Robert “Bob” Jones, 86, of Burlington, VT passed away at home of natural causes on January 13, 2021.
Often considered the dean of northern New England railroad history, Bob, a graduate of the University of Vermont and Saint Michael’s College, authored, co-authored, or edited twenty-four railroad books. They included the three volume, award winning Railroads of Vermont, seven volume The Central Vermont: A Yankee Tradition, Two Feet Between the Rails, and many other books and magazine articles on Maine and Vermont railroad subjects.
Bob’s infectious love of the rails created a ripple effect in the lives of so many. His wife, Janet, worked in passenger service on the Green Mountain and Vermont Railway. Son Jim continues in the family tradition, having produced more than forty rail-themed video documentaries and five books of his own. Son Marc worked in four departments on the Central Vermont Railway. Happily, Bob lived to see and hear the contemporary rail tales of his grandson, William, of New England Central Railroad.
Bob often reiterated the story of his father Cecil’s own post-high school graduation job search. Cecil had interviews with a local bank and the railroad. Bob was fond of saying: “Had the bank hired him, I might be speaking to a convention of bankers.”
Although his family mercilessly teased Bob about being born at Cottage Hospital in Woodsville, New Hampshire, his very first home address of East Ryegate made Bob a proud native Vermonter. In East Ryegate, Bob’s father, Cecil, served as depot agent. The Canadian Pacific Railroad transferred the family to the busy, international border station of Richford, Vermont at the dawn of World War II. Here in Richford, young Bobby Jones grew into adulthood, along with younger brother Bill, under the watchful eyes of Cecil and Elsie (Pangborn) Jones and several beloved canine companions.
For 32 years, Bob was a high school business education teacher at Shelburne and Champlain Valley Union for 32 years, while simultaneously pursuing railroad work over a 41 year period on the Canadian Pacific, Vermont Railway, Green Mountain Railroad and the New England Central Railroad—all on an average of four hours of sleep a night.
Robert C. “Bob” Jones was many things; devoted husband and father, respected author, talented baseball player (and devoted Red Sox fan), Army veteran, bagpipe band drummer, teacher, man of faith, mentor, and friend. Bob left the world a better place.
Here’s a few thoughts from members of the Maine On2 io group on his passing;-
From Robert Bennett;-
Good Afternoon All,
Truly a great figure in Maine two foot history. I met Bob when he visited my layout several years ago while on a trip back to Maine; a gentleman and scholar without question. I have almost all of his Maine-based books and in these troubled times, I have been reading and re-reading them time and time again. As a teacher myself, I admire Bob’s ability to have researched and presented not only the essential stories, but the sort of “hidden” tidbits that lend reality to the subject matter as well. Those of us who love the Maine narrow gauges should treasure his knowledge and contributions forever.
Stay well everyone!
Best, Bob Bennett
From David Woodhead;-
Yes, he was an important figure in this world, and I was lucky to share a dinner table with him at the Portland Narrow Gauge Convention a few years back. He was genuinely connected to the Maine narrow gauge (and much other railroading) and I think he said he had been a pallbearer at (was it?) Dana Aldrich’s funeral. He knew it from the source, and talked about driving up the back roads many times while researching, and must have known the people of the area in a way few rail fans would have. Thanks, Bob Jones!
From Pete Leach;-
I too am saddened by the news of Mr. Jones’s passing. Although I never had the pleasure of meeting him, his influence on my modeling focus is clear.
I was a mid-western modeler deep into my N scale efforts when I happened upon a book in a local hobby. The illustration on the dust jacket caught my eye: a small steam locomotive pulling a few wooden cars across a trestle along a waterfront. The book was “Two Feet to Tidewater”, co-authored by R C Jones. I had never heard of the Wiscasset line but was intrigued enough to buy it, even though it cost nearly as much as an N scale engine. I have been on a quest to replicate that little railroad ever since.
I am sorry to have never met him.
Rest in peace, Mr. Robert Jones.
From Chris McChesney;-
Sad indeed. His “Two Foot to Tidewater” came out when I was a teenager and it inspired me to model the Wiscasset Lower Yard and take a serious interest in the history of the WW&F Ry. What a prolific writer! He was a real asset to the two-foot community and will be missed.
Robert Jones’ books on the Maine Two Footers are highly prized by their owners as they are a major go-to source of information, plans, vintage photographs, history and stories of the folk who worked on these roads.
The dust jacket or covers either feature original paintings showing a highly recognisable view of the subject line or may show a classic contemporary photograph of the line.
Each book is copiously illustrated with a range of photographs showing locomotives, rolling stock, personnel and structures, and often show the landscapes which the railroad travelled through. All photographs are sharply printed with decent exposures and shadow details – often they are the best print available from particular negatives.
The books usually have rosters of the locomotives and rolling stock, and frequently have a selection of plans for these items. Other items included are route maps and siding/station plans with a number of sketch and Sanborn Insurance maps of the towns and facilities served.
The acknowledgement pages of each book show Bob’s unrivalled networking abilities using various well known sources (too many to mention here) to provide information, assistance, photographs, maps, plans, stories etc to enhance his own work and provide a one stop go to source of information and reading pleasure.
Here is a selection of Bob Jones’ books about the Maine Two Footers;-
Two Feet Between the Rails – The Early Years – Volume 1 – a hefty read, weighing in at 4 pounds 2 ounces. Published by Sundance Books in 1979, 416 pages, 8½ x 11, ISBN 0-913582-17-4.
Two Feet Between the Rails – The Mature Years – Volume 2, another hefty read, weighing in at a tad over 4 pounds 2 ounces. Published by Sundance Books in 1980, 416 pages, 8½ x 11, ISBN 0-913582-18-2.
Two Feet to the Tidewater – The Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway
Robert C Jones & David L Register, Published by Pruett Publishing Company Books in 1987, 269 pages, 8½ x 11, ISBN 0-87108-729-4. Weight 3lbs even.
David Register was a lifelong fan of the WW&FR, and spent the last years of his life working on this book, but regrettably passed away before completing and publishing. A short time afterward, his family asked for advice about publishing the work and were put in contact with Bob Jones, who eventually editted the text and substantially added to the volume that we see here.
Two Feet to the Tidewater – The Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Expanded and Updated Edition.
Robert C. Jones & David L. Register, Published by Evergreen Press in 2002, 386 pages, 8½ x 11, ISBN 0-9667264-3-X, Reprint. Weighs 3pounds and 10 ounces.
This expanded version consists of the original 1987 Pruett book, followed by an additional 117 pages of Vintage photographs and the activities of the WW&FR Railway Museum who in the meantime had re-instated the line on its original roadbed.
Two Feet to the Lakes The Bridgton and Saco River Railroad
Published by Pacific Fast Mail in1993, 256 pages, 8½ x 11, ISBN 0-915713-26-8. Weighs 2 pounds and 12 ounces.
Two Feet to the Quarries – The Monson Railroad
Published by Evergreen Press in 1998, 98-87962 ISBN 0-9667264-0-5. First Edition150 pages, 8½ x 11, weighs 1 pound and 13 ounces. Note that Evergreen Press is Bob Jones’ own company.
Two Feet to Togus – The Kennebec Central Railroad
Published by Evergreen Press in 1999, 198 pages, 8½ x 11, 99-68177 ISBN 0-9667264-1-3 1rst Edition, weighs 2 pounds and three ounces.
The Maine Two-Footers – 2nd edition L. W. Moody (edited Robert C. Jones)
Published by Heimburger House Publishing Company in 1998, 240 pages, 8 ½ x 11, weighs 2 pounds and 15 ounces. Bob Jones felt that there was a need for a new edition of Linwood Moody’s classic book dealing with all the Maine Two Footers (including their temporary sojourn in Massachusetts). He bought the rights to the Moody book and produced this larger version incorporating additional photographs.