Friday June 20, 2014
"If eating left over pizza for breakfast is wrong then I don't wanna be right." -- Internet meme. Since my college days I'd been waking up, scraping that cold pizza loose from the cardboard box and savoring it chewy goodness. I consider it one of the simple pleasures of life along with squirt guns, banana splits and the whistle of a steam locomotive. Therefore, it was with a happy heart that I ate the previous evening's pizza for my breakfast. Hmmm.
After breakfast Terry dropped me off at the 557 Engine House in Wasilla for our annual 557 Restoration Company board meeting. The restoration efforts continue to go well and a new spending authorization was proposed and passed. Discussions ranged from future operation locations to how the industry will cope with steam engines and Positive Train Control requirements. Fund raising initiatives engaged most of the time.
I've always been very impressed by this restoration effort as it seems to get a study flow of donations and grants while volunteers inject huge amounts of time and talents. Robert Franzen, Steam Services of America, serves as the Professional Engineer and will be here July 26-28 doing an inspection inside the boiler. Robert is also supervising the driver machine work at Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum on their wheel lathe. The tender tank was currently outside under tarps in preparation for future sand blasting and primer paint.
I would like to take this opportunity to ask readers of this journal for a tax deductible donation to benefit restoration of 557. If you are interested in being a part of getting this S-160 under steam again then click here. Please share this invitation to support the Restoration of 557 with family and friends.
While I was playing with trains Terry was playing with puppies. The Iditarod Headquarters in Wasilla offered a free museum, seventeen minute film and an opportunity to hold puppies! There were about half a dozen six week old sled dogs in training and the staff eagerly offered one up for Terry to hold. She left the headquarters very fired up and wants to someday make a trip in March to witness the Last Great Race on Earth for herself.
I've always loved doing the AlaskaRails.org website. For the most part, it has pretty much been a selfless pursuit. I contribute massive amounts of hours and gain a certain amount of satisfaction in return by helping others whether it be researching or preserving their history, planning their trip or building their models. It came as a surprise to me when Alaska Railroad employee Willow Peyton asked me back in April if I had time to attend a "meet and greet" in my honor. We settled on a Friday afternoon in the lobby of the Alaska Railroad Headquarters building.
You cannot imagine the thrill I got from this reception. I met a lot of incredible people who loved sharing their work stories as well as the joys of living in Alaska. The security agents told me numerous humorous incidents they'd experienced over the years. I met Meghan Clemens, Marketing Communications Manager, and discussed the values of spreading ARR excitement via Twitter and Instagram. (About a year later Meghan wrote up a very nice article for Panoramas Magazine declaring me a "Superfan"). Several asked how I felt following my surgery and let me know they had been praying for me or sending me positive thoughts. These remarks for deeply moving. The most common question I was asked was why did a guy from Dayton, Ohio create this huge Alaska railroad website. My response? Your enthusiasm about your work was very contagious. It became the wind beneath my wings.
The railroad also provided cookies, lemonade and a cake decorated with my favorite locomotive GP40 #3015 and declaring me their number one fan. Wow! They also presented Terry and I were several railroad themed gift.
I felt like a kid at Christmas when the entire executive office arrived. Wendy Lindskoog, Vice President, Business Management & Corporate Affairs, Bill Hupprich, Vice President and General Counsel, and Doug Engebretson, Chief Operating Officer all were shaking my hand and making me feel like a celebrity. Bill O'Leary, President and Chief Executive Officer, had me in stitches. I can't remember the exact phrase he used, but it was something like he was the ruler of all time, space, dimension, gravitation force, etc. He was very down-to-earth and fun to be around.
After the reception was over, Angelina Lott, Manager of Crew Resources, took us over to the Anchorage Operations Center (AOC) for a tour. This 23,000-square-foot, $9.4 million building, opened in April 2005 and serves as the nerve center for the railroad, bringing together the 200 employees in dispatch, environment, health and safety, transportation, and operation under one roof. First stop was a crew center where rest rooms, showers, crew lockers, washer and dryer were available. On The second floor is comprised of offices and we got to meet many employees including Transportation Superintendent Jon Garner, Program Manager of Transportation Systems Dave Kocher and Locomotive Engineer Bob Yost. We toured the dispatcher's area where we got a demo showing how the railroad tracks its locomotive's precise location using a GPS-oriented collision avoidance system. Finally, we headed to the third floor for a look at the operations tower. In a room where almost all the walls are windows, Manager Curt Rudd vigorously worked on freight line-ups in the yard. We were permitted out on the balcony area so as to grab some photos of the yard activities.
Later in the evening we met with ARRC Manager and friend Curt Rudd and his wife Renee' at Simon and Seaforts restaurant. Over prime rib and salmon Terry and I shared the highlights our trip as well as the latest updates on our children back home. Terry asked Renee' about her numerous marathon and Ironman entries and she shared wonderful stories about her experiences in New York, Boston, Panama City and Hawaii. Curt also entertained us with tons and tons of Alaska Railroad stories many of which left us roaring with laughter. Eventually our discussions turned to our mutual friend Don Prince and Terry asked where he was buried so we could pay our respects before heading back to Dayton. There was no better way to end the evening then swapping memories of this kindhearted man. In so many ways he epitomized the Alaskan spirit.