I believe that I have found the original source for the story of a Cedar Rapids engineer who saw the flying discs. A headline in the Cedar Rapids Gazette said, “Flying Discs Seen By Railroad Man.” The problem? The newspaper is dated June 28, 1947 and appears two days after the Arnold story. And it didn’t happen in Cedar Rapids.
The article, which is not six lines or six paragraphs, but a little longer than that, said:
A railroad man said Friday [which is June 27, 1947 and eliminates the need for further information right there because the story appeared after Arnold] he saw “about nine” spinning discs speeding through the sky last Tuesday [June 24] the same day an Idaho flyer said he saw some flashing objects in the air.
Charles Kastl [yes, that is the way it is spelled consistently in the article], 60 [which means he would be 126 today], an employe [sic] of the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern railroad for 38 years, saw he saw the discs about 1:50 p.m. (CST) as he was walking along the highway to work.
No other person in the Joliet area reported anything unusual.
Kastl said he saw a string of flat, circular objects going faster “than any plane I ever saw” about 10 to 12 miles east of Joliet [Illinois]. They were flying about 4,000 feet, he said.
“They appeared to be very high, and were going from north to south,” he said. “I could see no connecting link between them, but they acted as though the leading disc had a motor in it to power the others, because when it flipped, the others would too. When it would right itself, the others would right themselves.”
Kastl said he did not tell anyone but his wife about seeing the objects until Friday, “because I didn’t think anything about it.”
When he returned from a railroad run Friday, however, he learned that Kenneth Arnold, Boise, Idaho, pilot had reported seeing objects similar to the ones he claimed to have seen. Arnold said he saw objects over the Pacific Northwest.
Charles Preucil, head of the Joliet astronomical society, said there would be no natural cause for a display such as Kastl described.
Given the information in this article and given the descriptions given for the Cedar Rapids sighting, I believe this is the source. It did not happen in Cedar Rapids, nor did it happen on June 23. I will assume here, risking fate, that someone (Frank Edwards?) miscalculated the date of Tuesday, believing it to be the 23rd, and not realizing it was the 24th.
In Alfred Loedding and the Great Flying Saucer Wave of 1947 by Michael Hall and Wendy Connors, the story was reported on page 22 as:
Thus, neither of those sightings made the papers before Arnold's account, but one story was actually reported to newspapers on the 23rd. The tale came from a railroad engineer in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. As he was climbing off his engine, he observed ten shiny disc-shaped objects flying in a string-like formation, "like wild geese." The six line story it generated produced little attention at the time.
Their footnote indicated that this information came from a speech given by Frank Edwards on April 28, 1956, to the Civilian Saucer Intelligence.
As I have mentioned, Richard Hall, in The UFO Evidence, reported, “6-23-47. Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 10 shiny discs “fluttering along in a string.”
Even if we wish to keep the entry as a reliable report, we now know that it didn’t happen on June 23 and it was not Cedar Rapids but Joliet, Illinois.
And as also mentioned, Robert Loftin, in his Identified Flying Objects reported, “June 23, 1947 – Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Railroad engineer saw ten shiny disc-shaped objects, very high, fluttering in a string toward the northeast.”
This should put to rest the idea that there was a sighting in Cedar Rapids on June 23 by an engineer. It should end the discussion that this case preceded Arnold by a day. Everything I have learned about it suggests that it happened on the day of the Arnold sighting but was not reported until two days later.
I will confess one other thing about this case. I don’t believe it. I think the guy was just spinning a tale about seeing something and because these things were now part of that news cycle, a reporter talked to him and wrote the story. The original importance of it had been the suggestion that it preceded Arnold, and without that, it is another single witness case that does not advance our knowledge…
And I will add this. It is frightening because of how far it has been circulated and how distorted it has become. I don’t know what motivated Edwards to quote it, and quote it so badly, but quote it he did. Others picked up on it without checking the original sources, and it took me quite a while to chase it down. If I could, I would strike if from the UFO literature, but books last a long time and the Internet might be forever. This will live on but I can hope that others will stumble across this information as they search for evidence.