Peter McLean began working for the New York Central Railroad at the age of 19 in St. Thomas, Ontario. Four years later on June 30, 1941 he became a journeyman machinist and quickly became assistant house foreman.
Mr. McLean discovered a new use for magnets that saved a day of labour in keeping locomotive boilers cleaner. His innovation involved placing a large set of magnets within the boiler of a locomotive for which he had responsibility. They were left in place for a month.
Before the boiler workers started their routine washing of the boilers, he blew off the cocks (one on each side of the boiler) and blew the water down just by holding the blow off cocks. The boilermakers removed the plugs and inspected the inside of the boiler for lime scale, hard water and mud build up. It turned out that the mud ring of the boiler was clean with no build up. The boiler was the cleanest the boilermakers had ever seen. The master mechanic showed a federal inspector the benefits of this new method and its use was approved. The use of magnets saved eight hours of labour.
In 1948, Mr. McLean received a Certificate of Merit from the New York Central for his innovative approach to boiler cleanliness. Cleaner boilers also meant safer boilers.
Also, in 1948, Mr. McLean was transferred to Windsor, Ontario as the new engine house supervisor.
In 1969 Mr. McLean was sent to the Electro-Motive Division of General Motors in LaGrange, Illinois where he became a certified diesel instructor.
Mr. McLean remained a railroad employee as a supervisor until his retirement in 1980.