• 15 years since the passing of George Hockaday

  • Discussion of products from the American Locomotive Company. A web site with current Alco 251 information can be found here: Fairbanks-Morse/Alco 251.
Discussion of products from the American Locomotive Company. A web site with current Alco 251 information can be found here: Fairbanks-Morse/Alco 251.

Moderator: Alcoman

  by BR&P
It was on this date in 1998 that we lost a fine man and noted Alco expert, George W. Hockaday. George was the son of a NYC locomotive engineer and grew up with railroading in his blood. His career included working for Alco for a number of years, as well as stints at Monon, Delaware & Hudson, and Ontario Lines (Ontario Midland, Ontario Central and others). George also traveled extensively troubleshooting Alcos wherever needed. He literally worked from coast to coast in the US - at one time he inspected some switchers stored on a barge in a NY City harbor, on another occasion he helped get Napa Valley Wine Train's FPA-4's running.

Hockaday spent time in Mexico working on the C628's and other units down there, and told of riding the cab of a freight barreling down the track, with a thick stack of train orders setting meets (in Spanish) - and the crew sound asleep! He was instrumental in resurrecting numerous Alcos which otherwise would never have run again, many of which continue to serve today. He even occasionally "lowered himself" to work on an EMD! :wink:

In addition, he had countless stories of his adventures all over, and unlike some folks, his were true. He was a church-goer but loved a dirty joke. Working on a locomotive he was a combination of wizard and absent-minded professor. He had an anecdote for almost every railroad-related topic. As a rail worker George was able to take pictures in many places the average railfan was not, and some years back many of them were published in a book. The editing was poor and there are frequent caption errors but it's well worth owning for those interested in these engines.

The younger Alco fans probably never met George and may or may not have heard of him. But they owe him a debt of gratitude for preserving these machines. Those of us who were fortunate enough to know him as a friend as well as a co-worker will never forget his zany expressions, midwestern drawl, and his love for all things railroad related. George was not just someone who working on the railroad, he was a railroader.

RIP George.
  by toolmaker
That is a very nice, well considered tribute. I never heard of George but will be on the lookout for references to him now that I am aware of his life and contributions to the industry and Alco watching fans.
  by BR&P
Toolmaker, some years back there was a 3-volume set of VCR tapes (remember those? :wink: ) titled "Those Amazing Alcos". I admit I never watched Volume 3 but George is interviewed in Vols. 1 and 2 so I'm guessing he appears briefly in #3 also.

George would sometimes listen to an Alco idling nearby and say "Hmmm. sounds like the left widget is loose" An inspection would usually confirm his diagnosis. No, he was not infallible but he had a darn good batting average. One of the D&H PA's was named after him, as well as the Ontario Central's RS36 418. (The 418 was later re-named by Livonia Avon & Lakeville in honor of their late CMO Kevin McGarvey). Just a very few railroads whose Alcos he helped with include Ontario Midland, Ontario Central, Buffalo Southern, Allegheny Southern, Napa Valley Wine Train, Arkansas & Missouri, New York & Lake Erie, Cuyahoga Valley Scenic, Keokuk Junction, Susquehanna, Battenkill, and at least twice that many more besides.

Hockaday also owned a few locos himself, including a former CN FPA4. He lovingly restored CN 6777 for passenger excursions on Ontario Midland RR, repainting it into a gorgeous D&H Warbonnet copy of the PA's. After only a very short time in service, a change in top management occurred at OMID and he was forced to find a new home for the unit. He sold it to Cuyahoga Scenic - who promptly repainted it into a ghastly yellow, red and black. :( For a look at what GWH had done with it, here's one pic: http://www.flickr.com/photos/duncanrichards/6209997682/
  by Shalom
I met Mr Hockaday at the OMid, back in the 90s. I'd ridden the last excursion of the season and was watching him putting the 6777 away for the winter; he was gracious enough to let me into the engine room and cab (after he'd shut it down) and show me around.

I noticed him taking a sample of the lube oil to be sent out for analysis, and asked him how often they had to change the oil on this machine; his response was that they didn't. He said they changed the filter when it got clogged (i.e. when there was a pressure drop of 20PSI), and topped off the oil when it got low, maybe added additives as they got used up, but that it wasn't a regular maintenance item to change it altogether.

I also asked him how come they weren't using the locomotive in freight service, rather than just sticking it in the garage? He said that given that they were a shortline that did a lot of switching involving backup moves, a locomotive with a cab at one end only wouldn't be as useful as the road-switcher types that the OMID had on their roster. He didn't mention that the 6777 was his personal property, and didn't belong to the OMID; I didn't find that out until later...

He had a lot of patience for someone like me who though interested in railroading, didn't really know all that much about it; I only met him briefly, that one time, but he impressed me as a gentleman.
  by BR&P
Here's a Hockaday story I'll share (I had submitted it to TRAINS but it was not accepted so this is as good a place as any)

A Lesson In Faith

The late George Hockaday is best known as an Alco expert and mechanical guru, but he was a complete railroader and enjoyed running trains as well. One of his favorite stories happened almost 30 years ago, not long after the start-up of the Ontario Midland Railroad in upstate New York.

With the regular crew working west of town, a light engine was ordered east and south to Newark to pick up some cars Conrail had delivered. An overnight snowfall had dumped about 10 inches of light, fluffy flakes, completely covering the tracks. George was the engineer, and the conductor was a young fellow we’ll call Joe because that was not his name. Now Joe, while qualified as a conductor, was primarily in the desk end of things in the office. His only previous railroad experience was in the tourist line area, although that did not prevent him from having some pre-conceived ideas on how things should be run.

They rocked slowly out of Sodus, and once clear of yard limits Hockaday opened the throttle. With no cars, the Alco roadswitcher was accelerating quickly toward the 25 MPH limit, until Joe jumped up hollering “Hey, whoa, slow down!” The engineer quickly shut off, and asked what the matter was.

“Why, you can’t even see the tracks with all this snow!” Joe exclaimed, pointing ahead. “How do you know somebody didn’t steal the rails?”

Old George shook his head in amazement and gently said “Joe, sometimes you just gotta have FAITH!” With that he hauled back on the throttle, the engine resumed speed, and the matter was closed!
  by Dick H
Amazon lists some new and used DVD's from Pentrex
entitled "Those Incredible Alcos". I assume (always
dangerous to assume), that these are the same programs
referenced earlier in this thread as "Those Amazing Alcos".

http://tinyurl.com/os4bywo" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
  by MEC407
BR&P wrote:Toolmaker, some years back there was a 3-volume set of VCR tapes (remember those? :wink: ) titled "Those Amazing Alcos". I admit I never watched Volume 3 but George is interviewed in Vols. 1 and 2 so I'm guessing he appears briefly in #3 also.
I own Volume 3 of "Those Incredible Alcos" (I haven't seen the first two yet) and I don't recall seeing any interviews in it.
  by Petz
George´s Interview can be found on vol. 2 of the Incredibile Alco series where the RS11 Ontario Midland loco is presented too.
  by Sompto
Was bored not long ago and looked up George not expecting to find much except maybe some photos of his engines. I was shocked reading this. I knew he was good at what he did from the time I was around him as a kid and as a teen. I am glad his memory lives on.