10/22/01
St. Nicholas -- in October?
    by Rita Smith

The October, 1901, issue of St. Nicholas Magazine for Boys and Girls contained the last installment of a series entitled "Careers of Danger and Daring." By demonstrating the courage and tenacity of such people as firemen and bridge builders, the author hopes to inspire his readers "to keep...unflinchingly at the hard thing (whatever it be) until [you] have conquered it."1 The October 1901 article, was on the locomotive engineer.

One of the most exciting stories in the article is about a race from Chicago to Buffalo on the Lake Shore Line, when five locomotives in relays, driven by five top engineers, set out to beat the New York Central's recent world's record of 63.61 miles per hour, achieved on a run from New York City to Buffalo.

The preparations are elaborate. All other rail traffic on the line is suspended and every one of the more than 1300 railroad crossings between Chicago and Buffalo is guarded by a railroad employee. "It [is] half past three in the morning and frosty weather," the author intones, "when the train start[s] from Chicago heading for Elkhart, Indiana, with Mark Floyd at the throttle."2 Even though Mark and the next three engineers do their best, by the time they get to the fifth and final stretch, from Erie, Pennsylvania to Buffalo, they are 15 minutes behind schedule. It is 86 miles to Buffalo and they must average over 70 miles an hour if they are going to beat the record. No train in the world has ever approached such an average. What hope is there?

Hope comes in the form of a tall, sparely built man named Bill Tunkey and a rather clumsy ten-wheel locomotive not considered very desirable in a race. But Tunkey is a man who risees up in emergencies and does things whether they are possible or not. Within a few miles of leaving Erie, Tunkey calls on all the locomotive's strength and pushes her up to 92 mph.

At 11:06 they whizz passed Silver Creek with 29 miles to go and 25 minutes to do it in, and triumphantly cross the finish line in Buffalo, beating the New York Central's record per mile by a fraction of a second and Tunkey, the courageous, fearless engineer and his gutty locomotive are the heroes of the day.

1 Moffett, p. 1068.
2 Ibid., p. 1061.

Source

Moffett, Cleveland. "Careers of Danger and Daring: The Locomotive Engineer. St. Nicholas, Vol. 28, No. 12, October, 1901. New York: The Century Company.

Copyright 2001 by Rita Smith

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