A group of about 80 adults and children filed onto the Little River Railroad Steam Train one sunny Sunday afternoon. For this Lazy Days of Summer Run, many sat in the open livestock cars, some in the troop car and a chosen few had the opportunity to ride in the caboose. The passengers, some from as far away as Poland, were riding a train pulled by a steam locomotive on the oldest railroad line in Michigan.
Once all were aboard, a whistle blew.
“Here we go!” squealed a passenger up front.
“And where are you from?” questioned Charlie, the Brakeman.
“We are from Springfield, Illinois,” replied a young girl about 8 years of age.
“Springfield, IL. Do you know what President lived in Springfield?” The Brakeman asked. “I’ll give you a hint,” he chuckled. “He was the 16th President of the United States and he grew up in Indiana! “
“Abraham Lincoln!” she said.
Charlie noticed the younger sister’s reaction as he blew the whistle twice, “Ah, you heard the whistle. That means we are going to move forward.”
With the whistle, Little River Railroad Steam Locomotive 110 moved up the tracks in a push-pull excursion for a total of 6 miles. When the steam train arrived at the top of the route, the red flag came out. Charlie, the Flagman, leaned out the side of the caboose waving the red flag signaling that the train was stopping and about to backup.
There was no merry-go-round or turntable of sort, so the train went in reverse back to the depot. With the bouncer, buggy, cage, chariot, clown wagon, calliope as terms sometimes referred to, the caboose went first down the tracks for its return trip.
As the caboose heads first down the tracks, you notice the Sauk River along the Sauk Trail lined with Tamarack trees at one point. Then the train approaches a crossing. Charlie says to the 8 year old, “The pattern for blowing the horn is 2 long, 1 short, then 1 long. Like this. Next crossing blow the whistle for me.”
Round trip rides leave from Coldwater, Michigan every Sunday at 12:30pm and 2pm. No reservations are required, but they request that you board ten minutes before the train is scheduled for departure. The train operates rain or shine. Cost of a ticket is $10.
Locomotive 110 is a 4-6-2 Pacific type locomotive weighing 58 tons according to the statistics on the museum wall located in the 1883 passenger depot. You can follow along through the photos, the restoration and history of the 100-year-old locomotive. And, check out the massive tools they use to work on the train.
Charlie, the Brakeman, is an artist with railroading. His enthusiasm for trains, especially steam trains, was evident as he spoke of his experience as a rail fan-or train nut. He knows the tracks. And if you get him going, he just might blow smoke!
Ask to say hi to Charlie when you head to Coldwater to take a ride on the Little River Railroad! In August they continue the Lazy Days of Summer Special. On August 27, they depart from Coldwater for a visit to the Quincy Village Park for a car show, ice cream and entertainment. It is approximately a 2.5-hour round trip with a 1-hour layover in Quincy. Or on another run, you can help protect the train against the Outlaws, on September 25 as The Great Train Robbery takes place, with real robbers on horseback. For all the October runs, reservations are highly recommended to enjoy the scenic fall colors, the steam condensing in the cool air and the echo of the steam whistle. Pumpkins, apples and cider are for sale fresh off the farm wagon during this part of the season. There are also Christmas runs with hot chocolate and cookies.