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Memories roll in with arrival of steam engine

LOURDES VAZQUEZ

By LOURDES VAZQUEZ
April 13, 2010 at 8 p.m.
Updated April 12, 2010 at 11:13 p.m.

Ed Dickens, manager of Heritage Equipment & Facilities for Union Pacific's train crew stands in the conductor cabin and reminisces about the labor of love that was required to restore No. 844. This was the first time No. 844 has traveled south of Houston since its restoration.

A.W. Hall sat on a bench at the Bloomington train depot watching the steam locomotive engine arrive.

Built for Union Pacific, the No. 844 steam locomotive visited South Texas for the first time, Tuesday afternoon.

About 600 people visited the train Tuesday. Many were still there at 8 p.m.

Hall, 90, was a conductor for Southern Pacific for 40 years.

"We knew he would like to see it," said James Brown, friend of Hall.

The locomotive is traveling across the 23 states Union Pacific travels in as part of the Valley Eagle Heritage tour.

"We're very proud of our steam program and are proud to share it with our communities," said Raquel Espinoza-Williams, corporate relations and media director for Union Pacific Southern Region.

"We have a lot of ties here in Texas and it is important to add Bloomington and the Victoria area," Espinoza-Williams said.

Freddie Burdick, a truck driver, said he typically sees trains during his trips to Fort Worth, but not in this area.

"It's something you don't see here that often," said Burdick, who lives in Crescent Valley.

Attendees enjoyed the arrival of the last steam engine built, recalling fond memories of family members who worked for the railroad.

Train enthusiast Michael Reha of Victoria has more than 1,000 model train cars.

"All my life I have seen the train go by," Reha said.

He has a ladder along the fence at his home near the railroad so he can watch the trains, said Louis Walker of Lolita, Reha's girlfriend.

"The neatest part is the connection it makes with people - the young and old," said Ed Dickens, the train engineer.

For Reha, it has become a sense of family history.

"It's just been part of the family," said Reha whose grandfather, Armine Frederick, worked on trains.

"Something about the mechanics, the whistle, captures the imagination of the children, while the older generation remembers when they use to operate," Dickens said.

"It's neat to see the trains. It brings back memories," said Brown, whose grandfather was also a railroad man.

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