Pres.& Gen. Mgr., 5087 Cherry Valley Road, Route 1, Middleville, Michigan
Residents along the New York Central Railroad's Grand Rapids - to - Jackson line in Michigan may rub their eyes in disbelief when they see a real steam locomotive puffing down the tracks with a passenger train on July 29. Regular passenger service on this part of the system was abandoned in April 1959, and NYC hasn't operated a steam locomotive anywhere on its lines since May 1956, when the last steam switcher was retired from yard service at Cincinnati.
To keep old memories alive and give youngsters along the line their first glimpse of a steam locomotive in action the NYC and National Museum of Steam Propulsion have arranged a special excursion from Grand Rapids to Jackson Saturday, July 29th. Plans are to lease a steam locomotive from the more recently dieselized Grand Trunk Western Railroad - the latter road's 6323, a Northern type engine built in 1942 by American Locomotive Company at Schenectady, has been selected for the honors. 6323 has already pulled four rail fan excursion specials over the GTW from Detroit this year, two of which were sponsored by the Museum.
NYC's speedy Hudsons, long admired by rail fans as the handsomest locomotives ever built, no longer exists and the road's one remaining Mohawk-type steam locomotive is not in condition for the Jackson trip.
The July 29th Steam Giant Ramble, as it's called, will leave Grand Rapids from NYC's freight yard at Hall St. at 8:15 a.m., stopping to pick up additional passengers in Caledonia at 8:40 a.m. and Middleville at 9:30 a.m., arriving in Hastings at 10:00 a.m. Between Caledonia and Middleville there'll be an opportunity for photographers to try out their skill on a steam locomotive in action when the train stops for them to unload, backs up about a mile and comes forward at speed with smokestack belching black smoke and whistle blowing. A similar picture stop will be made at Hastings.
The Ramble will then proceed to Charlton Park, just outside Hastings, where a three-hour lay-over will permit passengers to witness the annual Steam Rodeo of the Michigan Steam Engine and Threshers Ass'n, featuring 25 to 30 steam traction engines in operation, steam boat rides on the Thornapple River and a Stanley Steamer automobile.
Leaving Charlton Park at 2:35 p.m., the train will ramble on to Charlotte (3:10 p.m.) where the locomotive will take another big drink of water that will carry her on to a 4:25 p.m. arrival in Jackson.
Return trip will leave Jackson at 6:25 p.m., stopping in Charlotte for more water at 7:25 p.m. and arriving in Hastings at 8:20 p.m., Middleville at 9:10 p.m., Caledonia at 9:30 p.m. and Grand Rapids at 10:00 p.m.
Included in the train's consist will be air-conditioned coaches, refreshment car with complete catering service and a baggage car directly behind the locomotive, with safety slats nailed across the open doors and suitable electric current for audio enthusiasts to plug in their tape recorders.
Round trip fares for adults are $11.50 from Grand Rapids, $11.25 from Caledonia, $11.00 from Middleville and $10.75 from Hastings. Fares for children ages 5 through 11 are $5.00 less. Ticket prices include admission to the Michigan Steam Engine and Threshers Ass'n Annual Steam Rodeo at Charlton Park. Proceeds from the trip will go into the Museum's fund to purchase one or more steam locomotives and establish an operating museum in the State of Michigan.