Wallace P. Cathcart, an early pioneer of railcar linings and strong supporter of SSPC, died Monday, Sept. 20, at Chambersburg (PA) Hospital, surrounded by family. He was 86.
Mr. Cathcart and his brother Raymond founded Tank Lining Corp. in 1950. In the early 1970s, Mr. Cathcart bought the company, based in Oakdale, PA, from his brother and other stockholders and became sole owner.
With his “young tigers," as he proudly called them, Mr. Cathcart built Tank Lining Corp. into the largest of its kind, with branches in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Tennessee and Texas. In addition to chemical storage tanks at customers' plants, TLC lined 4,000 to 4,500 railcars per year in their shops.
‘A True Gentleman’
Among the inspectors of TLC’s early hopper cars and tank cars was a young man named Ken Tator, of what was then known as Kenneth Tator Associates, a coatings inspection consultancy. Tator had been working with his father, Kenneth, at his firm since the early 1950s.
Mr. Cathcart was a good friend of the elder Mr. Tator and kept an eye on his son.
“He took me under his wing,” Tator, now the CEO for what is today known as KTA-Tator Inc., recalled Wednesday (Sept. 22). “Wally always was there to help, and to mentor, and to criticize as he saw fit.
“When my father died [in 1969], Wally would meet me at SSPC meetings and NACE meetings and would always introduce me to people.
“He was a true gentleman and very gracious,” said Tator. “He was very proud of the fact that KTA was doing well. And, of course, a lot of that was due to Wally.”
In 1984, Mr. Cathcart sold Tank Lining Corp. to Dallas-based Trinity Industries Inc., the nation's largest railcar builder. He worked as Technical Counsel to Trinity, a position he enjoyed, until his retirement in 2000.
“He was a really, really fine person—very, very smart and a leader in his time in the industry,” recalled Trinity CEO Tim Wallace, who was with the company's railcar group when it acquired Tank Lining Corp. “He was a good spokesman for the industry and an innovator. Whenever we needed coatings resources, he was like an encyclopedia.” TLC allowed Trinity to acquire competencies in linings that the company did not have, Wallace said.
Mr. Cathcart was born on Feb. 9, 1924, in Rosslyn Farms, Carnegie, PA. He graduated from Carnegie High School in the Class of 1941.
Late in World War II, Mr. Cathcart was designated as a Naval Aviator at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, FL, and commissioned in the U.S. Marine Corps. He qualified for carrier flight duty and was involved in the early development of robotic controlled plane to plane flight at the Marine Air Station in Cherry Point, NC.
After the war, Mr. Cathcart married Lucy Griffith Riddle and, with her encouragement, graduated from Washington and Jefferson College in 1947.
An Engineer ‘Who Could Explain Anything’
During his working years, Mr. Cathcart, a registered professional engineer, chaired or actively participated in numerous technical committees for the National Association of Corrosion Engineers and the Steel Structures Painting Council, which awarded him its Certificate of Recognition. He was one of only five Americans to be named "Expert in Surface Preparation."
Mr. Cathcart was an occasional contributing writer to JPCL: Journal of Protective Coatings and Linings.
“I was lucky to work with Wally Cathcart and read his work when I joined the JPCL editorial staff some 20 years ago,” says JPCL editor Karen Kapsanis. “An active contributor to SSPC, JPCL and the industry, he could explain anything from contaminated steel to railcar linings with clarity, brevity, and insight.”
Harold Hower, CEO of Technology Publishing Corp., which publishes JPCL, called Mr. Cathcart “one of the early pioneers of railcar linings and a strong SSPC supporter.”
Mr. Cathcart served on several boards of directors, including those of the Western Pennsylvania Home for Boys in Oakdale, PA, and Learning Camps, Inc. in Vail Valley, CO, a summer camp for children with learning disabilities.
Tator recalls skiing with Mr. Cathcart when he was 75 years old. Mr. Cathcart blew past Tator and his wife on the slopes—typical of his exuberant personality, Tator said.
“He just zoomed down,” Tator said. “He was a super person, and very infectious. And any time you were with him, you were the only person he was with.”
Mr. Cathcart is survived by Lucy, his wife of 64 years; four children; and seven grandchildren.
Services and interment will be private. Memorial contributions may be made to Menno Haven Benevolent Fund. Menno Haven Inc., 2011 Scotland Road, Chambersburg, PA 17201 or online at www.mennohaven.org.