A lucky few witnessed reader Jerry D' Attilio's 1915 16 HP Russell, number 15995, greeting the world's largest operating steam locomotive, Union Pacific's 1943 Challenger, number 3985, on June 22, 2002, as it passed through Lucas County, Iowa.
The challenger had departed from Cheyenne, Wyo., earlier in the month on a 3,169-mile tour of the Midwest. After an overnight stopover the Challenger left Des Moines, Iowa, southbound to Kansas City, and passengers on the train were treated to this surprise meeting about 40 miles along the track in rural northern Lucas County.
The meeting was arranged by members of Camerail Club, a train enthusiasts organization, and Camerail Club member Gray Smith snapped the picture. The site, a pasture owned by Jerry's cousin, Butch Goben, was chosen months in advance because of its lack of visible signs of modern times. Jerry made arrangements with Marion Nicholson to haul his Russell from the D' Attilio farm near Derby, Iowa, to this site near Purdy. Jerry's son Tony tended the engine in preparation to greet Challenger.
Passengers stepped down from the Challenger and visited with Butch and the crew of the Russell engine, and when it was time to move on Jerry and Marion, who are both diehard steam enthusiasts, accepted an invitation and rode the Challenger to its next stop at Trenton, Mo. Jerry can be contacted at: 11386 450th St., Derby, IA 50068.