Iron Man Of The Month


Photo by Joe Fahnestock, Union City, Indiana IRON MAN OF THE MONTH, ERNIE HOFFER, FROM UP TOLEDO-WAY. Whenever Iron Man, Ernie Hoffer, spots just the engine he wants to pose for its ''picture.'', up goes the tri-pod and every camera swings into action pr

Joe Fahnestock

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Loaded with cameras, strapped to his shoulder and hanging about his mid-riff like an old-time western toting his fire-arms, a stocky, be-spectacled figure can be seen milling about the engines at about any Steam Thresher-men's Reunion you may attend throughout the mid west. Suddenly his eagle eye spots something unusual and up goes a tripod while quick, sure but stubby fingers turn thumb-screws and fumble with light-meters and focusing knobs. And, 'Presto!,' another historic gem is preserved on photographic plate for you and me and posterity.

Yes, he's none other than Iron Man, Ernie Hoffer, from up Toledo-way known to everyone as the picture guy who takes all those nice, authentic 'pitchers' of every kind of antique Iron Horse and gas tractor that ever frequents the reunions. And that old steam engine or two-lung gas antique tractor you just saw him snapping its picture will no doubt be seen, along with all his fine other catalogued engine photos at the very next reunion you may 'tend. All of which you will no doubt thumb through as you saunter over the reunion grounds and hard by the little picture tent where Ilva Hoffer and the kids are busy taking orders.

He's the solid kind of citizen, is Ernie Hoffer and his pictures, every one, are just as sharp and well-defined as is his character. He's not at the reunions every day, being quite busy as an engineer at the National Biscuit Company in Toledo. But when he gets there, usually on Saturdays and Sundays, he makes up for lost time by the precision and aptitude of his long camera experience. For when the indefatigable Ernie spots an engine he deems worthy of 'posing for its pitcher' you can pretty 'derned betcha' it's a most unusual type that he thinks you ought to see the next time you come 'round by his little tent at the very next reunion. And when you do pay your visit to the little Hoffer Picture Tent at any reunion you will stand amazed as you rummage through the maze of Americana steam engines historic Cases, Bakers, Port Hurons, Rumely-Gaar-Scotts, Geisers and Keck Gonnermans, not to mention the veritable panorama of every kind and vintage of steam locomotives that ever plied the high-iron of America s glorious past. All of which leaves you rather amazed at the quality and quantity of work this stocky figure and his devoted family are capable of. For getting good, authentic pictures of steam threshing engines and steam railroad locomotives, alone and unadorned of the human mob, is a most demanding and time-consuming task. Even the portraits of America's fast-vanishing but historic wooden covered bridges alone, that Ernie and Ilva display at the reunions, took thousands of miles of additional driving up gravel and mud roads in secluded countryside just to capture, that those of future generations might know what made America great.

It's always one of the rarest treats at the National Threshermen's Reunion, getting to attend one of Ernie Hoffer's unusual and artistic movies that he and his family have recorded on 16-millimeter color film. Watching the mighty Y-6b's of the Norfolk and Western snake mile-long coal drags through the mountains of West Virginia, thrilling to a Pennsylvania K-4 or a B & 6 decapod or EM-1 barking defiance on both film and recorded tape are simply memories one never will forget who attends one of Ernie's evening shows.

And, of course, the high-light of Ernie Hoffer's movie career is the ever thrilling 'ride' one gets to take over the still-functioning Silverton-Northern narrow-gauge in Colorado, as the tiny, yellow-coached steam train snakes its ever-winding ways among the tall Colorado peaks. Not just a single trip, but five train rides from terminal to terminal it took the perfectionist, Ernie Hoffer, and family-crew to capture all the beauty of God and man in autumn's changing colors and the winding steel rails spanned by this only survivor of America's once-great mountain railroad empire vintage of the gold and silver mining bonanzas of yesteryear. Tt's the highlight of any steam engine reunion, for which you must plan the next time you come.

And then if those excellent black-and-white photos and color movies aren't: sufficient, well, Ernie always has his 35-millimeter and stereoscopic color cameras strapped at his side just to capture these unforgettable events in other visual media.

They're friendly folks the Ernie Hoffers. Always go out of their way to lend a helping hand like helping a neighbor (such as yours truly) to tighten his sagging tent rope, or fetch a slab of salt-pork or 'jerky' whenever a fellow-threshermen's sideboard runs empty.

To hard-working, Iron man of the Month, Ernie Hoffer, and his ever-devoted family who tags along as camera and tape-recorder crew our hat is off to you for making this, a better world to live in and bask in the memories thereof. Without your tireless eflorts, your devotion to perfection and the preservation of history on film and tape some of America's most glorious past might well have slipped by without those of younger generations ever being the wiser. As the old Chinese proberb goes, 'A picture is worth a thousand words', so that a-lone makes Ernie Hoffer, a sparse-worded man at best, one of the most loquacious of threshermen that ever stalked a steam engine reunion grounds.

May your camera never falter, Ernie may your shutter-finger never quaiver. For, hard as it is to even imagine, that next picture may yet be your best.


Mr. Earl Snell, employed by the Harrisburg Patriot News, and our workman behind the scenes on the magazine, has been hospitalized for a couple of weeks. And while there made this comment: Elmer

I may be sorry I wrote this, but you know, the way I figure it? A woman ain't much different from one of those old gas and steam engines.

When you first meet them, they're not much more than a cold hunk. Awkward, maybe, and beautiful - but awful cold. And unless you know your way around engines (or was I talk in about women?) you're sort of afraid to touch anything you don't understand. And if you do, you're likely to find yourself mighty sorry and sore.

But after a little bit of cautious manipulating, fidgeting, twisting, turning, bending, and all sorts of silly fussing and making a darn fool of yourself - along with a little swearing, sweating, and a lot of patience - she finally decides to co-operate.

So, now you start to feed her fuel. Coaxing and hoping, till finally things are going just fine. She's all steamed up, spruced up, and shiney. And what about you? Well, you're just as proud as punch to be near her. All of a sudden you find it's hard to figure out whether you turned her on or did she turn you on. All you know is you need her as much as she needs you it feels read good.

Wonderful things those women (or was I talking about engines?). Earl E. Snell.