It is with deep sadness that we share news that our founder, mentor and dear friend Thomas C. Marshall Jr. (age 94) died February 12, 2019, after a long illness. It is notable that February 12 is the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, one of his American heroes, and we cannot help but believe that Tom chose this historic date for his passing.
Memories of Tom Marshall from the volunteers and friends who knew him best (a hint at why they work so hard to keep the Steam Dream alive) …
FAHP Board President Steve Bryce with his grandson on their first visit to a Steamin’ Day in 2007.
Tom, I want to thank you for your generosity, both with material possessions and your generosity of spirit, over the years I have known you. When we first started the Steam Team, I would tell people about our activities, and they would be amazed that we were being taught how to operate and maintain antique cars in a private collection and that there was no cost to us for the experience!! And I have experienced this same generosity from you in relation to the renovations projects at Hockessin Meeting even though I know you were not entirely in agreement with some of the changes we were making.
THANK YOU. It has my great good fortune to have had the opportunity to know you and work with you.
— Richard N. Bernard Jr.
I have always considered myself very lucky to have had the opportunity to learn about and drive Tom’s collection of Stanley steam cars. I had up to that time never met any person so generous with his knowledge and trust with his own old cars. He has become one of my best friends. Even though he has given his Stanley’s to FAHP, I still consider them his Stanleys every time I get to drive one.
— Bill Schwoebel
This photo of my parents will go down in Auburn Heights history as one of the most posted, shared and viewed. It is just one of many that I cherish. Each guest at a Steamin’ Day goes home with their own pictures and memories that will have the same effect.
- The guest with dementia, whose daughter, through tears, told us was acting like his old self again.
- The gal who brought her 2-year-old son and 92-year-old grandfather, challenging us to live up to our promise of “fun for those age 2 to 92.”
- The family setting up a picnic blanket overlooking the pond.
- The couple dancing to music by the holly tree.
- The guy that helps people on and off the Mountain Wagon.
Tom, your desire to share your good fortune has impacted too many to count. Being a part of this wonderful group has changed me for the better. I always look forward to seeing you, and hearing your trademark, “Good to see ya!”
Tom, sir, it has always been good to see ya!
— Jeff Morrison
Tom taught me that all problems can be solved with patience, knowledge, tools and time. My first ride with Tom was in the 71 before the Steam Team was formed. We drove about 150 miles roundtrip to a car meet in Manchester PA. Tom stopped the car once or twice because of problems, but he never got worked up. He would get out, look around, and start to analyze the problem. Once diagnosed, he began the repair. At that point, I was only useful at handing him tools. After making the repair, we were back on our way. I have seen him use this approach many times with the cars on tour. When I see Tom work on a problem, I am always impressed by the quiet and confident manner he uses. We also had a lot of fun that day, arriving back at Auburn Heights before total darkness had set in. It was an adventure, and I was hooked.
Many people, including me, have gained knowledge and pleasure from the generous spirit of Tom and Ruth. At the start of the Steam Team, Tom was teaching us how steam cars worked and how to operate them. With much preparation and many hours later, and to the amazement of most of us, Tom then allowed us novice operators to drive his beloved cars. When mistakes were made, it became a teaching moment, never a blame situation. His confidence in us gave us the confidence to succeed. The gift of the property to the state and the cars to the Friends sealed the deal on a sustainable way to preserve this legacy into the future for many many people to enjoy.
— Mark Hopkins
Tom Marshall is a gentleman in the truest sense of the word. His grace and bearing is seldom seen in our world today. Tom is a teacher; he gladly shares his vast knowledge, not to show off but truly to share what he knows, and he knows many things that are worth knowing. He has taught me well, and I am grateful. Tom is an historian, and I have been privileged to know some great historians — he is among them. Tom’s razor sharp mind and his ability to weave a factual and interesting story about everyday life is a rare gift to us all. Tom is a humanitarian; he exemplifies what is best in mankind. I am proud to know Tom. He is truly a special person.
— Mike Leister
As a youngster, I didn’t care about history ( I suspect most youngsters don’t). When first working with you at HRCV in the late 1980s forward, I didn’t appreciate what you and others had saved in returning steam-powered WWRR passenger trains to an old freight railroad branch my grandfather once traveled daily. Your teachings and examples were not only fundamental but instrumental, and your generosity was overflowing in allowing me to learn and operate the Stanley Model 76 after I purchased Marvin Klair’s Stanley and started a restoration that I was unqualified to commence at the time.
For the past dozen plus years I’ve come to increasingly appreciate the vast Marshall family history and their contributions during the industrial revolution. Four Marshall generations ago, family members contributed to America’s iron & steel, mining, farming, and paper/fiber industries. Through your vision and leadership preserving Auburn Heights, preserving the former Marshall Brothers Mill, and revitalizing the WWRR, I’ve come to appreciate just how important the Red Clay Valley and its people were to this nation’s growth over two centuries.
Through the Stanley twins, Stanley cars, and other property artifacts, I’ve experienced a broad historical examination and appreciation of history and technology I once took for granted in younger years. I look forward to the future, when more of the Yorklyn area history, as well as the Marshalls’ contributions, will be told as Marshall Brothers Mill opens for tours along with expanding educational opportunities at Auburn Heights.
You’ve experienced a life well lived, thank you for allowing me the privilege of a helluva ride alongside!
— Bob Wilhelm
Tom has inspired generations of children and adults with the Magic Age of Steam. This may just end up being an appreciation for steam vehicles, or it could end up being a lifelong hobby with all things mechanical. Leah is looking forward to having her 4th birthday party on the Wilmington & Western Railroad. (While she loves the Auburn Valley Railroad, she wants to sit inside!) I hope to inspire her to even a fraction of Tom’s generosity, humility, and kindness.
— Dan Citron
I’ve enjoyed the past 11 years on the Steam Team. I thank you for what you’ve taught me about Stanleys and antique vehicles. Your guidance and expertise allowed us to do an exemplary restoration of the 607. I was honored to join you and Bob Jordan in taking it to Hagley (left). Rewiring the 37 Packard was another hands-on learning experience. When loading for you on the Birthday Cars, it was impressive how you enjoyed giving rides & always wanted a passenger.
Just about every businessperson I’ve met in the Kennett area has nothing but kind words to say about you. I’m sorry that I didn’t learn about the Steam Team sooner — Kathie’s not a car person, but she’s enjoyed all the times she’s met with both of you. The creation of Auburn Valley State Park puts the icing on the cake.
— Ted Kamen
Dear Ruth and Tom,
Your generosity and kind planning have given us both friendship and lessons for which we are grateful. The Magic Age of Steam provided a wonderful introduction, leading many years later to the cherished opportunity to be Friends of Auburn Heights.
The standards you set, by example and persuasion, convey culture, discipline, and craftsmanship that are essential to perpetuate through the generations. You created a unique fellowship that values not only the precious material things you have given, but treasures the legacy of people and history. We hope that you will take great satisfaction in your accomplishments and in the knowledge that you have inspired us to preserve and extend the path you have defined.
Please accept our sincere thanks,
— Jane and Bob Jordan
I was invited to the second training program on how to run a Stanley steam car in February 1999. Tom knew that I owned a Packard from the Brandywine Region AACA. I guess Tom thought if I owned a Packard, I can’t be all that bad. The training was held in the museum, and the first night was very cold. I was the first woman to be invited to the training class. Tom knew that women drove the Stanleys when they were on the road the early part of the century, so why not now. This was the start of my learning so much about the history of Yorklyn, the house, and the Stanley steam car. I have been to places and done things that I would never have done if it wasn’t for Tom and steam cars. It has been a journey and a pleasure for these past 20 years.
In early 2003–4, I was a member of the committee that wrote the mission statement and bylaws and applied for the 501(c)(3). During the winter months when the committee met, Tom would invite the committee to the house. Tom would build a fire in the fireplace in the living room and hold the meeting in the living room. (I have always called it the house not a mansion because Tom and Ruth lived there.) We received our EIN for the 501(c)(3) on my birthday, October 22, 2004. That was a great day for all of the volunteers. Working with Tom and the other volunteers setting up a nonprofit is an experience that cannot be taught in a classroom, only by doing. And the added gem of working in the house was we got to know Ruth.
— Rose Ann Hoover, ever grateful to knowing Tom and Ruth Marshall
I have always admired Tom’s ability to talk to people.
He talked baseball with my son Steve…
He talked Penn State with my daughter Vicki…
He talked nursing with me.
He is always interested in you.
— Cathy Schwoebel
Tom was a warm presence for Will and Anna Hopkins from early in their childhood into their teens. The earliest contact was at Hockessin Meeting. Will also volunteered at Steamin’ Days and both of them attended 5 Eastern Steam Car Tours with the Marshalls. Both have reported that Tom treated them differently than the way other adults usually treat kids. He spoke to them as a peer. Tom did not talk down to them or try to oversimplify a concept. He asked about their world and listened attentively. This treatment made an immediate and lasting impression on them, which they remember to this day.
— Will and Anna Hopkins
We have known each other for a number (BIG #) of years. I have always considered you my friend – who couldn’t like you!!! Your repeated generosity to the CCArts, WWRR and many other non-profits is memorable, thank you. You and Ruth are an asset to not only Yorklyn but to the State of Delaware. It is my privilege to be associated with you both.
— Larry Thurrell
How many times a hug to this man, an introduction to someone (which usually was a re-introduction), and a great smile and greeting and story. The story … amazing, down to the weather of the day many, many years ago!
Amazing and awesome.
There is only one Tom Marshall, and we have the pleasure to know and love the man in the red striped jacket.
— Holly Novak
I’m a recent volunteer but I first attended Auburn Heights with my wife and kids 10 years ago. We first encountered Tom in the museum while the kids were looking at the player piano that was in there. He generously fired it up and let us watch it play a few songs, which we all thought was so neat.
Over the years we also enjoyed quite a few Steamer rides with him as the driver.
Very glad to know him and was honored that he did get to hear my accordion playing this summer and took the time to stop over and let me know how much he enjoyed it.
— Scott Bernberg
After becoming Auburn Height’s caretaker, I noticed that Tom frequently came in during the weekend to work on some project in the Carriage House. Occasionally, I would stop in to say “hello” and ask Tom if he needed any help. Of course, he almost never did; I can think of only two instances where he needed me to lend a hand. But sometimes Tom would use the opportunity to take a break, and we would sit in the shop talking, Tom sharing some always-interesting bit of Auburn Heights lore. In turn, I would sometimes attempt (not always with success) to explain to him some mystery of Parks that perplexed him.
I’ll always cherish our weekend bull sessions; they are but one of the many wonderful memories I have of my time living at Auburn Heights.
— Howard McKean
As a volunteer of four years, I only knew Tom for a short time, but he made me feel like I had known him all my life. My first night in the workshop, I had no idea what to do. Tom was so kind. He introduced me around and was as happy to see me as I was to see him. I was worried that I had nothing to contribute, but Tom took me under his wing and had me working on a car that I never imagined I would be allowed to work on. Tom was as generous with his time as he was with his beautiful collection of Stanley steam cars.
In four short years, I have dozens of memories of Tom’s generosity, his knowledge of the car collection and his wonderful ability to tell the stories of his life. I only wish that I could have known him longer. He was an incredible man, and the world is a better place because of him. He was greatly admired and an example of a life well lived.
— Larry Tennity
In late 1993, I made a decision on a career path that, little did I know then, was about to forever change my life. Historic Red Clay Valley, Inc. and the Wilmington & Western Railroad were facing a … well, we’ll call it a financial adversity that seemed rather gloomy. Tom Marshall, treasurer of HRCV along with Robert Spencer, then President, and I met numerous times to chart a path forward and set the WWRR on the right track to recovery. I remember very clearly Tom stating to me that WWRR did not have the resources to pay me for day-to-day administration, but he welcomed me to the organization and pledged support for everything he could do to help me turn things around. The paycheck was unimportant. Tom’s warmth, reassurance, leadership, direction and, most of all, encouragement motivated me in a way that made me want to make a difference and share his passion for the potential, challenges and possibilities that confronted WWRR. I remember thinking this was a tough road ahead, but I was among a special group of people who I admired and enthused me. Tom and I had many a meetings together, and under his guidance and support, eventually things turned towards a new course at the WWRR. Eventually, Tom and the HRCV BOD appointed me Executive Director of the Wilmington & Western Railroad, a job I have been blessed to have had for the last 30 years. I feel lucky to be supplementary to such special people and their visions for the Red Clay Valley.
Tom, your belief in me will forever be the single most influential force in my life path.
— David Ludlow
I was a 5-year old boy when I first heard the whistle blow at Wilmington & Western Railroad. This was soon followed by the small magical trains and steam cars at Auburn Heights, then known as the Magic Age of Steam. These things lit the fire that fueled my passion to learn about steam, science, and history. Because of Tom, and his passion for these things, I developed a lifelong interest in steam. I soon realized that the trains were a moving platform to learn of the world around me. Other than the influence of my parents, nothing has impacted who I am more.
This passion led me to a career in the power plant industry. First working in a steam power plant, then teaching power plant technology at Delcastle Technical High School. Eventually, my love of teaching led me to my current position, teaching children with special needs. Over the last 20 years, I’ve managed to touch the lives of many young people. It was Tom Marshall who taught me, and many others, that the best thing to make in life is to make a difference. He did it his own way, without saying a word, but rather by quietly setting an example. His lesson has become my own guiding principle.
— Tom Gears
Thanks, Tom, for sharing your knowledge, memory, time, and your collection. You provided an opportunity that would not have been available anywhere else and helped me move my life in a direction I had wanted to take it for many years. And, in a larger sense, thank you on behalf of the untold thousands of people who you’ll continue to inform through the Auburn Heights effort and whose lives you’ll enrich by the contribution to Delaware State Parks.
— Kelly Williams
Tom Marshall was a special friend. We came to know one another through the Stanley cars. This began in 1973, and our friendship grew as time passed. My wife, Kathryn, and daughter, Heather, were included in this special relationship. Tom’s marriage to Ruth was a great bonus, and we all came to regard Tom and Ruth as more than friends. Son-in-law Patrick came along, and then granddaughter Sarah joined this relationship. Sarah was at the 2007 Steam Car Tour at Auburn Heights when six months old and has developed a special feeling for Tom and Ruth.
I was in awe of Tom and his Stanley collection before we met. This never changed as I learned more and more about him and all the many things he was involved with throughout his life. From the steam car perspective, Tom was a participant and direct link with the people who became the foundation of the steam hobby. His unique ability of recall allowed him to create a picture that would bring alive his experiences and the people that were involved. We spent a big part of every time we were together talking recollections of Steam tours, Glidden Tours and Transcon tours. I always looked forward to our “Stanley talks.” He was a wonderful mentor. His long experience with Stanley operation and distance driving gave him an in-depth knowledge that he was happy to share. There was always something new to learn. The creation of the “Steam Team” and its transformation into the Friends of Auburn Heights is witness to his desire for the Stanley hobby to carry on.
We look forward to sharing with Ruth our memories of Tom as time passes and we visit in the future. As long as we can do this, Tom will live in our hearts.
— Mike May
I knew Tom most of my life. We shared a love of Stanleys and attended many tours together dating back to the late 1960s, shortly after purchasing my 1913 model 76. We were on several transcontinental tours together, which was limited to cars 1914 or older. On several of these tours, which attracted 30-35 cars, Tom and I had the only steam cars. Tom was very generous in many ways, whether it was a Stanley part that was needed or help diagnosing a Stanley problem. One of his many attributes was an absolutely astounding memory! He was a gentleman in every respect, and it was an honor for me just to be in his presence. There aren’t many people that accomplish so much in their life and even fewer that stand out as a legend in their own time. Tom was one of those.
— Brent Campbell
We first met Tom in November 2011 after we were told about Auburn Heights at Longwood Gardens. We went to the Steamin’ Thanksgiving event. Upon arrival Tom introduced himself, and we spoke to him for about 15 minutes. We liked the vibe, so in February we went to the volunteer meeting. He came up to us and said, “Hello, you are Glenn and Linda from Levittown.” It amazed me that we met him once but he remembered our name and where we lived. There are days I don’t remember my own name.
My grandson Billy is very into trains. I would love to watch and listen to Billy and Tom talk. Tom would answer every question Billy would throw at him. They would talk for an hour or more about everything and anything. He would encourage Billy to follow his heart. I love the fact that Tom encouraged, acknowledge, and treat him like a person. I love the fact that he didn’t blow him off because he was a kid. I wish that there were more people in this world like Tom.
— Linda Herman
Bidding Farewell to Our Founder, Mentor & Friend, Thomas C. Marshall Jr. (as shared in the Weekly News of Feb. 18, 2019): First, while Tom enjoyed several business successes during his lifetime, he was never a consummate businessman. He hated spreadsheets, budgets and strategic plans. He placed his faith instead in people, and he was a remarkably astute judge of character. He pursued his passions and never regretted the dreams that failed to reach fruition. For example, the Magic Age of Steam (a small amusement park operated at Auburn Heights, 1971-77) was, by his own accounts, a business failure; yet, it sowed seeds that decades later would help to fuel the successes of the Friends of Auburn Heights, with countless visitors returning with their children and grandchildren to share & renew memories of early train rides and family fun. And the teenagers Tom hired to work at the Magic Age became his most loyal supporters and longtime friends, volunteering their time in whatever capacity Tom needed. Just 3 weeks ago, when he donated to the Friends of Auburn Heights the iconic red-striped jacket he wore during the Magic Age, in many parades and at most Steamin’ Days, he named all of the kids who worked at the Magic Age, and today, two will serve as his pallbearers. Life lesson: Invest in people; the rewards will be greater than you can imagine.
Second, I genuinely admired Tom’s sincere excitement over innovative ideas and new technology. When the Pokemon craze descended on Auburn Heights, we became a “destination,” with four “stops” that brought strangers wandering across the site at odd hours. As a result, I had to explain to Tom that he might encounter young people walking around and staring at their phones (often ignoring everything else around them). I enlisted the help of our then-Education Director Jesse Gagnon to show him what they were doing. He dutifully listened as she demonstrated the app, but then he began to shake his head. I expected him to express disapproval, but he responded instead, with genuine awe, “Isn’t it amazing what they can do today.” The idea of “virtual reality” fascinated him. Life lesson: Embrace the new and unknown, therein lies the wonder that drives progress and fuels invention.
Third, there is a great line in a very forgettable Brad Pitt movie in which he plays the angel of death. Upon meeting a woman he must escort on her final journey, he asks, “Have you made enough good memories?” We know Tom made many many good memories because he shared so many of them with us — in his Weekly News tales, in the talks he has given, and in personal conversations. On the few occasions when I’d drop by an evening work session at Auburn Heights late in the night, I’d often find everyone gathered in the shop, listening as Tom shared stories… of tours, of auto adventures, and so much more. And I had the great fortune to have Tom stop by my office on an almost daily basis, routinely sharing a story or two before heading down to work on the cars. I never minded and will truly miss those “interruptions” (no matter how often I welcomed his “intrusions,” he always apologized for disrupting my day). But Tom made good memories for countless more people because he set the stage for memories galore — aboard the Wilmington & Western Railroad and at the Auburn Heights Egg Hunts and Steamin’ Days (to name only a few). He was an advocate for “immersive” or “experiential” learning long before it had a catch phrase. Life lesson (stolen from Henry Adams): A teacher — that’s Tom — affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.
Lastly, Tom always felt uncomfortable when people thanked him for his many contributions — for launching the Wilmington & Western Railroad, for gifting the Auburn Heights property to the State of Delaware, for teaching countless avid pupils how to operate the vehicles in his personal collections or even for donating those prized autos & engines to the Friends of Auburn Heights. He said people attributed to him grand philanthropic intent… when, in fact, he had done these things for “mostly selfish reasons.” He loved trains, old cars and the beautiful rolling hills and open lands of his hometown, and he wanted to share them so others would love them, too. He did just that. Not only with those attending his memorial services but with those he will never meet and who will see, hear and feel the excitement of a ride in a steam car. Or climb aboard a full-size (or 1/8-size) steam train. Or stand atop Gun Club Hill or stroll the scenic trails surrounding Auburn Heights and admire the amazing views. He accepted people’s thanks with humility and in so doing fostered in them an appreciation for what one person can achieve if they work hard and dream bigger. Life lesson: Make a living, but, when you can, make a difference.
Tom never comprehended the impact he had. That’s okay because we do. In the last few days, members of the Marshall Steam Team (some longtime and some who are brand new to the organization) worked tirelessly to prepare the Mountain Wagon and steam cars to venture out in winter (something we typically avoid) to escort Tom Marshall on one last “road trip.”
Tom never asked for it; in fact, he would have said that using the Mountain Wagon (or any steamer) for his passing was too much trouble. We rarely go against our founder’s wishes… but this time, Tom, we are united in our defiance. One last life lesson: Show up and make the most of right now.
So today, we join together to honor and celebrate a life very well lived. You taught us to take risks, do the right thing and reach higher. Godspeed, Tom. I hope we make you proud!
— Susan Randolph