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By: Greg Jandura

         On March 30, 1922, Edward (Ed) j. Haley reaching the 70 year age limit, retired after over 52 years of service with the New York Central Railroad, 48 of those years in the cab of a locomotive. William j. Duffy, a reporter for the Buffalo Daily Courier wrote a story on Edward J. Haley two years after his being pensioned by the railroad in 1922. This story is about the life of a typical railroad engineer, and is dedicated to the men and women past and present entrusted to move passengers and the nation's freight 24/7. Their creed-duty and loyalty."

Engineer Edward John Haley - 1922
          "Stop as you are on the way to your coach, and give the engineer the look. These men are of a distinct type. When they reach the position of running a passenger train, most have passed middle age. They are grizzled and wrinkled and grey. With their overalls, the cap with the visor drawn down over the eyes, a dotted handkerchief wound around the throat against the winds, as they rush through space, they are indeed a picture. Their words are scant, short and to the point, and they have one creed-duty and loyalty."

         There is very little fun or humor in their work; it's go, go and then go, and the miles they travel.

         "Life is so dull and drab, There really seems to be no excitement. No thrills-absolutely nothing.'" A woman is making the point to another woman, as they rest in their chairs in a coach as the train speeds through darkness. Then-crash. Their is a grinding of metal against metal, and the ladies who craved thrills and excitement are sprawled in the aisle, all their dignity gone. The conductor passes through the car, assuring the passengers that everything is all right.

         Forward in the engine, the train was rushing at better than 60 miles a hour, the engineer leaning out at the window, sharp of eye, keen of mind, alert for an emergency. He had been flashing past green signal lights for hours-the green lamp is always for safe line ahead. Suddenly, in the pit-like darkness of the night, was the red light, the ominous signal, beckoning danger and disaster, and maybe death.

         There was only one thing to be done-put on the air, and take a chance of the train remaining upon the tracks. Traveling at 60 miles an hour, and suddenly bringing a locomotive, its tender and a nine-car train or coaches to a stop within the length of the train, without derailing is remarkable. But these veteran engineers do that right along, and make nothing of it." 1

         Searching for material on the life of a typical railroad engineer for this story the Buffalo-Daily Courier reporter interviewed the Exchange Street Station Master and got names and addresses of pensioned engineers. one thing stood out. They all had brought homes in villages nearby, or had small garden farms on the outskirts. This called for an explanation. The Station Master related the following story.

         "...Hank,...remarks old Jim, the engineer, as they speed through the beautiful hills and dales, connecting villages and hamlets, the fragrance of clover and new mown hay reaching them on the wings of the summer breeze..."Hank, when I finish my last run on the rails, I'm going to get me a nice little farm, somewhere hereabouts, and myself and the wife shall end our days there. The kids are all grown and caring for themselves now. If I don't buy a farm , I°11 get a cottage, painted white and with green shutters, in some of the villages we are shooting through."

         And Hank, the fireman answers, "Boss, I can't think of anything being nicer than that." And so that offers an explanation of the cottage in the country. In a valley of pastoral simplicity, through they have guided thousands of people in their years of faithfulness, they settle, and day and night listen from a distance to the scream of the locomotive whistle, the roar of the trains and keep an eye on the green, yellow and red lights."1

         Once railroading gets in your blood, it will be with you until your dying days. The Station Master related other odd little stories of engineers, dead and gone these many years.

         "There was this engineer whose home was ten or twelve miles outside the city. He had a small cottage in a pretty valley, where he lived with his wife and boy. The boy was stricken very ill, and the father was standing at the lad's bed when word came for him to report and take out a fast freight train. He was looking for promotion to a passenger train, and the order was imperative. There was nothing to do but obey."

         The crisis in the boy's illness was at hand, it was life or death that night, according to the doctors. Now, the engineer's cottage stood close to the railroad, and when his train passed, he greeted his loved ones with the blast of the whistle. As he was departing from his home to the call of duty on the night of the crisis in his son's sickness, he said to his wife: "I'11 be shooting past here at 10 o'clock tonight. I've fixed up two lanterns, a red one and a green one. If he's past all danger, have the green in the front-room window; if he's...if he's...well, never mind the red. If I don't see the green, I'll know."

         The whole thing was so acutely tragic and human, that he had to know about the light. The station master was pleased to be able to say that "the engineer saw a green light shining through the darkness that night."1

         Mr. Edward (Ed) J. Haley of 122 Russell Avenue in Buffalo, whose career as an engineer is chronicled devotes his full time now to tending his garden at the rear of his home. He took a brief rest to sit down and talk with the news reporter about his life as a railroad engineer, a career railroad employees and rail fans would envy.

         From an engine wiper to the throttle of the New York Central's pride was Ed Haley's achievement in the 52 years of his service. In all that time not one black mark has been made against the name of Ed Haley in the railroad record book. He has never had an accident through any fault or negligence of his own.

         His service over this half-century has been almost continuous. He has never lost more than a trip or two at a time on account of sickness. And he has not had more than four vacations. One of these an enforced one, lasting sixteen weeks, came on August 18, 1918, when the clapper fell out of his bell as he was entering Rochester station. He was about to climb onto the running board when he missed the handrail and fell to the platform breaking a leg. It was the first and only time he had ever been injured."2

         "Ed Haley's was born on March 28, 1852 at Niagara Falls, New York. He later married his wife Mary, and they had five children. Edward L. of Denver, Sarah R., Frances M., Agnes M., and Mrs. Dorothy Diemer of Rochester."3

         He entered the employ of the railroad on August 1, 1869 at age 17 as an engine wiper in the roundhouse. Nine months later he became an around man in the machine shops and the two years he put in there proved most valuable to him later in his career. He went firing in November, 1872, at age 20, and for two years worked the yards at Suspension Bridge on a yard engine. Then the financial panic of '74 struck the railroads as it did every line of business and after a layoff of about a month, he was transferred to Buffalo. It wasn't long before he occupied the pilot's seat and for four years he moved about the Black Rock yards until he was made an "extra" engineer running anywhere between Buffalo and Syracuse.

         A year later he became a regular engineer and for eleven years ran a local freight between Buffalo and Rochester by way of Lockport on a single track. Charles H. Hogan who became famous when he drove 999 on its record run in May, 1893, was master mechanic at the time and recognizing Ed Haley's ability placed him in the passenger service. That was 27 years ago. He was give the run between Buffalo and Niagara Falls and after three years and seven months was transferred to the main line.

         Fast trains became his specialty and when the Twentieth Century Limited was put on in 1902, it was Ed Haley who was chosen to take her east from Buffalo to Syracuse on her first trip. For five years and eight months he held that important run. Then he was given the Empire State Express. Since February, 1908 he has been taking the Metropolitan Express out of Buffalo to Syracuse, returning on the Empire State Express. He has held this run for fourteen years.

         There have ridden behind Haley some of the greatest statesman in the world, and many of the nobility. But Ed Haley paid about as much attention to them as they did to him. His one and only thought was to bring his charge in on time, and above all, in safety. He has made up lost time where a younger engineer would not have attempted it, simply because he knew every inch of the railroad and every curve between here and Syracuse.

         His vision is keen and his nerve as strong as the day he entered railroad service.

         On March 30, 1922, the time had come for Mr. Haley to retire. "The veteran engineer left Syracuse on his last run at 2:34 P.M. where he was given a rousing send off. As he passed though various cities and pulled into Rochester, there was the flurry of flags and the tooting of whistles. And so on down the line. It would seem that every town knew that Ed Haley was making his last run."2

         "As engineer Haley whistled for the yards at the end of his last run every yard and passenger engine in the Buffalo Terminal District clanged their bells and shrieked out a blast of welcome that pierced the air for miles. At the Exchange Street Station a delegation of 200 friends all waving American flags awaited the arrival of Mr. Haley. The Empire State Express arrived on time at 5:25 P.M."4

         "He looked at his watch. It was on the dot to the second. That meant more to Ed Haley than all the demonstration a thousand engines could make. He had brought the engine in on time again."2

         "With a smile of greeting the veteran engineer climbed down from his cab but not without a tinge of regret and a last backward glance at his friends of steel with which he had lived and worked for many years."4

         That night a surprise birthday-banquet was held in his honor at the lodge rooms of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers at Clinton and Hickory Streets in Buffalo. He was presented with an oak chair, cigars and smoking set. "Several letters from high officials of the railroad company were read congratulating Mr. Haley on the lenghth and value of his service. His record was unequaled in the history of the railroad. In talking of his experiences, Mr. Haley said that automobiles are the greatest menace to engineers because of the attempts of drivers to beat trains at crossings."2

         What he had hoped to be a long and quite retirement was however, not meant to be. His wife Mary passed away on January 1, 1925. On July 17, 1927 Mr. Edward J. Haley stepping out into the road from between two parked cars in Delaware Park on a Sunday evening was fatally injured when struck by a hit and run driver who was subsequently arrested and later charged. A railroad legend was taken from us too soon!


1. Duffy, William J., "Passenger Runs Are Made of Stern Stuff," Buffalo Daily Courier, Biographies, Series 1, Volume 14, p. 251-252.
2. "Cheers, Din of whistles, Greet Ed Haley, Bringing Empire Home Last Time," Buffalo Daily Courier, March 30, 1922, Biographies, Series 1, Volume 14, p. 249-250.
3. "Police Making Investigation In Haley Death," Buffalo Courier Express, Biographies, Series 1, volume 14, p. 252-253.
4. "Edward J. Haley Makes Last Run: Friends Pay Tribute," Buffalo Evening News, March 31, 1922, Biographies, Series 1, Volume 14, p. 249.

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