Locomotive engineers are as a
class said to be superstitious, but J.M. Pinckney, an engineer
known to almost every Brotherhood man, is an exception to the
rule. He has never been able to believe the different stories
told of apparitions suddenly appearing on the track, but he
had an experience last Sunday night on the Northern Pacific
eastbound overland that made his hair stand on end.
courtesy of the engineer, also a Brotherhood man, Mr. Pinckney
was riding on the engine. They were recounting experiences,
and the fireman, who was a green hand, was getting very
nervous as he listened to the tales of wrecks and disasters,
the horrors of which were graphically described by the veteran
The night was clear and the rays from the headlight flashed
along the track, and, although they were interested in
spinning yarns, a sharp lookout was kept, for they were
rapidly nearing Eagle gorge, in the Cascades, the scene of so
many disasters and the place which is said to be the most
dangerous on the 2,500 miles of road.
The engineer was relating a story and was just coming to
the climax when he suddenly grasped the throttle, and in a
moment had "thrown her over," that is, reversed the engine.
The air brakes were applied and the train brought to a
standstill within a few feet of the place where Engineer Cypher met his death two years ago. By this time the
passengers had become curious as to what was the matter, and
all sorts of questions were asked the trainmen. The engineer
made an excuse that some of the machinery was loose, and in a
few moments the train was speeding on to her destination.
you stop back there?" asked Pinckney. "I heard your excuse,
but I have run too long on the road not to know that your
excuse is not the truth."
was answered by the engineer pointing ahead and saying
there! Don't you see it?"
of the cab window," said Mr. Pinckney, "I saw about 300 yards
ahead of us the headlight of a locomotive."
train, man," I cried, reaching for the lever.
"Oh, it's nothing. It's what I saw
back at the gorge. It's Tom Cypher's engine, No. 33. There's
no danger of a collision. The man who is running that ahead of
us can run it faster backward than I can this one forward.
Have I seen it before? Yes, twenty times. Every engineer on
the road knows that engine, and he's always watching for it
when he gets to the gorge."
The engine ahead of us was running
silently, but smoke was puffing from the stack and the
headlight threw out rays of red, green, and white light.
It kept a short distance ahead of
us for several miles, and then for a moment we saw a figure on
the pilot. Then the engine rounded a curve and we did not see
it again. We ran by a little station, and at the next, when
the operator warned us to keep well back from a wild engine
that was ahead, the engineer said nothing. He was not afraid
of a collision.
Just to satisfy my own mind on the matter I sent a
telegram to the engine wiper at Sprague, asking him if No.
33 was in. I received a reply stating that No. 33 had just
come in, and that her coal was exhausted and boxes burned
out. I suppose you'll be inclined to laugh at the story,
but just ask any of the boys, although many of them won't
talk about it. I would not myself if I were running on the
road. It's unlucky to do so."
comment upon the tale Mr. Pinckney boarded a passing caboose
and was soon on his way to Tacoma. It is believed by Northern
Pacific engineers that Thomas Cypher's spirit still hovers
near Eagle gorge.
Published in the Seattle Press-Times,
January 10, 1892