I arrived at the Thunderbowl Lanes in Allen Park, Mich., just before 7 a.m. on Sunday. I had a ticket to ride the Detroit Arrow, an excursion train to Fort Wayne, Ind., that would be pulled by Nickel Plate Road No. 765.
It would be the second time I’d seen the big Berkshire in a week, having photographed it the Sunday before as it pulled a Norfolk Southern employee appreciation special from Detroit to Toledo.
There was no sign of a train on the nearby tracks, which once belonged to the Wabash. I was here to get some new mileage, enjoy a trip and make up for a failure that occurred 20 years ago this month.
In 1994, the Blue Water Michigan chapter of the National Railway Historical Society sponsored a trip from Detroit to Fort Wayne behind Norfolk & Western No. 611. By the time I sent them a check to order a ticket the trip was sold out.
I was disappointed, but vowed to order my ticket earlier next year. But next year never came. NS scrapped the steam program later in 1994 and sent the 611 off to pasture in a museum in Roanoke.
The years passed and I stuffed the trip that never was into a mental file drawer.
When the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society announced plans earlier this year to operate two Detroit-Fort Wayne trips, I was immediately interested.
Much has changed since then, but I still wanted the opportunity to ride the rails once traveled by the Wabash Cannon Ball. Now you order tickets on line and that is what I did.
It was nearly 7:30 when smoke and steam in the distance heralded the imminent arrival of the 765 and its train. The 765 put on a bit of show as it weaved its way out of Oakwood Yard and through a series of crossovers. It would be my only opportunity to get head-on shots of the locomotive in action.
The trip that had been 20 years in the making was about to begin. I was not disappointed this time.