When Bill Gorshoff of Toledo was growing up, his grandfather took the youngster to work with him every day at Stanley Yard, where he worked for the New York Central Railroad as a chief foreman in the railroad's locomotive shop.
"We'll never see the likes of steam engines ever again, but I'll always remember what they meant to me when I was growing up," said Mr. Gorshoff, who worked for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's Rossford Yards during the 1950s as a head-end brakeman. "Like they say, I guess when it's in your blood, it's in your blood."
Mr. Gorshoff was among a crowd of several dozen people who gathered on a bridge along Miami Street in East Toledo on Saturday to watch a historic steam train, led by Nickel Plate Road engine 765, go by on its way from Oregon to Maumee during one of several excursion trips this weekend.
The train, visiting Toledo as part of a tour the Norfolk Southern railroad has set up to celebrate its 30th corporate anniversary, was filled with employees and not open to the public. But that didn't discourage locals and out-of-towners from gathering along the tracks, many with cameras and video tripods, to watch and hear the steam engine and wave at its passengers as it proceeded on its journey.
For some, Saturday's viewing was a chance encounter. Erin Steinhurst of Toledo happened to see the train while running errands in Maumee, and went to the Miami Street bridge to show her father the train because she "had never seen anything like it before."
Trig Simon of Toledo saw Saturday's crowd gathered on the bridge's sidewalk and stopped after deciding there must be something worth seeing.
Yet for others, the desire to see engine 765 was one that fulfilled a long-standing interest in, and history with, the railroad industry.
"I've chased trains all my life," said Jim Bradford, 84, of Redford Township in suburban Detroit, a member of the Michigan Railroad Club who recalled traveling to watch steam engines when he was younger. "When steam runs, it's like it's alive."
Mr. Gorshoff, who wore a Baltimore and Ohio Railroad shirt emblazoned with a "Gone But Not Forgotten" slogan and who collects recordings of steam locomotives, seconded the event's nostalgic significance, saying it brought tears to his eyes.
"It's like a ghost, like somebody talking to you," he said of engine 765. "She's a ghost of the past."
Bob Rude of Toledo, whose father worked for the Toledo Terminal Railroad, once rode in a passenger car that was pulled by the 765, and described himself as a "a rail fan -- when you're a train nut, you're a train nut."
Besides his personal association with the railroad, Mr. Rude came out to celebrate the industry's role in Toledo's history.
"It's about the nostalgia and the history behind Toledo and its railroad heyday, and remembering what Toledo used to be as a railroad town," Mr. Rude said.
Mr. Gorshoff said he thought the steam engine's trip through Toledo would energize the city.
"I couldn't believe it at first," he said of hearing that the train would pass through Toledo. "I think it's really going to give Toledo a shot in the arm -- I think Toledo needs a lot of this."
The steam train is scheduled to make two more trips today between Homestead Yard, in Oregon, and Maumee, using a route that passes through East Toledo, crosses the Maumee River near Toledo's grain elevators, and runs by the Toledo Zoo and the Lucas County Fairgrounds. The first trip is scheduled to leave Homestead, near Corduroy and Coy roads, at 11 a.m., with the second about three hours later.
On Monday morning, the train will travel east, without passengers, through Oak Harbor to Bellevue, Ohio, before turning south to go to its next tour stop in Williamson, W.Va. No schedule for that trip has been announced.
Nickel Plate 765 belongs to the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society, which is celebrating its own 40th anniversary this year and was organized to restore the 1944-built locomotive to operating condition after it had been displayed for years in a city park in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Contact Madeline Buxton at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6368.