“Why don’t you go ask at the train yard?” my aunt suggests.
We are at Steak and Shake with my grandma on Tuesday morning, drinking coffee, watching the two Amtrak trains barrel past from the east, sitting at the same booth where my grandma did with my grandpa almost every morning before he died last fall.
As we sit there I lament that I still cannot find the engineer who was driving engine 6983 on December 2, and cheered on our wedding picture. The Norfolk Southern corporate office wil not return my inquiries. Like a tease, two freight engines with similar numbers lumber past Steak and Shake as we talk.
“There’s a train yard?” I ask.
“Of course there’s a train yard. The Robert Young Rail Yard, one of the biggest in the country.”
I look on my map app.
“Oh, the other way on Lusher west of 19,” I say.
“Yes of course,” she says.
My grandma remembers a restaurant close to the rail yard, but my aunt says it’s not there any more.
So, in a gray drizzle, I drive into the train yard, a vague, gray region of Elkhart with more than a restaurant “not there any more”. The public entrance signs telling me which gray door to enter, aren’t there any more. A great deal of the blue paint on the once-decorative rail car in front of the building is not there anymore.
I check my maps app again to make sure I am not missing anything, such as an entrance. It’s hard for me to imagine driving back out. I almost never chicken out in cases like these, but I think I’m about to. As the rain drops slide down my windshield, I conclude that the rail yard is not intended for public intrusion.
What to do?
On the app is a local number for the rail yard. Perhaps I can just call that number rather than gamble about which metal door I should break through.
I drive back out, feeling both disappointment and liberation as I reach the chaotic corridor that is Nappanee Street.
I dial the number I found on the app.
A busy, hurried voice answers. A real human! Hurray!
I speak as quickly and as clearly as possible. We got married December 2 and our photographer caught a great photo of us with train number 6983 at about two o’clock in the afternoon at the Elkhart depot.
When I stop, I realize she was listening.
“I would have to look that up,” she says, and her voice is pleasant!
“So you think it’s possible to find who it was?” I ask.
She thinks so. She gives me her email. Hurray! I speak an email to my phone as I drive through the rain. I ask her for the name of the engineer who was driving the train so I can send him a hard copy of our picture.
She doesn’t reply on Tuesday or all day Wednesday, and I get discouraged. Wednesday night, I send her a clip of the photo. Partly to remind her when she gets to work Thursday morning and partly hoping it will intrigue her and possibly help identify him.
Within minutes, Marnell says, “Looks like she is on it.”
“She replied?!” I ask.
She is having trouble going back so far, she says. Do I have another car number? (Sent from her iPhone at 7:10pm!)
We think the next engine is 7259, I reply, although it’s fuzzy.
That’s it for now and you are caught up to the present time! The mystery of the engineer remains unsolved so far but I am anxiously watching my email. I will update if we solve it!