Visiting a Old Friend, 46 years later.
October 2, 2010, Kentucky Railway Museum, part of the 2010 Monon Railroad Historical-Technical Society, Inc's Annual Meeting and Convention. Our group visited KRM, which included an excursion, that included former Monon BL2 #32. Back in June of 2007, I chronicled my one and only ride on the Monon in a memory entitled Just a Couple of Hobos.
As the engineer of #32 moved the locomotive past the depot, where our group was waiting, I started thinking back 46 years and the trip my brother John and I took behind this locomotive. It was like magic to my soul. Certain problems and limitations seemed to disappear and I was young again. The memories occupied my head as I shot picture after picture of the locomotive. Several cab rides were raffled off, however, like always, my ticket was not drawn. I had mentioned to Pam Rankin, one of the Convention organizers what this locomotive meant to me. Before our group boarded the train, many of us posed for pictures with #32.
I rode in the coach on the first part of the excursion. The box lunch was okay and I watched the countryside roll by. When we arrived at our destination, everyone was allowed to get out and walk around. I decided to snap some more photos of the BL2. During my walk to the locomotive, Pam Rankin approached me and informed me that I would be riding up in the cab on the return trip. She informed me that she had "pulled strings" to get this accommodation. I was like a kid, however, my spirits were almost dashed by my physical limitations. For those who didn't know, January of 2009 I needed surgery which half of my right foot was amputated. It was my own stupidity, so I will not dwell on the subject. It has left me limited in my mobility and ability to climb ladders. The Engineer suggested I climb up the front porch and enter the cab through the nose. As I started to climb, my right shoe started to come off. This caused me to panic somewhat. Thank heavens that Joe Novosel and Steve Long were close by to help me steady myself. The last thing I wanted was to be hung out on a ladder with what was left of my right foot hanging out. With Joe and Steve's help, I managed to get up on the front of the locomotive.
As I walked through the nose, I now understood what tall people like Ron Marquardt always talked so down on the BL2. After conking my coconut a couple of times, I was more careful. The cab was not what I expected. When you look at the locomotive from the side, there are four windows. It makes it appear like there is a lot of space. Just behind the second window there is a bulkhead which separates the cab from the prime mover. Ron Marquardt has spoke on how difficult this locomotive was to run in reverse, now I understand why. Visibility to the front is great, but looking to the rear is certainly a challenge. One must look through a window in the door of the bulkhead, then through a small, odd shaped window. Yep, I can see where it would be difficult to operate this locomotive going backward.
After getting settled in, we started our journey back to KRM. As the yards turned into miles, I suddenly felt like a child again and had this uncontrolled urge to phone my Big Brother and rub it in a bit. When he answered the phone, my first words were, "Hey guess where I am?" He responded, "Well, I know you are in Kentucky at the Convention. If you tell me that you are on the BL2, I will never speak to you again." I started laughing and replied, "John, not only am I on it, but I am riding the cab. This is freaking (although I did not use freaking, but another word beginning with F.) awesome brother." He was silent for a few seconds and then he laughed and said, "Have fun you lucky devil. Send me some photos later."
All good things must come to an end. When we arrived back at KRM, as we glided to a stop, I can honestly say that I enjoyed ever second of my time in the cab and did not want to leave. It was like visiting an old friend. The Engineer just smiled because he knew this trip had been something very special for me. Maybe it was the way I had rambled on about the Rider Car trip 46 years earlier. Before leaving, I thanked him many times for the opportunity to ride in the cab. Getting off the locomotive, I had some minor problems, but not like climbing up and once again Steve Long came to my aid. I couldn't say enough thank you's to Tom and Pam Rankin and KRM for making this ride possible. It was certainly the highlight of my 2010 Convention. One that I will never forget. As for my brother, he is jealous as hell, but he is happy I was able to visit and ride an old friend.
-Tom Kepshire, 2010-
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