Veteran transportation journalist Daniel N. Machalaba, who spent 33 years at the Wall Street Journal covering the railroad, trucking and maritime industries, died Monday, July 26, 2021, in Vermont. He was 72.
Machalaba’s journalism career spanned more than 40 years. He started at the Paterson News in New Jersey and later worked for Fairchild Publications in New York, as well as freelancing for the New York Times. He joined the Wall Street Journal staff in 1976.
“Dan was the alter ego of the television series Detective Columbo. There always was ‘just one more question,’ and the questions always led him to the answer he was seeking,” said Railway Age Capitol Hill Contributing Editor Frank N. Wilner, recalling his two decades at the Association of American Railroads. Wilner “fielded hundreds of Machalaba phone calls and personal visits that developed into a mutually enriching relationship and my slipping Dan more than a few scoops to reward his relentless pursuit of what his peers too often overlooked.”
Following his 2009 retirement from the Wall Street Journal, Machalaba contributed many feature stories to Trains, “a craft at which he excelled, recalls Editor Jim Wrinn. “Dan’s writing was a dream come true. He and I had met on a BNSF inspection train early in my tenure as editor, about 15 years ago. We kept in touch, and after he retired from the Journal, he indicated he’d like to write for us. And did he! His feature stories were thorough, complete, and detailed with the careful touch of a veteran reporter and writer.”
Born in the Woodhaven section of Queens, N.Y., on April 4, 1949, Machalaba grew up in Livingston, N.J., and earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in English at New York University. When he joined the Wall Street Journal, he worked at the paper’s Philadelphia office before moving to its New York headquarters. In 1996, he moved to Vermont with his family and worked from there until his retirement.
“Dan appreciated living a simple, healthy life in Vermont, and seeing the abundant wildlife and scenic beauty in the area during walks on his road,” his family writes. “He enjoyed saying hello to friends while reading on a bike at the Woodstock Fitness Center, and watching trains in White River Junction.”
Machalaba is survived by his wife of 44 years, Linda; his son Paul and daughter Catherine; and his brother Robert.