Iron Man Of The Month


| January/February 1967



ERNIE HOFFER

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

Of DAYTON DAILY NEWS AND RADIO'S 'JOE'S JOURNAL'

UNION CITY, INDIANA.

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.