Thursday, July 14, 2011

The living history of locomotives

Battle Creek Enquirer: The living history of locomotives

The sound of a steam-powered locomotive chugging down the tracks is a sound lost to time, unless you happen to be in Coldwater this weekend.

In Delton, the sound may not be there, but the history will be.

Little River Railroad, based in Coldwater, will celebrate the 100th birthday of engine #110 with an event featuring rides on it and four other trains Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

The trains will run to Quincy and Hillsdale, and there will be a steam traction engine giving rides around the station property at 29 W. Park Ave. in Coldwater, as well as other activities.

On a hot, humid July 7, Terry and Trevor Bloom were working hard in the Little River Railroad engine house to make sure the birthday party goes off without a hitch.

The father-and-son team was covered in the black coal soot and grease that indicated they were men serious about trains.

Dad Terry Bloom said #110 is custom built and the smallest of its type of train engine, a standard gauge Pacific. Standing next to it, though, it's hard to tell that it's "small."

A massive coal furnace dominates the cab, and a hundred years of coal dust have passed through it. The bulk of the engine sits ahead of the cab, seemingly blocking out an engineer's view; Trevor Bloom said the visibility is actually pretty decent, though.

Still, the image of the engine taking the curves through Tennessee's Great Smokey Mountains, its original run, might be hard to imagine.

It might also be a sight that thrills children now fascinated with steam trains - Terry Bloom credits the popularity of children's TV show "Thomas the Tank Engine" - and the Bloom grandkids are no exception.

"They're up here just having a ball with the trains," Terry Bloom said. "They love to throw coal on the fire. They get totally filthy."

Of course, kids can only do that when the engine is just starting up and the fire is relatively low. Later, Trevor Bloom said, the heat in the cab becomes almost unbearable. He said the size, scope and noises of the train also probably capture the interest of today's kids.

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