Too Late for Jake, but At Last a Train in Sterling

Richard Jacobs pauses just before returning to the nursing home after the last railfan outing of his life. He would die nearly two weeks later.

Richard Jacobs pauses just before returning to the nursing home after the last railfan outing of his life. He would die nearly two weeks later.

A westbound manifest freight cruises through Sterling on a late Sunday afternoon on the day of Richard Jacob's funeral.

A westbound manifest freight cruises through Sterling on a late Sunday afternoon on the day of Richard Jacobs’ funeral.

Richard Jacobs wanted one last outing in Sterling. It would not be an easy one to arrange.

Cancer was eating away at his body and he could not move on his own. Nonetheless, he arranged for a specially-fitted van to take him to Sterling on a Wednesday for one more outing with the Loopers, as the group that gathers there weekly calls themselves.

He made sure that I knew about his planned outing and I said I would be there.

Given Jake’s condition, it wasn’t a sure thing that he would be able to make it. The date was set for Wednesday, June 10.

As that date approached, Jake wasn’t sure that things were going to go off as planned. He had grand plans. He would show his Colorado program — the same one he had planned to show to the Akron Railroad Club at its June 26 meeting — on the patio at Bradley’s restaurant.

Jake and the Loopers always went to Bradley’s for dinner on Wednesday nights.

On the day of the event I called Jake to make sure that everything was still on. It was, but his arrival time had been moved back.

We sat or stood around for what seemed an awfully long time. Where was Jake? It was getting to be 4 p.m.

Then word came that Jake was over at Bradley’s, but he had gotten sick right after he arrived. It was unclear if he would be coming over to visit the Loopers or going back to the nursing home.

Finally, around 4:30, the word got out that Jake’s grandson Rob, would roll him over from Bradley’s. About 10 minutes later I could see Jake being wheeled through the parking lot for the hike and bike trail that is located on the former Erie Railroad right of way.

Jake came over and the visiting began. I was planning to make a photograph of him with a CSX train passing in the background.

But there was a problem. CSX traffic had been halted for hours due to a maintenance of way window. It was ending, but the workers still had odds and ends to clean up.

I could hear trains nearby talking on the radio, but nothing came through Sterling.

At 6 p.m. the van arrived to take Jake back to the nursing home. There would be no slide show and Jake probably wasn’t physically able to do that anyway.

But, worse, there would be no last train for Jake to photograph and watch. I look one last photo of Jake with the CSX tracks in the background. Jake joked with me that I could use Photoshop to add a train to make it look like one came by. But I didn’t.

The next day Jake called to say that shortly after we both left that the trains began running almost non-stop.

Thirteen days later, Jake died. His funeral was this past Sunday and I stopped in Sterling on my way back home. I wanted to get that train that had eluded Jake and I both during his last outing.

Jake saw and photographed countless trains during his lifetime, starting at the age of 9 and continuing until two months before he died at age 83.

Therein lies an important lesson. Never stop watching or photographing trains if it gives you pleasure in life. Someday the trains may not come anymore for you and there won’t be a tomorrow to see another one.

Article and Photographs by Craig Sanders

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4 Responses to “Too Late for Jake, but At Last a Train in Sterling”

  1. James L.Leasure Says:

    Craig,
    God bless,Richard will be missed a long the rails!
    Jim

  2. Todd Sayers Says:

    This is one of the best railroad-related articles I have ever read. Great job and great pictures. Very sad to read and it really strikes a chord with me. Lots of fun times have been shared trackside. I suppose what makes life valuable is the fact that nothing lasts forever. Fantastic job once again.

  3. marktwainhobby Says:

    Reblogged this on Mark Twain Hobby Center.

  4. Charles S. Williams Says:

    I am the editor of the NRHS News. I really liked the article ³Too Late for Jake² and would like permission to reprint in in the NRHS News or on the NRHS Facebook page, if I can get permission from Mr. Sanders. If that¹s possible I¹d need high resolution copies of the photos.

    Thanks for your time and consideration.

    Charles Williams

    From: “WordPress.com” Reply-To: Date: Wednesday, July 1, 2015 at 8:42 AM To: “Charles S. Williams” Subject: [New post] Too Late for Jake, but At Last a Train in Sterling

    WordPress.com csanders429 posted: ” Richard Jacobs wanted one last outing in Sterling. It would not be an easy one to arrange. Cancer was eating away at his body and he could not move on his own. Nonetheless, he arranged for a specially-fitted van to take him to Sterling on a Wed”

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