I Met Another Dead Man Today, Part Two

I met another dead man this week. Actually, I met his three lovely children this week in beautiful Loudonville, New York. I definitely met his books, 5,541 of them, if truth be told, and several piles of ephemera (Life magazines, W.W.I.I.-era newspapers, signed posters and the like). After about nine months of back-and-forth by e-mail and Facebook Private Messenger spent in the making of nicey-nice and in anticipation I flew into Albany, rented a car and pulled up eventually to 26 James Drive. I’d been summoned here by three siblings and on the strength of a personal relationship between one of them and a bookselling colleague of mine in Robertson, New South Wales, Australia, who recommended my services.

I see time, space, motion, labor, value and linear feet differently than do mere mortals. I count the Fulcrum as my friend.

I was told to expect lots of available books. The personal library in the house was a twin-headed monster, one head Winston Churchill’s, the other, that of a train engineer. Sixty bookcases lining the walls of the kitchen, living room, bedrooms, den and hallway. World War Two books galore. Winston S. Churchill up the wazoo. World War One. German military history. Presidential biographies. English social history. W.W.I.I. code-breaking. Naval and nautical history, book after book, bookcase after bookcase, room after room.

I spent 14-15 hours each day in serious triage mode, organizing and counting, lightly cleaning and photographing books, until I could in good conscience invite in some dealers.

And Good Lord, were there books about trains and railroads. Richard “Dick” Barrett of Loudonville (near Albany), New York “entered into eternal rest on August 30th at the age of 76,” said his obituary. He left behind his children Kerry, Richard, and Katie, who hired me. In the basement was the final, remaining model train set up—complete with two transformers, 180 feet of track, a train of six cars (one of which blew smoke), and 115 miniature houses that lined the tracks and dotted the landscape, including two ski slopes, a circus and a Ferris Wheel! Graduate of the Vincentian Institute and Siena College, he also played and coached baseball. He helped to research and author many books, videos and articles centered on Albany politics, trains and railroad-lines, and local baseball. Dick Barrett was also a Board Member of the New York Central System Historical Society. His 1,831 books about trains and railroads are now chugging toward Saratoga Springs, New York. He exhibited his books at the Albany Institute of History.

“All Aboard!” Mr. Barrett, headed now on the New York Central up into the Adirondacks.

 

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