Engine #102

This is a very different sort of post for me. But perhaps it isn’t.  It is a part of my story. It’s about feeling something. Something that moved me and brought me to an understanding…about life…and about me.

It happened on a Monday. Around 10:30 am. Engine #102 and her 5 passenger cars were traveling south when she hit a rock slide that had landed on the tracks. It happened just outside of Northfield. The town I live in.  I heard about it while I was at work.

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Photo courtesy of WCAX.com

The rock slide had happened during the night sometime. And it was on a sharp curve on a remote section of the track. It truly came out of nowhere.  And there was no avoiding it.  Engine #102 hit the rock slide head on. She derailed.  

Photos courtesy of Ken Hepburn

Down the deep ravine she fell.  She detached from the rest of the cars.  She came to a rest on her side near a river.

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Photo courtesy of WCAX.com

Emergency crews rushed to get there. But it was difficult. This section of track was not easy to get to.  It took some time.  

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Photo courtesy of WCAX.com

Amazingly, no one was seriously injured.  The conductor suffered a few broken ribs.  The rest of the crew and the 95 passengers on board were unharmed.  A miracle.  

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Photo courtesy of Brian Bell and WCAX.com

The news crews descended upon our small town.  The people who live here sprang to action, providing water and food and shelter.  The emergency crews worked tirelessly for days upon end.

Photos courtesy of Ken Hepburn

Engine #102 lay in the ravine, on her side for over a week. They had to build roads to get her out. They had to bring in special equipment.  They also had to clear the tracks and get the trains back on schedule.

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Photo courtesy of one of the machine operators. I didn’t get his name…

It was a monumental effort.  It was impressive. This effort to save engine #102 and bring her out.

It was because, although her shell was battered, her engine was still intact.  It was worth it to bring her out.  She still had a lot of life left in her.

And then, on a Saturday afternoon, they got her out.  6 days after she had fallen into the ravine.  A huge transport vehicle brought her out of the woods, down a dirt road and into town. 100 tons of metal moving at a speed of 2 miles per hour. It took 2 hours to go the 4 miles into town.

http://www.wptz.com/news/northfield-roads-to-close-while-amtrak-locomotive-removed/35766442

I missed it.  I had plans and couldn’t stay to watch.  I hoped that it would still be happening when I returned from dinner, so I could see her.

But when I got back to town, all was quiet. There was no evidence that anything of that proportion had happened.  And I was curious.  I wanted to know where she was.  Was it possible that they had loaded her onto a flatbed and sent her down the tracks to be repaired already?  How could that be?  I wondered and thought and then investigated.

I drove to the nearest train station in the next town over.  She wasn’t there. But the 5 passenger cars were.  I marveled at the damage and how incredible it was that no one was hurt badly.  And I felt incredibly grateful.  I also felt something else.  An awe at not only the integrity of these train cars, but at the people who coordinated this immense operation. And most of all a deep sense of gratitude.  The mangled cars did their job. They kept their passengers safe.

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Photo courtesy of WCAX.com

But where was Engine #102? When I got home, I scoured the internet.  I looked at the news footage.  And then I saw it.  I saw her coming into town and turning down Wall St.  And I knew. I knew where she was.  She hadn’t left town yet.  She was in the old train yard just a few blocks from where I live.

So I went down there.  It was late.  And as I pulled into the freight yard I could see the bright spotlights and I could see Engine #102.  And I could see the Amtrak police watching over her.  So I didn’t stay.

The next morning, I heard strange noises outside.  The sounds of engines and heavy equipment.  I knew what was happening.  I rushed down to the freight yard.

They were getting her ready I found out.  They were going to load her onto a flatbed car pulled by a large cargo locomotive and bring her to Indiana, where she would be fixed and brought back to her original state.  I stayed and watched this amazing feat of engineering. 100 tons of metal lifted up and onto a flatbed.  It took a few hours.  I stayed and watched it all.  And then…once she was secure…they took off. Heading to the next town over.  They needed to secure her more carefully for the long journey to Indiana.

I stopped by the train station today.  I knew she was still there.  I wanted to see her one last time. I wanted to say goodbye.  I wanted to see the end of this story.

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As I got into my car and drove away, I felt tears on my face.  Why, I wondered, had this train captured my heart so deeply?  Why did I feel something for this hunk of metal? It made no sense to me.

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Yet it did make sense.  Engine #102 symbolized strength.  She reminded me that things happen.  Bad things. That we fall down.  We get hurt.  And that we get wounded and broken sometimes.

And with a little help we get back up. Back on track. Our broken parts get mended. We survive and learn to live again.

Engine #102 is part of my story.  And I will never forget her.

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4 thoughts on “Engine #102

  1. Loved your story, There is just something about trains. I can’t explain it , but I get a thrill whenever I see one

  2. This was enough emotion that it caused me to cry a little with you, for me, too. For #102, too. You told this story beautifully. That simple, the truth with few extra “frills.” 🙂

    • Thanks Robin. I’m still not completely sure why she touched my heart so much…perhaps it was because of how incredible it was that no one was hurt…and for that I am grateful and amazed. I’m going to check on her in a few months:-) See if she is running the rails again!!! ❤️

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