Erie Railroad Biography - Benjamin Hafner

Benjamin Hafner

From the September 23, 1880 issue of the Port Jervis Evening Gazette:
Engineer Benjamin Hafner and his daughter Mary started today on train 1 for Yellow Springs, Ohio, where they will arrive tomorrow night. Mr. Hafner will return in about three weeks, and he will probably visit his brother in West Virginia while absent. Miss Mary will be gone all winter. A number of their friends were at the depot to bid them goodbye.

From the May 9, 1881 issue of the Port Jervis Evening Gazette:
Miss Mary C. Hafner, daughter of Engineer Hafner, returned home last week. She has been spending the last several months in the south and west for her health, and is very much improved. Her reception by the southern people was very pleasant, and she speaks highly of their politeness and hospitality.

From the August 13, 1881 issue of the Port Jervis Evening Gazette:
Engineer B. Hafner with two of his children left town today on train one for Wellsburg, NY for a brief visit. He will return Tuesday of next week. Miss Isadora Brigamshaw accompany them.

From Locomotive Engineering Magazine, Vol. 9, No. 8, 1896:
"The Mogul" recently contained a portrait of Uncle Ben Hafner of the Erie, who is claimed to be the oldest locomotive engineer in the United States. He was born at Baden, Germany in 1821, his father having been a first lieutenant in Napoleon's army which marched to Moscow. Uncle Ben began his railroad career in 1839 as a fireman, and a year later was running a locomotive on the Baltimore & Cumberland. In 1848 he went to the Erie, and, with a short break, ran a locomotive until March, 1892. Since that time he has been stationmaster at Port Jervis, and is highly popular with high and low. (P. 699).

BENJAMIN HAFNER, Port Jervis, New York. (Deceased.)
Benjamin Hafner, who departed this life in the spring of 1899, was at that time the oldest engineer -- in point of service -- in the United States. "Uncle Ben," as he was affectionately and familiarly known on the Erie, was born in Baden, Germany, on March 24, 1821, and came to the United States with his parents in 1832. His father was Valentine Hafner, one of Napoleon's soldiers, serving as a first lieutenant, and was in the march to Moscow. Mr. Hafner began railroading as a fireman in 1839, and in 1840 commenced running as engineer on the old slab-rail road between Baltimore and Cumberland, Maryland. He came to the Erie in 1848, and was one of the pioneer engineers running between Piermont and Port Jervis. Later he ran on the Illinois Central, and in 1857 made a business trip to Europe. On his return he reentered the employ of the Erie and continued in active service until March, 1892, when he quit running, and was given the position of depot master at Port Jervis, in which capacity he acted until his death.

He was married February 14, 1858, to Miss Mary Catherine Goetz of Baltimore, and eleven children were born to them, five of whom are living. Mr. Hafner was an honored member of the B. of L. E., and stood high in the esteem of the Erie's officials, while every railroad man on the two divisions had a tender regard for the aged engineer, who was one of the best in his day.

Excerpted from: "American Locomotive Engineers, Erie Railway Edition," H.R. Romans Editor; Crawford-Adsit Company Publishers, Chicago, IL 1899.

From the December, 1908 issue of the B of LE Locomotive Engineers' Journal:
Sister Catherine Hafner of B of LE GIA Division 66, Port Jervis, died Nov. 9, 1908 of chronic gastritis at age 75. She hed two insurance certificates, dated Feb. 16, 1891 and May 3, 1894, payable to her children.

Back to Erie 1899 Index