Howie (right) and another unknown volunteer in the cab of the H6 at the Railroad Museum in Strasburg PA taken May 2003.  Photo: Ray Marin Archive: Bill Lane

LIRR Howie’s plaque on the wall in Railroader’s Hall Railroad Museum of PA Strasburg PA 5/09/2018

Howard "Howie" Waelder was a Fireman on the Long Island Railroad during the late steam era, then was promoted to Engineer after the Long Island dieselized. He is featured as a Fireman on H10s #107 in a John Krause photo on page 12 of the book "Long Island Steam Locomotive Pictorial" by David D. Morrison. He was a true career railroad man who loved every minute of it. Even though he had a great sense of humor and could play a good practical joke, he knew the railroad rules well and worked to them to the letter.

We met in 1987 when I joined the Central Jersey S Scalers and converted to modeling in S Scale. You just had to instantly like him. You could always hear Howie before you could see him, mostly because of his very loud laugh. One of Howie's many talents was telling his great "out on the road" stories, of what it was like to be in the train crew, especially when we were at a train related gathering like the PRR T&HS or National Association of S Gaugers conventions. We were roommates for many of them. It would only be lunch time and Howie would already be talking about getting a "sarsaparilla" (beer) in the hotel lounge after the official events was over for the day. After a having few drinks, Howie would just drop his railroad stories into the conversation, holding midnight railroad court with a table full of old and new friends listening intently and hanging on Howie’s every word and detail. Those were the most cherished magical times for me that no amount of money can ever buy or replace for me.

Unfortunately, all of his friends failed to record Howie telling his stories, in spite of suggesting it many times. It was never convenient or we will do it “next time” Willie. We ran out of “next times” and lost him and his stories on 11-25-04. Bill Lane
H10s-107_FM-H15-44-1303_ViewE_HowieWaelder_BillLane.jpg (83126 bytes)
H10s #107 Howie Waelder at the cab window, FM H15-44 #1503 Smithtown Station
View E  c. 1950 Photo: John Krause Archive: Bill Lane
H10s-107-drag-freight_westbound_HowieWaelder_BillLane.jpg (121518 bytes)
H10s #107 Drag freight westbound with Engineer Howie Waelder at the window. Photo: John Krause Archive: Bill Lane
"Howie" WAELDER Stories
Compliments of PRR T&HS/ Keystone via Bill Lane - Cartoons by Vic Roseman

The Bouncing Clinker Bar

Howie was firing what was probably a G5s on a passenger run.  He was not paying attention as much as he should have been one day. After tending the fire he tossed the clinker bar up into the coal pile, but it was a little too hard of a throw. The clinker bar teetered on the edge of the tender wall, balancing for a second or two. Before Howie could climb up to catch it, the clinker bar slid off the tender, bouncing and twirling, and shattered windows as it skipped and ricocheted off the coach walls.  (Bill Lane)

 The Railroad Life

Howie loved the Railroad life.  He worked the extra list for much of his career. Since you lived and worked by a phone call there was always a two minute sand hour glass on top of the telephone. With seven children, the phone could be busy for long periods without the hour glass rule.  Many of his children's phone calls were physically cut short as the two minutes of sand ran out!  (Bill Lane)

 Outlaw or Nap Time

The Long Island road diesels had a control box near the control stand.  If he was coming up on his “outlaw” time, didn’t like the engine he was given, or was too tired to finish the run, he would grab the brass reverser handle and give this control box a good whack.  This would damage the electronics, and completely disable the locomotive.  Howie would have to wait until another unit could be dispatched to finish the run.  (Bill Lane)

 Switcher On Fire

With the Long Island having a very high number of grade crossings, Howie was often heard as saying “I hit everything including a school bus”! He usually followed with this story. It was a cold winter day. Howie was the engineer on a local freight with a diesel switcher. They were done with the switching for a while so all the crew was crammed into the cab trying to warm up. A gasoline tank truck stalled on the tracks, but Howie did not see it.  His fireman yelled “Dump it, Howie”. He dumped the brakes into emergency but of course still hit the tanker trailer, pushing it into the third rail, and showering the outside of the engine with flaming gasoline. Luckily  it was winter and all the cab windows were closed. It took a minute or so for the gasoline to burn off before the fire went out.  No one got hurt.  (Bill Lane)

 A Hot House

Howie’s house and cars were never air conditioned in spite of pleas from his family.  Years of working in a hot loco cab made him very tolerant of heat. (Bill Lane)

Firing on Steam  

I was always completely amazed at the fact that Howie (and many other firemen) shoveled TONS of coal on a daily basis. That is unheard of in today's workplace. I could not imagine having to head off to work knowing I would have to shovel 10+ tons in a day. Howie was the first person to explain to me the use of the throttle and reverser bars, and how an inexperienced or uncaring engineer could almost kill you by having them improperly adjusted “down in the corner” It would literally suck the coal off the shovel. You did not dare complain to the engineer or anyone else;, you just kept on shoveling.  (Bill Lane)  

Wayward Water Spout

One of my favorite stories was his tale of the fireman aboard his locomotive in commuter service kicking the water spout out of the way and giving Howie the highball while water still spilled over the tender and ground as the valve slowly shut.  It saved time... One hot summer day the fireman followed the routine, only to notice that, as the train charged away, the water spout valve did not shut but instead showered all the commuters on that side of the train with their windows open with gallons of cold water!  Howie suggested they ask the conductor to call ahead for a customer representative to be on hand at the next station, but not to tell him why!  Guess you had to hear and see Howie tell it to get the complete hilarity of that scene!  (Jim Kindraka)  

Nothing to Report

During the war on one of the troop trains this one was full of Marines there was some kind of tie up on the railroad and the train was sitting at a red signal. The Marine Colonel in charge checked the time and saw that the train was not moving and so went up ahead to see what the problem was and to get the loafers in the crew to get the train back on schedule again.  And he must have told the engineer and fireman to get the___train moving. At first the engineer explained that he couldn’t move the train against a red signal, but apparently the Marine Colonel didn't want any___excuses.  

Anyhow, within a few such exchanges, apparently the Colonel and the engineer and fireman were spouting colorful language, and a couple of other officers got on the ground to see what was going on then the rest of the trainload of Marines began pouring out of the cars as the whole train crew got into a free-for-all with them trying to keep them in the cars with fists flying in a full-scale riot. And when the report was made by the Military Police, it was found that since it was known that a Marine Colonel would never use foul language to a train crew, nor swing first. Since the railroad firemen and engineers would never use foul language to our fighting men, and would never swing first, that in the report it said that in fact, nothing had happened.  (Vic Roseman)  

Keeping On Time In Single Track Territory

Howie was the engineer on one of the fast east end trains running city bound (westbound) in single-track territory. He had to keep his schedule because he had meets to make at passing sidings with the rush hour trains eastbound out of the city. At one of the dinky  stops out east where no agent was on duty, he was being held because there was a large box in the express car that had to be handed off to the waiting Railway Express driver, only there was no truck waiting. The conductor told Howie that the baggage man had been told they had to wait till the truck got there, but Howie told him that the train had to move because they had oncoming traffic.  So the conductor told the baggage man to shove the thing out the door -which the baggage man dutifully did. Out came the casket, falling to the platform and leaving the poor cadaver inside standing on his head as the train rolled out of the station!  (Vic Roseman)  

You Came In On A Locomotive On A Boat...?

It was the early part of World War Two when this took place, perhaps 1942, before the draft got my friend Howie. Howie was a fireman on Long Island, and got a job bringing a K4s PRR Pacific down to Bay Ridge for transporting over to Greenville (Jersey City) Long Island engines were sent to PRR facilities for a lot of major (expensive) work to keep their guys working while Morris Park, the LIRR’s shops had to lay off guys. As he had done this kind of operation a number of times, he decided to ride the car float across to Jersey City, with the idea of taking a bus up to the Square and getting the tubes (PATH) back home.

So he said his goodbyes to the guys on the float after the Jersey City hostler got the engine off, and proceeded to walk over to the gate to get the bus only an MP stopped him.

The MP asked where his pass was to be on the premises- his Long Island RR pass and I.D. might well have been Southern Pacific, for the MP insisted that he should not have been let into Greenville- and asked how he got there.

Howie explained that he had ridden the locomotive across on the car float out of Bay Ridge.  Well, the MP knew full well that you didn’t bring locomotives on a car float. And after getting a lot of brass and the PRR supervisors into the mess it was finally decided that Howie couldn’t walk over to the road and take the bus. The only solution to the problem that would satisfy both the railroad people and the military was for Howie to go back the way he came. Which he did not getting home till the wee hours of the morning. Legend says that in the engine facility at Bay Ridge there appeared a sign with a stern warning that crews were NOT to accompany their engines when transporting on car floats.  (Vic Roseman)


A Clean Locomotive Is A Happy Locomotive

One time during diesel days on the Long Island, where a crew had to take whatever engine the enginehouse set out for them, Howie went up into the cab and found it full of grease and oil, a filthy mess. The Fireman on the job said to Howie, “What can you do? We have to take this garbage heap. Howie said “Heck we do!” He unscrewed the adjusting knob from the seat, allowing the whole seat to come off its mount, and then he threw the seat across a couple of tracks so it would fall under another train. Howie went into the enginehouse and began to raise his soft melodious voice to get the attention of whoever was in charge, and said, “How can you give us an engine with no seat in it? I want another engine – and he got it.  (Vic Roseman)



This page, material, write-up, and permissions compliments of Bill Lane