LIRR historian Vincent Seyfried dies at 93

A handout photo provided by the LIRR, is A handout photo provided by the LIRR, is of Vincent Seyfried taken in 1988. Photo Credit: LIRR

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Vincent Seyfried, a respected historian who wrote the definitive collection covering the LIRR's early years, died Saturday from complications of Alzheimer's disease, friends said. The longtime Garden City resident, who also served in World War II, was 93.

Seyfried, who would have turned 94 Wednesday, grew up in the Hollis section of Queens and was in the Air Force during the war, according to longtime friend Joseph Saitta.

He received bachelor's and master's degrees in classics from Fordham University in 1941, according to friend William Bellmer.

Seyfried taught English at Martin Van Buren High School in Queens. But, at his heart, he was a train buff who loved to collect LIRR artifacts.

Although he penned more than 30 historical books about New York City and public transportation, Seyfried's lasting legacy is his seven-volume set, "The Long Island Rail Road: A Comprehensive History."

The books, which were published from 1965-1984, covered the first 85 years of the LIRR. Each volume took about three years to complete.

In a statement Tuesday, the LIRR said it was saddened by Seyfried's death. "His work captured the spirit and dedication of LIRR employees through many generations."

LIRR spokesman and historian Michael Charles said Seyfried spent years poring over newspapers throughout the Island to put together the books, which detailed such milestones as Penn Station's origin and the electrification of the rails.

Charles said Seyfriend was the "pre-eminent historian" on the LIRR, despite never having worked for the agency.

"He wasn't a railroad insider," Charles said. "It was a love of just railroading itself -- the fascination of the metal wheels on steel rail."

In 2006, Seyfried donated his collection of manuscripts, research notes and reports to Stony Brook University.

"Vince was very knowledgeable on the railroad's history, and he was always very willing and eager to share that history with others," said LIRR historian David Morrison.

Seyfried credited fellow train buffs working at the LIRR with preserving the railroad's history. At public speaking engagements, he often said, "If it weren't for the larceny of its own employees, the Long Island Rail Road would have no history."

Seyfried was involved in the Garden City Historical Society and the Branford Electric Railway Association in East Haven, Conn.

Friends said Seyfried's wife, Constance, died in 1985, and that he had no living close relatives.

A memorial Mass for Seyfried will be celebrated Thursday at 10 a.m., St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church in Garden City.

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