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Edition #185  November 1, 2012

Twenty Years Later

Photographer: Donald L. Jacobs

                                                                      Photo by Donald L. Jacobs

Twenty Years Later

This photograph is not very spectacular nor is it professional in any sense.  This is a memory of a time long gone. No, not of steam railroading, but it is the story of a young man and his father.

About twenty years ago, my father and I stood on this bridge over the Norfolk Southern’s tracks just north of a small Ohio town called Kingston. This highway bridge afforded a wonderful view of the railroad’s Class A 1218 rolling down from Circleville heading towards Portsmouth and eventually to Kenova, Kentucky.

I had called my dad to come over, spend the night and after an early start, we had ended up here on this bridge, mostly by accident, not by design since this is the day before GPS. A simple road map showed the rail line crossed under this out of the way bridge.

We stood talking with each other and with the other steam “chasers” as we waited, everyone checking and double checking their video cameras and film cameras.  Waiting for the sight of the smoke in the distance to tell us it was coming. Then there it was, smoking, whistle blowing when the engineer saw us above him and the bridge shaking as it passed under.  Then in an instant it was beyond the bridge and moving on!  That engine could move!

Quick as a flash, or as fast as dad could move, we got in his car and I jumped behind the wheel, started it up, put it into drive and took off, forgetting in the excitement of chasing a speeding locomotive that dad’s car was an automatic not a standard transmission like mine. Screech went the tires as I “clutched” the brake, mistaking it for my clutch!    Laughing, we took off after 1218 and continued to video it all the way to Kenova. 

Twenty some years later, NS was again running a steam locomotive down this line, the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society’s Nickel Plate 765 from Toledo to Portsmouth.  This time with internet backed information, I drove to the same bridge and waited for 765 to make its appearance. Only this time, my grandson was with me, not my father, who had passed away five years earlier. 

I, with my digital, not film, camera and my grandson in his car seat  waited for the engine to arrive, along with all the other steam “chasers” on the bridge. Again, the engineer sounded the whistle as he saw us, the bridge started shaking as the engine passed under us and then, again, in a flash it was under the bridge and heading towards Kingston. Just as my dad and I had done twenty years ago, I jumped into the car and quickly gave chase.

Only this time I didn’t stomp on the brake. 

Donald L. Jacobs

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