Iron Man Of The Month

| March/April 1971


There was that J-l at the head-end of a long string of hoppers that reached far out of town, waiting for the westbound block signal of the Union City tower, which my eye caught sight of as I bounced over the double PRR - NYC crossing on the main street of town. Always a lover of that greatest of all man-made machines, the steam locomotive, I never failed to size up the motive power that happened to be waiting or working in the yards around the old hometown.

As I proceeded eastward toward Greenville, the hunch struck me - what if the engineer of that mighty J-l happens to be your friend McCorkle? But I squelched the hunch and kept driving. But the hunch wouldn't release its grip from me. It struck me again, only to be ignored and put out of my mind. The third time it haunted me again, before I had even left the environs of the town, but this time the hunch had its way.

'Why not turn around and take a chance?' thought I to myself. 'It'll take only a few minutes to find out. Besides I have my beat-up old press camera and my dilapidated tape recorder with me in case my hunch is correct and, if not, I'll soon be on my way again.' In fact, I wanted to prove that all hunches were just figments of the imagination and possibly poor digestion!

In a moment I was parking by the 'main' where the giant J-l was panting quietly, like a huge beast of burden - its big air-pumps throbbing a life-line of atmospheric oxygen through the long rubber hoses clear from the mighty locomotive back to the caboose somewhere out around the curve east of town. As I strode toward the engine, members of the head-end crew, noting my white shirt and press camera (and thinking I was a railroad official) all stood up at attention.

'At ease men,' I said. 'I'm not an official. Could anybody tell me if my friend, D. B. McCorkle, might be up in the cab of that engine?'