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.

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