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Published: Wednesday, 5/19/2010

Volunteers at full throttle to get Bluebird rolling

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Randy Rood of Bowling Green swings away to repair railroad tracks along Michigan Avenue in Waterville. He has been honored by the Ohio Rail Tourism Association for his volunteer work. Randy Rood of Bowling Green swings away to repair railroad tracks along Michigan Avenue in Waterville. He has been honored by the Ohio Rail Tourism Association for his volunteer work.
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Ignoring the cold and the rain, Randy Rood slammed a hammer against rusty railroad spikes, kicking up a shower of sparks.

"You don't use your arms. You let the weight of the hammer do the work," said Mr. Rood of Bowling Green after pounding another spike in place along the tracks of the Toledo, Lake Erie & Western Railway.

It's hard work for Mr. Rood and other volunteers as they struggle to get the season rolling for the railroad's Bluebird passenger train, but they're hoping riders can climb aboard by the end of the month.

Dressed in work pants, an orange, short-sleeved shirt, a brightly colored safety vest, and a white hard hat, Mr. Rood the other morning set new railroad ties near the railroad's depot in the village of Waterville.

At times, he was on his hands and knees, tugging at a heavy railroad tie or digging in the dirt to level the site.

"He is a really hard worker," said Kurt Teschendorf, a longtime volunteer with the Toledo, Lake Erie & Western Railway. "He never complains about a job and he will do whatever it takes to get the job done."

Taking a break, Mr. Rood reached into his nearby pickup truck and pulled out a shiny new award.

Mr. Rood, 51, received the Ohio Rail Tourism Association's Outstanding Achievement Award during the association's recent annual meeting.

The award is presented each year to honor a person who has contributed service above and beyond that which is considered normal toward the goals and purposes of the member organization.

Mr. Rood was in competition with volunteers from ORTA's other 25 member railroad organizations. He joined the Toledo, Lake Erie & Western Railway two years ago, and since has been instrumental in the day-to-day operations of the railway. He devotes his volunteer time nearly every weekend toward the preservation, repair, and maintenance of the TLE&W railroad, volunteering more than 520 volunteer hours in 2009. He performs work other volunteers hesitate to do, such as grounds maintenance, brush removal, and track and equipment repair.

Mr. Rood was nominated for the award by Mr. Teschendorf of Delta, who is the railroad's treasurer. Mr. Teschendorf has been with the group for 15 years, and two years ago received a lifetime achievement award from ORTA.

After talking about the many hours he puts in, and about the many jobs he tackles, Mr. Rood responds "Nope" when asked if he was surprised by the award.

"He has just been a go-getter," said Clarice Wyse of Fulton County's Lyons, the railway president.

"It is hard to keep up with that guy. He can do everything and anything."

Ms. Wyse said the Bluebird will be running as soon as possible, but track maintenance must first be finished. There's work to be done on the train's engine too. "We have a couple cylinders tore out of the engine and those have not been replaced yet."

It's possible the Bluebird's season won't start up until the Fourth of July, Ms. Wyse said, adding, "we're diligently trying to get things moving" toward a Memorial Day weekend opening date.

The train makes a 12-mile round trip out of Waterville.

A collapsed culvert prevents the train from traveling into Grand Rapids as it did in the past.

Estimates to fix the culvert are close to $80,000, and the railroad lacks money for repairs. Grants are being sought, Ms. Wyse said.

The railway is supported financially through ticket sales and some donations.

"That's about the extent of it. Members who can afford it usually come up with some money and keep things going. It is all volunteer," Ms. Wyse said.

Mr. Rood knows that all too well. "On weekends, I will put in 13-hour days, sometimes 15-hour days."

And nope, Mr. Rood said. He never grows weary of the hard work.

"This is something I started doing and didn't know if I would like it, but I found out I did. I am becoming more of a railroad person now."



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