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Memories of Owosso, December 2015

February 01, 2016

This past December, I took my sons to Owosso, Michigan to renew some old ties. Principally, with ex-Pere Marquette Berkshire 1225 and our fireman friend (and fellow Canadian) Rob Gruich.

I met Rob back in December of 2008, when we first visited Owosso to ride the North Pole Express. The General Manager of the Steam Railroading Institute (at the time) was T. J. Gaffney. He and Locomotive Foreman (at the time) Greg Udolph received us warmly. They mentioned that I should speak to the fireman who was handling a Saturday afternoon run. He was Rob Gruich, from Windsor, Ontario, and a fan of my books.

Well! I thought it would be a quick hello. But no siree! Rob made it known that my two lads, who were eight and six years old at the time, would be put to work in the cab! Before long, they were watching a water glass, filling in corners of the firebox with coal, and helping to shake the grates.

They reprised those duties on two occasions in the summer of 2009, and then again in December 2015 as teenagers.

I've held the fine fellows at Owosso in kind regard since our first meeting. In fact, I singled them out in the acknowledgements of Steam Memories of Lindsay:

With regard to visiting the steam era, the names T. J. Gaffney, Greg Udolph and Rob Gruich are mentioned fondly in our family conversations. During our visits to Owosso, Michigan, these friends have provided us with as-close-as-you-can-get trips back to the steam era. I may have been born in 1960, and my sons much later, but the three of us (and Dad) have experienced “the aroma of soft coal smoke hanging heavily in the sultry air as the steam locomotives simmer between assignments”. Thank you, guys. Rob, you are especially crazy, and I appreciate that. Who else but you or Santa Claus would send my boys a package in the mail containing a few lumps of coal? We’ll see you in a steam locomotive cab again soon, and this time I’ll get my hands dirty with the scoop.

Thanks again, Rob. And you, T. J., with whom we enjoyed lunch in Port Huron, Michigan on the way through. And you, Greg, now a proud father in Colorado.


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