Iron Man Of The Month

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Joe Fahnestock
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



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

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

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.

Farm Collector Magazine
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Dedicated to the Preservation of Vintage Farm Equipment