The Man - Gabe Ginn
February 21, 2005
After reading Bob Stierwalts "The Beginning" and his description of Gabe Ginn it did bring a smile to my face. I worked with Gabe from off the extra board and as his regular fireman on both steam and diesel. Bob's description is true and Gabe would rather sit for an hour until you were ready than to leave and not make a hill or lay down for steam. This is why some firemen did not like to fire for him. Gabe worked with the idea that the left side of the engine was your responsibility and this is how he operated.
Gabe would do this with a new man so that his answer the next time would be yes or no. If you remember in my writings I would say, the engineer would look at me when he whistled off and I would nod if I was ready, this is how you worked with Gabe. If I wasn't ready I would tell him to get a drink of water and that few seconds would make the difference at Wabash.
When you gave the ok sign to Gabe he took you at your word and used the engine. He did not beat an engine but used it as was necessary. I have seen him at Wabash or coming north at Marion (he was only about 5ft. 8 in. tall) stand on the seat box and get his shoulder under the throttle to get it wide open.
After you had been firing long enough to know what you were doing when he looked at you and you gave no response he took that to mean you were ready and he reached up and left town. So, his way was bad for the firemen that sat on their can and wasn't ready.
I would agitate him a little. We stopped at Alex for the signal at the NKP and I checked my fire. At the back right corner a clinker was larger than normal. Usually, I would take the clinker hook and pull the clinker back under the distributing plate. I asked Gabe if he was getting old and he asked why. I said you have let a clinker start in my fire. He jumped up and looked in the fire box and said, "Just move the grates enough to move the clinker" and he would take care of it by the time we arrived at Marion. Well, when we arrived at Marion, needless to say the clinker was gone.
Of course I told him that I knew he could still run a good engine when he wanted to. Of course his running of the engine had nothing to do with the clinker because 99 times out of a 100 you had a small clinker there anyway, but that shows you how an engineer could cut a fire for you and still not hurt you.
Maurice worked the Michigan Division from 1947-1981. He then worked on the Bee Line from 1981-1992. From 1947 until august 1950, he worked on the section at Shirley and Markleville. In 1950 he started firing on steam and then on through the diesels. Maurice said, "I had the pleasure of working with C. C. Staley and Ron Buser many times."