On June 19, 2021, I learnt from Chris Parker's brother, Scott, that he suffered a ruptured brain aneurysm and a severe stroke as a result on June 16 and was in a coma at Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance. He passed away at 6:00 PM on Saturday, June 26.
I met Chris Parker in late 2004 and he joined the Orange County Railroad Historical Society and we became good friends. He decided to go to the 2005 National Railway Historical Society (NRHS) convention in Portland, Oregon and rode the train with me to it. We rode the Mount Hood Railroad before that event. He managed to get tickets for all events; not bad when he arrived without any.
For the 2006 NRHS convention in Ohio, we bought tickets for all events beforehand and we rode the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad, the Potomac Eagle Scenic Railroad, then the Horseshoe Curve twice, East Broad Top in Rockhill Furnace, stayed at the Tunnel Inn before visiting the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum, all before the convention started. On the meeting day, we went to Brewster then Orrville Depot on the way to the Mad River and NKP Railroad Museum in Bellevue, before chasing an Amish buggy (typical Chris) then visiting the incredible Warthers Carving Museum and the Dover station. Chris took an early NRHS bus to Pittsburgh and thanks to him, I took a later bus to Amtrak in Pittsburgh and took the train east to Altoona, and had the Conrail time of my life taking of my life.
The next year's NRHS Convention was in Chattanooga and I took Amtrak to Charlotte and Chris flew to the same place the day before I arrived. We first went to the North Carolina Trainsportation Museum, then meet David Pressley for dinner in Asheville before staying two night in Bryson City. We met Connie Southard from the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad who not only gave me our tickets for this train and said our tickets for our one way trip to Dillsboro would arrive on the that train this afternoon, but also presentd Chris and I with a hobo pack with some nice souvenirs wrapped inside it. We had the times of our lives riding First Class and I rode in the locomotive cab on the first trip northbound. Connie met us at Dillsboro and took us back to the motel. The next day we rode the Southern Appalachia Railway excursion train and Chris lost his glasses along the route. John Humphrey of the Museum and I offered Chris our services so we drove out along the line past Poplar Creek and started to walk the tracks. We must have walked over five miles of track but we had no luck in finding them. Chris then decided it was time to give up and a big-hearted thank you for trying to help us find the glasses. Chris found a Lencsrafters in a mall in Knoxville. The two of us then went to Glen Mary and had three Norfolk Southern trains and Chris was amazed by our luck. The next morning, I gave Chris a tour of Norfolk Southern's Rathole before we rode the Big South Fork Scenic Railroad. The following day we headed to Chattanooga, riding the Lookout Mountain Incline Railroad followed by the Rock City and Fairyland Caverns then Ruby Falls. This day ended with us checking into the Chattanooga Choo Cho Hotel. The first convention trip was the Hiawasee Loop trip then the next day was the Blue Ridge Hook and Eye Trip where Chris won a cab ride then the day was finished with a fantastic dinner at Beas Fammily Restaurant.
The next morning we took part in the Tennessee and Alabama Railroad Tag Line Trip and that afternoon we rode the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum and on this day we both wore three shirts as it was 107 degrees and 95 percent humidity. The meeting day we drove to Atlanta go to the Southeastern Railway Museum then Stone Mountain Railroad and Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History in Kennasaw, before having Dinner in the Diner back in Chattanooga, which was a railroading highlight. The last convention trip was the Summerville Steam Trip which we had a blast on. We drove back and this was the day Amtrak's compter system crashed. All we knew was my Crescent was an hour late into Birmingham. With Chris wearing sunglasses, I had to call out every mileage marker, sign and the like to keep him awake. We got on Interstate 40 but had a slower trip across the Great Smokey Mountains so we were behind schedule. Catching the train in Charlotte was now impossible if it was on time with us having no way of knowing. Chris Parker did an excellent job of driving and we pulled into the parking lot at 2:48 AM for a 2:49 departure. Chris was back in a hotel in Charlotte when my train pulled in Salisbury at 4:13 AM.
That 2007 event was the last NRHS convention he joined me on because his business, Parker Tree Services, would not allow it and the amount of time he had to take off. Chris did go to the 2013 convention in Alaska and had the time of his life there.
Prior the 2016 NRHS convention, Chris flew into Denver and Robin Bowers and I picked him up and took him to the Douglas Railroad Museum, the Powder River Basin, Devil's Tower, the Black Hills Central Railroad and we stayed two nights at the Ponderosa Ranch on Crawford Hill. Chris was amazed by the level of train activity on Crawford Hill. We then drove down to Denver, picking up Elizabeth and doing the Platte Valley Trolley, the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic from Antonito to Chama, Cripple Creek and Victor Narrow Gauge before he flew home the next day.
After seeing my photographs from Bart Jennings' rare mileage trip in Idaho, Chris wanted to do some of them with me. We flew down to Georgia and did the Georgia Southwestern rare mileage trips in 2005 and flew to Portland for the Northwest rare mileage trips in 2006 on the Port of Tillamook Bay, Chehalis-Centralia Railroad, Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad to the Tidewater. Later that year the two of us rode the entire Rio Grande Scenic and San Luis Central Railroads in Colorado on more of Bart's trips. He really enjoyed the Great Sand Dunes National Monument and the ghost railroading we did.
Another group Chris joined was the Train Travel Meetup Group when it started in 2007. He came along on many of the southern California excursion trips and enjoyed them all.
Chris accompanied me on every Winterail from 2006 to 2019, first in Stockton then Corvallis, Oregon and would bring his friends including Bob Gordon and Larry Borio. Most years there was a post-Winterail photographers special and he would always take part in them.
Chris also rode of the most of Coast Starlight Detours with me including the one when we rode the Tioga Pass, a true highlight for both of us. He rode several private cars with me including the Tioga Pass multiple times, the Pony Express and the Burrard.
In 2011, Chris joined me on a chase of Union Pacific 844 from Yuma to Yermo, a two-day odyssey of steam. In 2013, he, Bob Alkire and I chased Nickel Plate 765 from Fort Wayne to Lafayette, Indiana. Then in 2019, he joined Robin Bowers, Bill Compton and I on two days' worth chase of Union Pacific Big Boy 4014 from Yermo to West Palm Springs.
In December 2020, he, Robin Bowers, Elizabeth and I took part in a photo freight charter on the Niles Canyon Railway. On Elizabeth's and my drive back from a trip in May 2021, Chris suggested to me that we go through the eastern part of Grand Canyon which was new to both of us and we both thanked him for the fantastic idea.
Chris and I shared similar tastes in music and enjoyed the tunes in the car. We went to Jethro Tull, Alice Cooper, Young Dubliners and other concerts together over the years.
Mr. Parker has always been a good friend and very supportive of me in everything I have ever done. In recent years, he has ridden the weekend Metrolink trains with us, always on a Sunday, and brought a few of his friends along. Chris is one of the most loyal and cheerful people you could ever want to know. Chris had a favorite word he would say when travelling with me and that was "beautiful". On every trip we took together he would always say it to describe scenery. On the 2016 Winterail trip, we substituted "ugly" and "boring green" for the Oregon scenery. He had an excellent sense of humor and could always put a smile on my face.
He was like a brother to me that I had always wanted. Chris will be sorely missed and never forgotten.