The Passing of Engineer Tom Arnott

There are times when I wonder if I’m slightly psychic. Every time it happens, it gives me the willies. This was one time I sincerely wished I was wrong.

Since long before the trip with 6060, I’d had this feeling, thought, dream, whatever you want to call it, that one of our engineers was going to die somewhere around Jasper. Most of the engineers are old — well into their 70s, and after a lifetime of working in coal dust, smoke, soot, and grease, probably not as healthy as they could be. (That said, they certainly look healthy.)

In my foresight, I had believed that Harry would fall ill and die during the trip. In that respect, I was wrong. However, my mortal prediction still came true. On Sunday 28 October, at approximately 10:00 in the morning, Tom Arnott suffered a cardiac arrest while sitting in the crew car. Although there were other crew present, and 911 dialed almost immediately, the arrest was severe. Paramedics worked to save his life, and he was believed to have stabilized at Jasper Hospital some time later. But the damage was too far gone. I didn’t know at the time (I had to leave for home, and heard the news only 20 minutes ago), Tom never recovered.

Tom was an ex-CN engineer, and had lived in Jasper quite a long time. Harry and Tom had known each other for many years, Harry’s son Cameron had regularly gone to Tom’s house to visit. Like Harry, Tom had surrounded himself with the railroad, even after retirement. Tom spent the last few years working with Alberta Prairie Steam Excursions, as one of the lead engineers on #41. Tom was also a secondary on 6060, and had fired the engine from Edson to Hinton on the trip.

Tom was a kind and gentle man, loved by many, disliked by very few. Like other old hoggers, he had many stories of his life on the rails. Now, those stories can only be told by those who had heard them before.

The light in the firebox is out, and the boiler gone cold. Old engineers never die, they just run out of steam.

Farewell, my friend.

The Great Jasper Run, CN 6060 Stettler, Red Deer, Edmonton, Hinton, Jasper

637,540 pounds of hot iron
100,000 gallons of water
17,760 gallons of fuel oil
3,000 kilometres
566 digital photographs
400 pounds of food
250 litres of gasoline
30 mugs of beer
16 hard-working people
8 days
6 hotels
3.25 hours of video
2 plane trips
-12 degree weather

equals

1 Great Vacation

What many people everyday call work, I call relaxation.

While I would love to sit here and type out every single little excrutiating detail, I’m going to spare you the agony and cover only the highlights.

1) Vancouver

I went to Vancouver on 18 October for, of all things, a party. Radical held it’s 10th Anniversary celebrating its success over the years. As a former employee, I was invited along to partake in the festivities.

In addition to seeing friends I hadn’t seen in a few years, and making a few new acquaintances, I tried to remember why I’d left Radical two years ago. I still haven’t been able to give myself a suitable answer.

2) The Great Train Trip

Returning to Calgary on the Friday (19 October) — I flew — I proceeded to pack and prepare for Phase II of my vacation: Helping run 6060 on its biggest excursion in years. We were going to run it all the way to Jasper.

This has been Harry’s dream for many years, taking 6060 back to his home town in celebration — and bring it in under it’s own power. This was something we’d been preparing for most of the summer, and we (there were up to 16 of us helping to run the train) were anxious.

It started with a quick run to Stettler from Warden. There we found our mechanical glitch for the trip, which was quickly fixed. Then on to Red Deer, where we turned around and headed north to Edmonton. A stopover to pick up rail cars, we were off to Edson, Hinton, and ultimately, Jasper.

I drove the entire way, chasing the train, taking pictures and shooting video footage. It was a wild ride, and my poor car had to endure the worst punishment any K-car should ever be subjected to.

I’m going to bronze that car when it finally dies.

The trip ended, for me anyway, in Jasper. Although there’s still the return leg and the winterizing of 6060, I’ll be trapped here in the office. The season is now officially over. Work won’t start again until January, which is fine with me. It’ll take that long to edit the movie.

Why the shortness of detail? Simply put, I’m writing this one out in detail, and it’s going to take a while. When it’s up, you’ll know…