Dan Peters often said that he would rather meet President DanWillard, of the B. & O., than Napoleon. He said when President Danpounded his big desk in Baltimore, the windows in his office would puffout like the cheeks of balloons, and the B. & O. tracks would shake15 miles away.
What Dan Willard said of Dan Peters doesn’t appearin the official history of the railroad, but it is common knowledgeamong railroad men that the first time Dan Peter’s name wasdiscussed in Baltimore, President Dan shook the National Limited off thetracks near Washington, and as far west as Cumberland, Maryland, sectionhands dozing beside the tracks jumped up respectfully and tipped theircaps. That was the day when Dan Willard and his officers, sittingopen-mouthed like a glee club around the big desk, heard that the B.& O. had somehow mislaid a train. Dan Willard’s eloquence, when the situation demanded it, waslike Boulder Dam breaking, but his silence was sometimes more ominousthan the rain before a typhoon. Dan Willard was silent. And when hefinally spoke, it was only to gasp, “Who in Tophet–What engineerhas managed to do that?” It took a long-distance call to answerthis question. When the answer came, it was in one of those momentslike Daniel Boone looking through Cumberland Gap into Kentucky: it wasthe first time that the most famous name in railroad history sinceStephenson, save only Dan Willard’s name, had been mentioned in thebig office in Baltimore.
The traffic manager looked up from the telephone and said,”The engineer is Dan Peters.” They combed the record as though it was a Shetland pony, trying tofind what they could about Dan Peters. His history was neat andfavorable. Twenty years an engineer on the Muskingum Valley spur linein Ohio. Twenty years a well-kept timetable. “If you saw a roomful of quiet little men,” the personnelmanager said, “Dan Peters would be the quietest and littlest.”A mild little man, the records agreed, meek and gentle, completelydependable, but no imagination. Then they kept the wires warm to the west, and the more they asked,the more items people remembered about Dan Peters.
For one thing, hetalked to his locomotive. When he came down in the morning to hislittle train that had lain all night like a sleeping cocker spaniel inthe yards at Parkersburg, West Virginia, where the long greyhounds ofthe main line could sniff at it before they dashed on to St. Louis orWashington–when he came down he would put his hand gently on the ordsand say something to the locomotive; and it would pant out cones ofwhite smoke and tremble as though it were a streamliner eager to be offfor San Francisco, rather than a milk train bound for Marietta, Ohio.So people said.
He called the engine “Casey Jones”–“Casey” forshort. “Come on, Casey,” brakemen would sometimes hear himsay in the morning, “don’t let ’em get you down. Wearen’t very big, but we’re good. Good old Casey]” hewould say, sadly. Then, at 5:40, he would clang carefully out of the station.
By6:15, when the sun climbed the hills, spangled the river and danced onthe milk cans beside the tracks, he was in Marietta, 13 miles on hisway. At 6:20 he tipped his cap forward off his short gray hair to Mrs.Blennerhassett, who lived beside the railroad, and pointed Casey northunder the Harmer bluffs. At 10:00, or a little later if there had beenmany milk cans, he was calming his puffy little train to a stop wherethe shadow of the Zanesville courthouse pointed the finger of its acrossthe tracks. Then, at 1:00, back over the 85 miles to Parkersburg. By5:30 he would be sliding across the bridge, out of the coolness of theOhio hills into the late-afternoon sunshine, ease into the Parkersburgstation and tenderly, tenderly apply the air, so that the last forwardimpetus would die just before the brakes had to kill it. This,faithfully, for 20 years. A calm man who said little and kept his timetables, everyoneagreed.
Not until Dan Peters had committed the engineer’sunpardonable sin and broken out of the timetable did people realize howmany of his little sayings had stuck like cockleburs in their memories. “Would you rather own a zebra or a giraffe?” he asked abrakeman one day. Another time he said, “You know, I was lookingat a map last night and found a town named What Cheer, Iowa. Now whatdo you suppose What Cheer, Iowa, is like?” And one day just beforestarting time, the station agent overheard this conversation. “Bill,” Dan Peters asked Big Bill, his fireman, “doyou suppose a locomotive ever gets jealous of automobiles?” “Uh,” remarked the fireman. “As far as we know,” said Dan, “there isn’t ahill in the valley with more than one side.” “Want to bet on it?” asked the fireman.
“And no offense to your home town,” said Dan, “butsometimes I get so damned tired riding into MArietta, Ohio.” “Marietta, Ohio, is one of the most interesting small towns inthe United States of America,” said Big Bill. “It has thebiggest elm tree in the country.” “That’s what I mean,” said Dan. “If Mariettaonly had the smallest elm tree once.
” The fireman rolled his eyes. “Every day for 20 years,” said Dan, “I’vepicked up three milk cans at Ben Eppel’s farm. Never two or four.For 20 years.” “How much time we got?” asked the fireman. “I mean,” said Dan Peters, “wouldn’t it be funto pull a string of sleepers over the Painted Desert? Or listen tostation names like Lackawanna and Tonawanda, intead of Marietta, Ohio,some morning?” “Mr.
Dan,” said the fireman, “for a solid manyou’ve got the unsolidest ideas. You’d drive the train offthe tracks, like an automobile, if you could. If you could steer it.Wouldn’t you?” “Well, I don’t know,” said Dan Peters thoughtfully.”Casey and me have a sort of understanding.” The station agent swore that is what he heard Dan Peters say on themorning of the day they had to telegraph President Dan Willard that No.41 hadn’t come into Zanesville, and apparently wasn’t going tocome. “What do you make of it?” Dan Willard asked his officers.
“The train isn’t on the tracks or beside thetracks,” said the traffic manager. “They rode the wholeline.” “I read a book once,” said the executive vice president,”about a town that waited all day for a milk train. Then theyfound that the tracks ended at the edge of town. All other civilizationhad disappeared. The train never did come in.” “What happened?” asked the consulting professor fromCornell. “The milk spoiled,” said the vice president.
“Therewas a beautiful red-haired widow in the book. It was a goodstory.” “The analogy doesn’t seem to be perfect,” objectedthe professor. “Gentlemen,” said Dan Willard, “let us come down tocases.” “It must be a very rare situation,” mused the professor.”Unique,” grunted the traffic manager. “Let us not make an arbitrary assumption,” said theprofessor, producing a pencil. “Let us proceed empirically on theevidence.
We know at least that the train will be late at Zanesville.Now, how many times in the last 12 months has a B. & O. train beenlate in arriving at its destination?” “Ahem]” said DanWillard. “There’s no sign of an accident,” said the personnelmanager. “There’s just no train.” “I read a book once,” said the executive vice president,”about a train that was running along and nobody could find theengineer, and nobody knew where it was going.
They finally found theywere going to heaven, and this was the westbound train of souls, orsomething like that. I believe it was a ship, not a train.” Then President Dan Willard rose and delivered one of those pithy remarks for which he is famous wherever railroad men come to warm theirfeet around an iron stove.
“Gentlemen,” he said, “youcan lose a crowbar. You can lose a brakeman. You can even lose anelephant. Gentlemen”–his fist fell–“gentlemen, youcan’t lose a train]” But his voice lacked conviction. Alone in the big office, Dan Willard set about quilting togetherthe story of what had happened that day in the Muskingum Valley. It wasa long time before he could make the pieces fit.
No. 41 was puffing into a curve. The brakeman later said theymight have been going a little fast. Certainly they were going fasterthan cautious Dan Peters usually went. There was a jolt–a slight jolt,more than a loose rail, less than a cow–and the hills, which had beenon only the left side of the train, now appeared on both sides. Apicket fence was sliding past the windows like a fine-toothed comb. The brakeman, in his sworn testimony before the Interstate CommerceCommission, said that he had rubbed his eyes and leaned out the door,and–he hoped the gentlemen of the commission would believe him when hesaid that he was not drunk–he observed that they were running along theconcrete highway. He went back to talk to the conductor.
There were no passengers.The conductor was sitting in the coach, rubbing his hand over his eyesand forehead. “Was that an automobile we just went around?” he askedsleepily. “It was,” said the brakeman.
“Hold on]” shouted the conductor and braced himself forthe pile-up. But the train leaned around a curve and rumbledcomfortably on beside the picket fence. “This is a funny kind of dream,” said the conductor atlast. “I have a sensation that we’re running on a concreteroad.” “Maybe we’re chasing a rabbit,” grunted thebrakeman. “If this isn’t a dream,” said the conductor,”in 25 years on the railroad I’ve never seen anything likeit.” “It isn’t a dream,” said the brakeman.
“But it simply isn’t possible,” the conductorargued, “for a train to run on a concrete road.” “Tell that to Dan Peters,” said the brakeman. Then the train pulled up beside the road, and Dan Peters came backto the coach.
When President Dan Willard finally had a chance to talk to theconductor, he asked how Dan Peters looked that morning. The conductorsaid that Dan came back in his sooty overalls. He looked a little hurtand pitiful, if one didn’t look at him carefully. His bushy grayeyebrows curved over the fierce wind-burned red of his cheeks, and whenhe wasn’t talking his eyes were a cool gray and his face had thedownward curves that seem to say, “Here is a public servant.”But when he talked his eyes flamed into the gray of an August storm thatsweeps uo out of Kentucky and breaks on the Ohio hills. He didn’tsay much, but what he said was sure and confident, like Pullman wheelsclicking over the rail joints at night. “When will we get into Zanesville?” the conductor said.He thought later the question sounded rather stupid.
“We won’t,” said Dan Peters. “Where are we going?” asked the brakeman. “I don’t rightly know,” said Dan. “Exceptnowehere we’ve ever gone before.
We’re even going to run atnight, because we’ve always had to run in the daytime. I’msorry for the inconvenience. You can get off here.” That is the story Dan Willard heard when the conductor telephonedthe morning after the train disappeared. He was calling from jail. Hewanted to explain what had happened. When he and the brakeman had toldtheir story, a constable had locked them up as drunk and disorderly.
Ajustice of the peace had fined them a dollar and costs each, which addedup to 39 dollars and 20[, and there they were with $3 between them, andwould the railroad please do something. President Dan asked a greatmany questions, then called the constable to the phone and explainedsadly that the conductor and the brakeman were bad ones who should bekept in jail and on no condition allowed to talk to anyone. Then he showed the executive vice president a report fromZanesville which said that a sideshow had moved into the station to waitfor the next train to Marietta. Siamese twins and missing likns weresleeping on the benches, and monkeys were playing in the signal tower.
The manager of the sideshow threatened to sue the railroad. “I read a book once–” began the vice president. “You,” Dan Willard said–“you seem to have someideas on this matter. Suppose you go out and find that train. After asmany years as you’ve worked with trains that knew where they weregoing, you ought to find it refreshing to deal with one thatdoesn’t know where it’s going.
Which puts it in exactly thesame situation as most of the world at the present moment,” headded. “The worst of it is,” he reminded his officers after thevice president had left, “we don’t dare get out the police andreally look for that train, because if we ever admit we’ve lost atrain, they’ll never quit laughing at us.” President Dan drummed lightly on his desk until the switch enginesdanced in the Baltimore yards. President Dan Willard began to see a pattern in the fantastic newsthat filled the papers during the next days. From a hospital in Indiana came the strange story of a farm womanunder treatment for hysteria. She told doctors that a small gray-hairedman with red cheeks had appeared at her door and asked permission topark in her yard that day, inasmuch as he traveled only at night. Shecharged him 25[.
An hour later she looked out the window and thoughtshe saw a train next to the front porch. The hallucination wasremarkably vivid. She could even swear that she saw three men, two inoveralls, one in a business suit, cooking beans on the engine’sboiler. Then she fainted.
The men in overalls, said President Dan to himself, are Dan Petersand the fireman. Who is the man in a business suit? A coal dealer in Watseka, Illinois, reported ruefully that thieveswith a nasty sense of humor had taken 20 tons of coal from his yard inthe dead of night and left a check to which they had forged the name ofa vice president of the B. & O.
Railroad. President Dan looked a long time at that item, then called in thevisiting professor from Cornell, who was on his way to address theBaltimore Kiwanis Club. “I’m going to make you a detective,” the presidentsaid. “If you can’t find the train, find the vicepresident.
” On the outskirts of What Cheer, Iowa, a dazed filling-stationattendant said that–his hand upon a Bible–he had just serviced atrain. President Dan observed that the papers were concerning themselveswith a psychological phenomenon. All over the Middle West,psychiatrists reported a sort of mass hallucination–the sensation ofseeing or hearing a train passing in the night, although there were notracks near by. A tribe of Navaho Indians told tourists that a god had passed theirhogans one night, panted hard, ground his teeth and turned the paintedsands of their desert bright as day. A Columbia University psychologist said that such mass delusionsare perfectly understandable in the light of Freud and Pavlov. Aminister in Boston said that the beasts of the Apocalypse were abroad onthe face of the earth. The Saturday Review of Literature said that thepsychosis was a remarkable demonstration of the power of ThomasWolfe’s descriptions of trains.
All the studios in Hollywood wiredoffers to Wolfe, and were much disappointed to find that he was dead. President Dan noticed, not without a certain grim satisfaction,what was happening to motor-truck lines. Without apparent reason, thenumber of smashed fenders on trucks, the number of trucks forced intoditches, had increased 300 percent. The accidents strangely enoughoccurred almost entirely at night, and doctors suggested that truckdrivers be fed carrots for night blindness. The New York times, tracingthe epidemic of smashed fenders, pointed out the extreme vagueness withwhich the accidents were explained. The first driver to come in withouta left front fender had reported, it is true, that a railroad train hadcrowded him off the highway, the engineer chuckling wickedly in the cab.The driver had been a notorious road hog, and nobody felt bad when hewas discharged on suspicion of drunkenness.
But thereafter drivers wereloath to say how their accidents had come about. Motorists reportedthat trucks, instead of taking two thirds of the road, were now ridingwith one wheel off the concrete. The editor of the Epworth Messenger,himself a motorist, said that the source of all good works is hiddenonly to those who will not see. Persons close to President Dan in those days say that he sat in hisbig office in Baltimore gritted his teeth like a tobacco worm, and thathe B. & O.
tracks between Washington and Philadelphia trembled witha constant ague. “It’s just a question whether we or the newspapers findhim first,” he told the traffic manager. “You know, I sort ofadmire the cuss,” he admitted. “If I met him I wouldn’tknow whether to fire him or make him a vice president.” But when the president got a post card from Mammoth Cave, Kentucky,he closed himself in his office, and spectators saw the windows bulgingand contracting like a horse’s sides after a long race. The postcard was signed by the executive vice president and the consultingprofessor.
“Have found the train,” said the vice president.”Have found the v.p.,” said the professor. Then they joinedin a final message.
“Having fine time,” they wrote.”Wish you were here.” President Dan packed his bag. “If I don’t come back inten days,” he said, “send the police after the train.” How the newspapers got the story, President Dan never knew.
Yetwhen the story came out, everyone wondered why the newspapers had beenso long breaking it. Frank Luther Mott gave a whole chapter to theproblem in his American Journalism (pages 773-778)–how could the factthat four men were missing in such unusual circumstances be kept so longfrom reporters? He decided finally it was partly skillful management,partly chance. The railroad had put a new gasoline trian on the spurline, and it was implied that Dan Peters and Big Bill, both bachelorsand solitary men, had been transferred elsewhere. The executive vicepresident was habitually away from his office much of the time. as forthe professor, his family and the university and the Baltimore KiwanisClub had simply decided to leave well enough alone.
And thus it is thatif you are looking today for contemporary accounts of the famous losttrain, you must leaf through the papers of that year until July 29before you find a story that mentions Dan Peters. It was apparently the conductor’s trial on a charge ofinsanity that uncovered the story. The jury was ten to two forinsanity, but the testimony was such a humorous angle on the currentlocomotive hysteria that a few reporters decided to look farther.
Theysmelled something. A traffic policeman in Weirton, West Virginia,finally uncovered the hot trail. This copper, sane and sensible, reported to headquarters that about3 a.
m. he had tried to give a ticket to a vehicle passing through theoutskirts of town and showing only one headlight. The vehicle wascoming toward him.
When he signaled it to stop, he was no littlestartled to find that he had halted a train. There were no tracks; itwas on the highway. Under the circumstances, it seemed rather silly tosay, as he usually did, “What do you think you are? The TwentiethCentury Limited?” The engineer, a lively little gray-haired fellow, politely returnedthe ticket, challenging him to produce a law saying that a locomotivemust carry more than one headlight. Then one of the passengers had gotoff the train and given him a long lecture on the laws of optics,proving with diagrams and formulas that the train was better lightedthan a fleet of 36-1/2 automobiles; the man had long hair and talkedlike a professor. When the policeman was thoroughly flabber-gastedanyway, he heard the professor fellow call the engineer “Dan,”and the thought occurred to him that perhaps he was trying to arrest DanScratch, Old Nick himself.
The engineer did look red in the glow fromthe firebox; like a demon from hell in the midst of the red light. So the officer waved the train on and sat down on the curb torecover his self-possession. When he had nearly decided that theincident had been a moment’s madness or a nasty dream, he wasreminded by the first light of morning that he was still holding a pieceof paper on which the passenger lecturer had been diagramming optics.The paper was not asbestos.
In fact, it bore the letterhead of theBaltimore & Ohio Railroad. “What,” everyone asked, “does Dan Peters looklike?” For it was discovered that there was nowhere a picture ofhim. “And is he a genius or a madman? And will he give himselfup, or run his train over the Grand Canyon or into the Gulf of Mexico?And what will President Dan Willard do about him?” “Let us hope,” said most of the little people who do notown railroad stocks, “that he will not be fired or put intojail.
” The night after Dan Peters’ story finally became publicproperty, hardly an eye was closed in the United States. Packs of carswandered like coyotes over the roads. Seats on high buildings or hillswere sold at scalpers’ prices, although there was no proof that DanPeters was within a thousand miles.
In later years that night wasremembered as Peters-night and celebrated in some parts of the countryas Walpurgisnacht is in Europe. When, shortly after midnight, a cometblazed out inthe southern skies, correspondents reported that thetrain’s headlight had been seen over Alabama, and many disappointedNortherners and Westerners relaxed their own vigilance and listened toreports from the South. Only a few thousand people saw the little trainchugging north through a fog that blew off the eastern shoulder of LakeErie. It was from Niagara Falls early the next morning that President DanWillard got the telegram: Urgent suggest come here stop your traintrying cross international bridge. When President Dan saw the train puffing quietly there, he wassurprised to find it so small.
While he had kept the secret locked upin his Baltimore office, the train had grown in his mind to giganticsize. Now he saw a stubby locomotive, a small coar car, one combinationcoach and baggage car. The coach was splattered with mud.
Through the half-open doors ofthe baggage compartment he could see milk cans. The engine’sboiler sagged like an old horse’s back, and steam sizzled out thejoints. Every wheel was worn down below the flange. It was an old, disreputable, rundown train, and he was a littleashamed of the “B. & O.” that shone bright yellow in themorning sun. The train, said the morning extras, had appeared last night at theentrance to the International Bridge.
The engineer had offered theguards 40[ toll for a motor vehicle with driver and three passengers. The guards refused the money, and sait that they had noinstructions for charging trains. As a matter of fact, there was noprecedent. And in any case, no vehicle whatsoever could cross theInternational Bridge, because it wasn’t dedicated yet. It was tobe a memorial to international peace and friendship, and therefore itwas to be dedicated by the secretary of war. So Dan Peters pulled hislittle train up next to the red-white-and-blue ribbon that the secretarywas to cut and said he’d wait. He warmed some cans of beans on theboiler, and he and Big Bill and the guards and the two passengers satdown to breakfast.
Ontario, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio had declared legalholidays, the papers said. In Ottawa, the dominion parliament wasmeeting to decide whether the train should be allowed to enter Canada.In Washington, the cabinet had been summoned to consider what to do incase Canada decided wrong. And into Niagara Falls people were streamingat the rate of a million an hour, draining the surrounding country dryas a pomegranate.
As President Dan Willard pushed through the great crowd toward thetrain, he heard the loudspeakers bomming from the stand by the newbridge. The governor of New York was talking. “In the absence ofthe secretary of war—-” he was explaining. He was talking a verylong time. But Dan WillarD, shouldering his neighbors, soon observedthat nobody was listening to the speaker; they were all looking at thetrain. The loudspeakers droned over a buzz of conversation.
Then one spectator shouted a sentence that the crowd caught up asthough a cheerleader were directing them. “We want DanPeters]” commanded the crowd. The loudspeakers bellowed again.The echo came back: “We want Dan Peters]” The governor hesitated, smiled brightly, stepped down from thestand and whispered in Dan Peters’ ear. Those close by could seeDan shake his head in protest.
The governor whispered again, andlistened. Then he stepped jauntily back to the stand. “We are fortunate in having with us today,” theloudspeakers crackled, “Mr. Dan Peters, of the B. & O.Railroad, and–ah–other points, who will dedicate the bridge.
” The roar that went up from the crowd, they said, could be heard inNew York City. Dan climbed slowly up the steps and put his hands on one of themicrophones. “They tell me this is a peace bridge,” he said. Then heput a hand over his bushy eyebrows in an attitude of thought. He pausedso long that the people shuffled their feet impatiently and cupped theirears.
“Peace is when you don’t have to be afraid,” he saidslowly. “When all the tough guys keep on their side of the road.That’s what we call law and order, I reckon.
And when you’vegot that, you’ve got freedom. For the little guys who aren’tgoing to hurt anybody. Freedom to keep their own timetables withoutsomebody busting in on ’em. Freedom to make some of the timetablestoo. Not to have them all come from the m ain office. Freedom to lookat the Tetons and get to know somebody in What Cheer, Iowa.
Whenyou getto know somebody, pretty soon you find who you can trust. Like the U.S.and Canada. And because the U.
S. trusts Canada, we’ve got thisbridge, and a mighty pretty one it is. And I thank you.” Dan Peters turned away from the applause to go back to the train,but flash bulbs burst around him like an artillery barrage. “Mr. Peters,” a reporter asked, “is there anythingleft that you want to see, after your long trip?” The microphones picked up his answer, and the crowd held theirstomachs and shook with laughter. “More than anything else,” he said, “I’d liketo see a zebra, and President Dan Willard, of the B. & O.
, who is agreater man than Napoleon,” he added. “I’m Dan Willard,” said a big man, pushing his wayup to the stand. “It is] It is Dan Willard]” cried the governor. President Dan hauled himself up on the stand and strode over andtook Dan Peters’ hand. “I’ve wanted to meet you,”he said. “Bad.” They stood looking at each other while the crowd gave cheer oncheer–big burly Dan Willard and short wiry Dan Peters.
He lookedtired, the president thought. And old. It had probably been hard work,that trip. But Dan’s eyes were a fiery gray when he spoke.
“I thought you would be bigger,” Dan said frankly. “I thought you would be bigger too,” said the president.”I thought you would be 20 feet tall.” Dan Peters lowered his eyes.
“I’m sorry, Mr.President,” he said. “I’m sorry I didn’t keep theschedule.” “Dan,” rumbled the president, “I can’t forgiveyou for not keeping the schedule. But what I can’t forgive I cansometimes forget. I’m going to forget what you didn’t do andremember what you did.” “Mr. Peters,” said the governor, “if you can moveyour train enough so we can get the official automobile past it, we wantyou to cut the ribbon and ride over the bridge with us in the firstcar.
” The two trainmen blanched. “Did you say ‘automobile’?” Dan Willard asked. “We’ll ride over in Casey,” said Dan Peters firmly.That was why the governors, the ambassadors, the generals piled into thegreen, plush coach, the mayors and captains sat on the milk cans in thebaggage car, President Dan Willard crawled into the cab with Dan Petersand the cocky little train burst the red-white-and-blue ribbon and movedinto the great arch of the new bridge.
“You’ve done a great thing for the railroads,” saidPresident Dan as soon as he could make himself heard above the crowd.”You’ve been worth thousands of dollars in advertising. Thequestion is, what do you want to do now? Would you like to be a vicepresident? I want officers with imagination around me. I’ve beenwilling to take a chance or two myself, you know.” “I’m not a fancy man,” said Dan Peters.”I’m an engineer.” “Then we’ll give you a new 16-coach Dieselstreamliner,” said Dan Willard.
“We can get 20,000applications for your first trip. We’ll pass an act of Congress;you an go where you want to.” “No,” said Dan Peters. “I don’t guess I coulddrive any train except Casey this way.” “Why not?” asked the president. “It’s a matter of souls,” explained Dan Peters.”Casey has a soul.
You can talk to him. You can’t talk tothese shiny new engines. All you can do is feed ’em oil andgrease. I don’t know whether souls grow or you build ’emin,” he said. “I suspect they grow.” “But you can’t drive this train any more,” saidPresident Dan. “It’s worn out.
” “Casey’s old and tired, and so am I,” said DanPeters. “I’m at pension age and I’m going toretire.” That was why no other train has ever done what Dan Peters’train did, although they say the railroads spent a million dollarstrying to build souls into streamliners. They gave Casey the best roomin the Smithsonian for his old age, and Dan Willard gave him a pensionto keep his metal shining and his whistle whetted. Dan Peters justdropped out of sight.
Some people say he went to live in What Cheer,Iowa, and others that he went to Africa to see zebras. They say theyhave known lots of engineers who feel near enough the way Dan Petersfelt to be Dan Peters. Lots of men who aren’t engineers, too, forthat matter. And Dan Peters didn’t tell President Dan hewouldn’t ever drive a train again. “I’m going to make myown timetables now,” was all he said. Of course, most of the crowd at Niagara that morning didn’thear what Dan Peters said to the president.
The part they remember isthe rainbow over the Horseshoe Falls, and the two great railroad Dans–Dan Willard so tall he could hardly stand in the cab, and Dan Peterstipping his cap forward off his gray hair and talking low and lovinglyto his engine. And they remember how, in the middle of the bridge,President Dan winked at Dan Peters and pulled on the whistle cord, andCasey’s hoarse old voice yelled up and down Niagara gorge.