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A Birthday Party That Ignited A Passion For Trains: A Journey with Robert Frye

It all started innocently with a birthday party on a sunny day at Grand Junction. As my wife, April, and I arrived at the platform, the air was filled with the energetic tunes of a Swing band. It was there that I saw a crowd, a plethora of decorations, and a sea of familiar faces – all for me. It was a surprise party, meticulously organized by my loving wife, even though my actual birthday is in December. I was taken aback, but little did I know that this surprise would be a turning point in my life.

As the day went on, I found myself drawn to the trains coming and going at Grand Junction. Over time, the occasional visits turned into frequent lunch trips where I would sit in the Wye, mesmerized by the magic of the trains. I wasn’t a “rail fan” yet, but there was something about this place that seemed to resonate with me.

With my newfound fascination and plenty of free time at my disposal after my wife moved to Atlanta for her graduate degree, I began volunteering at the TVRM shop. Initially, I assisted in the train operations but soon found myself drawn towards the process of locomotive restoration. It was then when George Walker, the man behind the East Chattanooga shop, suggested that I could use my electrical skills to rewire the E8 – a big green streamliner locomotive. Despite being unaware of the E8, I agreed. After all, how hard could it be?

As it turned out, locomotive restoration was no easy feat. It required a thorough clean-up, de-cluttering, and making the environment safe for work. With every progress we made, we discovered more issues that required attention. Despite the setbacks, we were encouraged by Bob Soule, TVRM’s President, who reminded us to see the work as a series of small victories rather than a single massive finish line.

Through the course of the project, I got the opportunity to work with a number of amazing people who, like me, were drawn towards the magic of the locomotives. We found ways to overcome the hurdles – be it due to cash shortage or technical issues, we never stopped. Our collective passion and enthusiasm were the fuel that kept us going.

The journey started with a birthday party and ended up becoming a part of my life. Looking back, I realize how one unexpected surprise led me on a path where I got the chance to not only engage with these magnificent machines but also to become a part of a community that shared a common love for trains.

Stay tuned for the second part of the series, where I will delve deeper into the intricacies of the locomotive restoration process and share more about the invaluable experiences I gathered along the way.

S&C TVRM 1st QTR 2018