My dad loves trains. When we moved to town from the farm, a busy railroad ran two blocks from our house. When he heard the whistle blow in the distance, Dad would be out the door, walking down the street to watch the train as it passed by. In later years he would take his video camera and photograph different trains as they came through our little town. Our basement was home to a little model railroad that wound its way through plaster mountains on a plywood base. The grandchildren would watch from the stairway or try their hand at the seat of engineer, and colorful pictures lined the wall that they had designed and drawn for their "Pop".
Several years ago my parents were able to take a trip on the Silverton/Durango train in Colorado and awhile back my dad was invited to ride on a little two-man car on a track near Topeka. But in his heart of hearts, dad has always wanted to be at the helm; to drive a train.
At 80 years old, my father still rides his bicycle around town. Just two blocks from the house where they now live runs another railroad track. During his outings he has paused there to watch, befriending some of the workers who run the train and switch engines. One day, shortly before Christmas he was talking with them when they asked if he'd like to come along while they went to the edge of town to switch engines. His bicycle was loaded onto the train and he got on board for the short ride. The engineer must have felt the longings of a fellow traveler and asked my dad if he'd like to drive the train. In this picture he stands beside the engine that took him from being an observer on the sidelines to a participant in a wish granted. I won't soon forget the look on his face when he showed me the photograph, nor the thrill in his voice when he described the adventure. With one small gesture, these kindly men made a grand act. On a cold day in December, they made my father's dream come true.