ICS member Bernard Linder of Sheepshead Bay was born in 1918, just about 14 years after the official opening of the New York City subway system. The son of Lithuanian immigrants, Bernard says, “I was born near the intersection of two trolley lines at Fifty-ninth and Tenth in Manhattan. Our apartment was within the sound of the Third Avenue El in Harlem.”
You might say the former electrical engineer for the MTA caught the subway train bug early. It hasn’t let him go.
At 99, Bernard still has trains on the brain, which comes in handy when he’s editing The Bulletin, the monthly newsletter of The Electrical Railroaders’ Association. Bernard has been a member of the association and editor of The Bulletin since he retired from the MTA almost 40 years ago. He is also busy helping write a book about—what else?—trains.
“I’m not interested so much in the long-distance lines,” he says. “My main interest is in subways, trolleys and commuter rail.”
Bernard’s interest in trains developed as a young boy when he worked in his father’s newsstand on the subway below Grand Central Station. He made a study of the different trains, lines and routes under the city streets.
A graduate of City College, Bernard did not get a job working with trains until after the war, during which he served as a civilian engineer at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Out of work and freshly married, Bernard knocked on the Transit Authority’s door. He confessed that while he had no experience working with trains, he was an enthusiast. His knowledge made an impression and he was hired.
For the next 30 years, Bernard worked on the MTA’s electrical system, designing the controls that power the trains, overseeing the dismantling of his beloved trolley lines and even showing railway builders where to lay the third rail underground. Many of the circuits Bernard designed are still in use.
In 2001, after a serious fall down some stairs, Bernard stopped using the subway. “It breaks my heart,” he says.
He joined ICS in May of this year. He is most satisfied with his aides, he says. “One is a strong man who can lift me up very well.” Others are good cooks who are creative with his specialized diet.
Though he can no longer ride the rails, Bernard’s mind never strays far from the subject that captured his imagination as a boy. If you visit him, he will gladly show his room full of books about trains and other subway memorabilia.