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Hagerty Employee

The last train home | Hagerty Media

It was ten after eight in the morning, and I was already running late. Cans of high-temp enamel spilled from a plastic bag to the floor of my car as I whipped a turn down my father's narrow drive. An anxious voice whispered in my head: Just get it done, and you can get on to other things.

No one warned me of the onion-cutting Ninjas that would appear in my office at the end of this wonderful piece. What a great story, beautifully told. Thank you.

Darn those Ninjas!
New Driver

This made my day. Thank you!

If you are in the Detroit area, the Great Lakes Live Steamers club give rides on scale steam driven trains from May to October at Starr Jaycee Park in Royal Oak and Kiwanis Park in Southgate.
Check their website for schedules.

Great story. I'm in my late 40's and my parents are mid 70's. I know time isn't on our side. Treasure the moments!

If you like them life size the Union Pacific Big Boy is looking to make a run in August, nothing firm yet I've seen. I want to take my dad to see it.

Union Pacific Steam Schedule
We know you missed seeing our steam locomotives last year nearly as much as the UP Steam Team missed operating No. 844 and Big Boy No. 4014. We have great news, the Steam Team is busy planning an excursion for No. 4014, likely kicking off August.

Join the Union Pacific Steam Club to be notified as we finalize all of the details!
Hagerty Employee

Joined up! Thanks Gary

Wonderful story Bryan! Thank you.
I'm not a train guy or a steam guy, but I am a mechanical device guy. I love looking at how problems were figured out and fixes and improvements accomplished. Please feel free to write about this wonderful railroad again.

Great Big Crocodile Tears Thanks a Million
Intermediate Driver

My dad was born on a farm, which was foreclosed on and lost in the Great Depression. Years later, he bought a farm of his own and started collecting and restoring antique John Deere tractors. He was disappointed that neither of his sons shared his love for farming. I started into and am still involved with antique cars.
I would help dad start and run his tractors when he was no longer able to turn over those big flywheels himself. I wish he was still around .Cherish your parents. They are an all too fleeting treasure.
Thank you for a great story.

Thank you. The writer is more fortunate than he may think, I'd suggest he takes some rides with Dad and downloads more of his passion. Sometimes it's the intangibles that are the sweetest gifts and memories.

Impossible to count the ways this story speaks to me.

I’ll repeat one of my favorite lines:
Without passion, much history would be lost.

I have been a railman since I was able to walk. Somehow, my son got it too. But worse. While I love my O and HO scale models and of course, the real thing, he got into a group running live steam. When we put an LGB scale railway in the backyard garden and I suggested an electric model he scoffed. Not a chance. Steam. You can't ride ours (his), but it still runs the same way, makes the same sounds, and the same smells. Like my E-Type, its a whole experience...
Intermediate Driver

The allure of a steam locomotive is something not everyone gets. I spent a few years in the early '70s restoring old trains in the Midwest. Working out of the National Railroad Museum near Green Bay, Wisconsin, I helped restore to running six locos. The pay was miniscule, but the reward was being up in the cab when the engine was under steam. There is no way to convey in words the feeling of immense power these beasts possess. One of my favorite tasks was being assigned to boiler watch overnight. I loved sitting up in the cab, listening to the sounds they made in the darkness. A locomotive under steam becomes a living entity, it talks to you. It groans, it creaks, letting you know that it feels you there. It is anxiously waiting for it to be called to service.

In 2019 the Big Boy 4014 made the rounds of the Midwest over Union Pacific trackage. Having worked on the 4017, it was a major thrill to see this loco running again. You never realize the size of this machine until it passes you at full speed. I hope they will repeat that trip, but if not, I know that it will live under the tutelage of the Rail Giants Museum.

I came close to building a 1/8 scale live steamer and railroad when I had the property to do it. But alas that never happened. However I did take the grandsons to several live steamer events for rides and even rode the Pierre Marquette used in making the Polar Express movie. Good times, but we settled for playing with little tractors and minibikes for regular fun.
Pit Crew

Best Hagerty story of the doubt about it.
Pit Crew

Bryan, I don't know what I liked better, the prose or the pictures but either way, that was great! A similar locomotive sat out in my neighbor's back yard for many years until one day it was gone. It and your dad's locomotive reminded me of the pictures I had seen back in the day of Walt Disney on his scale train. Best regards!

   Very touching story, and it hits home in many ways, both from the perspective of sons AND fathers.  I told my dad "next time" - or something similar - too many times, and then suddenly, there was no next time.  But he knew that it was his job to make me into a man that held and delivered on responsibilities to many in addition to him, and once he'd done that, he understood that our ties wouldn't be as strong as when I was young and he was raising me.  It's not easy being a father or a son, that's for sure.

New Driver

Beautiful, thank you
New Driver

As an aging motorhead, I've always had a soft spot for steam engines. Mechanically sophisticated for their time and awe inspiring under power is just irresistible to my way of thinking and judging from my sons expressions riding and the frequent sightings of the Wilmington & Western Railroad, I think they appreciated this to an extent as well.

I have to chuckle a little when I meet with other motorheads driving our pleasantly(?) noisy and carbon emitting internal combustion engines that like the steam engine, our hot rods are facing a similar future (hopefully after my time has passed).
Pit Crew

Loved the story! Something about days gone by that give us a sense of peace and comfort. It may be that, although we cannot do much to affect the present, we can always go back and pick out the parts of the past that bring good vibes.
Thanks for sharing this!
New Driver

Great story. My wife and I both lost our parents at an early age. My father has been gone for 30 years. My brother inherited his interest in stamps. I inherited his interest in trains and Buicks. Just finished restoring his 1987 Grand National I inherited. Fortunately, our children are very involved in our lives and close to us.
Intermediate Driver

Being able to share that is awesome. Time and money permitting I want to connect with one of the regional groups. Train Mountain in Chiloquin Oregon is one of the larger miniature railways in the US but the majority of members use gas or electric instead of steam. On the plus side you don't have to lay your own tracks.

Intermediate Driver

If you get to the Phoenix Arizona area, we have the Maricopa Live Steamers which run steam and other trains during the year. Coming up, if the plague isn't still with us, there will be a Fall meet, and quite possibly a Summer meet if the masks can come completely off. There are also some rides during the year other than the meets. They're out in West Phoenix near Water World. I'm not a member, but a member of the umbrella organization, Sahuaro Central, which is concerned with all aspects of railroading.
New Driver

Absolutly the best. Makes me miss my dad as we near Fathers Day 2021. Keep writing Bryan, and spend time with your dad before there is no next time. Thank you.
Advanced Driver

Great story. As I get older, I get more appreciation for such writing and dread that things from the mid-90s are "old".

How many know that Walter P. Chrysler's first career was that of a Railroad mechanic and eventually executive? I'm unaware if any other auto pioneers came up that way?
New Driver

For Bryan Gerould, excellent writing! Your insight into how we squander time before we realize what we are spending is priceless. Age and the relevance of time resonates with no man (or woman) until one fateful day and the hands on the clock appear as the Grim Reaper and Scythe. May we all take a step back to realize "good" parents deserve the adoration of their children, and even more so in the latter years! Again.....well written....a salute to you and your efforts! Well done.