Tom Cypher's Phantom Engine
(Seattle _Press-Times_, Jan. 10, 1892)
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 east-bound
overland that made his hair stand on end.
By the 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 engineers.
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
"What made 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
His question was answered by the engineer pointing ahead and saying
"There! Look there! Don't you see it?"
"Looking out of the cab window," said Mr. Pinckney, "I saw about 300
yards ahead of us the headlight of a locomotive."
"Stop the 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 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."
With this 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.
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