen Patrick) approached us about opening a railroad library in their historic Pennsylvania Railroad Tower then President (Jim Lilly), after making a quick trip to the museum and gathering some of the initial materials from some of the folks who had it, realized that it was a great idea! A railroad library, a unique historic venue to place it in, and some really neat elements to our collection… But while there was no doubt our volunteers could organize things and put books on shelves, leadership sensed there was more to it and that this was no way to “run a railroad………..library,” that is.
Another of our volunteers, Kevin Tankersley, knew Erik from some of our excursions and that he was a librarian. After a few phone calls and a visit to Bowie, Erik agreed to help et the Library started. We had no idea what a treasure we had latched on to. Erik stepped in and took over, but always in his quiet, enthusiastic, professional way that made others want to be a part of the project. He came up with a catalog system, devised a collections management plan, laid out the collections by shelf, found archival materials, and in a few short months of a lot of hard work got us ready for our grand opening in September 2007. Without him we would have never pulled it off.
After the library opened, Erik agreed to be the permanent Library Committee Chair. Erik held regular work sessions with volunteers. He would drive all over the region picking up books from new donors. Eventually Erik and his team moved to an on-line catalog system that’s as good as the Library of Congress. He always had books at his house he was in the process of evaluating or cataloging.
Erik’s passing in January 2020 was a complete shock to just about everyone, but the gift he left behind, a professionally organized and managed public Library for railroading, lives on.