From: "Dad" wsmith5957 AT hotmail DOT com
Date: Sat, 8 Oct 2005 16:55:25 -0400
Subject: Maurice J. Burke, Binghamton engineer
"Burkie.jpg" - image/jpeg, 58936 bytes, 537x726 (24bit)
Maurice Burke, fireman date Feb. 15,1940: engineer date June 6, 1956.
I was experimenting with a flash attachment when I took this photo in the cab of the old Alco S-2 at YO yard in Binghamton about 3am. Burkie was a pretty good engineer and I worked with him on many yard jobs and occasionally on the Homer local. His problem was not rule G, it was another-worldliness. Many times, he seemed to be on another planet. One time he came to work in Conklin and as he drove in from Conklin avenue we could see a plume of smoke coming from the open back window of his old Buick 4-door. When he got near BY tower at the yard office, we started yelling "Burkie, your car is on fire!!" There was a puzzled look and he yelled "I must have flipped a cigarettte into the back seat, I'm going to get a hose & put it out." So saying he drove to the nearby Mobilgas station whose owner came flying out & told Burkie he'd shoot him if he didn't leave the gas station immediately. He drove off up Conklin Avenue looking like one of the Messerschmidts in thte movie '12 O'clock high'.
I forget how that came out, but another time I was his fireman on the Homer local and we were on our way back to Binghamton & running through Marathon when the headman (who'd been studying the sports pages) yelled "There's no engineer!!". I'd been looking up the track on my side of the Geep and turned to see NO-ONE on the other side of the cab. I got up & ran across the cab and shut off the throttle and made a brake application. I began looking around & saw Burkie sitting on the steps on the engineer's side looking at the ground. I was pissed and yelled "What the HELL are you doing, Maurice??" "Well, last week my hat blew off and I thought if I sat down here I might be closer to the ground & be able to find it." What can you say to a statement and action like that??? The best was yet to come. The conductor called us on the radio & said we'd hit a frozen foods truck and there were frozen french fries all over the crossing. Of course, Burkie hadn't been in the engineer seat to whistle for the crossing and had evidently mised seeing the truck go flying. I looked back and saw a truck laying on it's side. When we finally got going we talked it over how to explain this little problem. Burkie seemed not to realize that a problem existed. Somehow the conductor made up a report that explained EVERYTHING - how, I don't know.
Best of all, Burkie had a pilots license and was late for work one time. He told the office that the control tower at the Binghamton airport wouldn't give him permission to land. I forget what Sammy Milller did about that excuse but it didn't phase Burkie - he was in a "galaxy far, far, away".
Other than these little quirks, he was a pleasant man to work with and careful with the engine. Just a little sstrange.