Tommy’s Train

Ellen’s cousin Tommy passed away recently of a heart attack, too young at 48. Tommy had a lifelong passion for trains that began in his childhood, both with model trains and the real thing passing along the tracks near his home. As an adult he worked for that railroad, and in his spare time helped out as a volunteer with the Black River and Western steam train, a small tourist line running between Ringoes, Flemington and Three Rivers in west central New Jersey. Sunday there was a memorial run of Tommy’s favorite engine, #60, on the line, and friends and family were invited to gather there, remember him, and ride the train he loved.

It was a pretty nice day for mid-November; cool but mostly sunny. We were able to gather outside the train first and talk. Here’s Ellen with some of the family, including her Aunt Rita and Tommy’s sister Marian at right. Marian is the one who gathered everyone, though Tommy’s friends on the railroad ran the event.

Hard to see, but there were some enlarged photos of Tommy taped to the engine. That’s him as an adult at left, and as a child at right.

After about an hour the train was getting up steam and it was time to climb aboard.

The first car was a club car, and that’s where family and friends gathered for refreshments and the ride, which took us slowly from Flemington to Ringoes. Regular passengers rode in the following cars. The children enjoyed seeing some deer along the way, but it was mostly about talking and remembering. Tommy’s ashes were put into the train’s firebox at several places along the way.

Some of the family and friends enjoying the ride.

At the Ringoes station some of us got off to look around the yard at the other train cars there. Here’s another Tom getting his photo taken.

It took about 15 minutes for the engine to uncouple from the passenger cars and move around to the other end for the return trip. The engine itself was not turned, but ran backwards to Flemington, with the coal car in front, as seen here.

Then it was time to reboard and take the trip back as the afternoon sun descended. It was a long drive for us to get to this event, but Ellen and I enjoyed it, and thought it was the perfect way to remember Tommy.

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