In his 22 years with the Chessie System railroad, Richard Warner Gartin, 41, made a methodical rise from clerk to director of freight claims in charge of 100 people.

But yesterday, Baltimore police said they entered Gartin's downtown Baltimore office Monday and charged him with embezzling more than $2.7 million since 1979.

Railroad officials said they immediately suspended Gartin from his job. He is being held in a Baltimore jail on $1.5 million bond, Sgt. Michael Bass said.

Chessie spokesman Lloyd Lewis said the money was apparently siphoned from the company by filing false claims for damaged shipments. In some cases, claims were filed involving fictitious shipments; in others, damage reports were made on shipments that actually arrived in good condition, Lewis said.

Detective Douglas Cash said Gartin allegedly sent company checks covering the claims to a relative. From time to time, the relative allegedly sent Gartin large checks, which Gartin deposited in a personal account, according to Cash. Police said the relative, who has not been identified, was not aware of how Gartin got the money.

Company officials said they became aware of a problem several months ago after a company audit and began an investigation. Their information was later turned over to police.

Police and railroad officials said they did not know how the money was spent.

Lewis refused to disclose Gartin's salary or details about his record. He said Gartin first went to work as a clerk in Huntington, W.Va., in 1963. He described Gartin's current position as "middle management."

In the comfortable Homeland neighborhood of north Baltimore, Gartin and his wife were not well known. Neighbors said the couple had lived in a two-story stone house on Taplow Road for about a year.

"They kept to themselves," said Courtney Brown, who lives two doors away.

Said another neighbor, "We really never had a conversation with them. They didn't seem interested in the people who lived here, so after a while, we didn't pay any attention to them. As far as I know, they had no friends in the neighborhood."