We met our cousins in Menlo to enjoy a train ride on a steam engine one Saturday morning. It was a fundraiser for the local fire department. We watched the train pull into the village. There is no station for the Central States Steam Preservation Association to stop, but there were plenty of people in town to watch the steam engine arrive, or to photograph it as it passed through the countryside.
It is fun to ride the train, but it is loud and dirty. We thought because the smoke was blowing away from the windows we were fine. We quickly realized our mistake as everything was soon covered with a fine layer of soot. The conductors explained that if we got a cinder in our eye to cry it out, not to rub it.
The Chinese built QJ steam locomotives that pulled our train are truly global in design and construction with connections to USA, Soviet Union and China. They appear so romantic in Harry Potter movies and so on, but the experience gave me renewed admiration for my great grandparents who traveled by train across country to California in 1900. Easier than covered wagon, still, I’m glad to fly Delta home from Des Moines.