I am currently a freshman in High School maintaining a 3.0gpa. I play softball, along with volleyball. My first experience with trains, steam locomotives and The Steam Railroading Institute was during Train Festival 2009 as my dad and I went as something to do together. We became hooked. I started tagging along on rail fanning trips enjoying the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad #734, Cass Scenic Railroads Fleet of Shays, Train Fest 2011 in Rock Island, Little River Railroad, Huckleberry Railroad, Nickel Plate Road #765 through all of its travels, Flagg Coal #75, Leigh Valley Lumber #126 and of course the Pere Pere Marquette 1225. I have been published for my photography work in Railfans and Railroad Magazine twice already with hopes of continuing my photography as lifelong skill. We joined Explorer’s Post 1225 in March of 2014 as way to gain more knowledge into the world of steam railroading and as a father daughter activity we both would enjoy. As in explorer I’ve helped begin the restoration of Mississippian #76 for display during Train Fest 2014 at which we used the cab as a concessions stand acting as our first fundraising effort. I have gone on to help with the Steam Railroading Institute’s train robberies, Explorer’s Nightmare Express trains, then spending 18 trips aboard the North Pole Express working in the lounge car. Being an Explorer has provided me with social development through meeting new friends, and interacting with the public, leadership development and personal development making me more responsible for my actions. I hope to learn all aspects of steam railroading with the operational restoration of the Mississippian #76, along with its future operations of it. Beyond high school my goals are yet to be determined by possibly something in the field of chiropractics.
Name: Steve Wasiura
Occupation: Railroad Conductor
School: University of Michigan, graduated 2010
Having been fascinated by trains, and especially steam locomotives, my entire life, I started volunteering at SRI while still in high school in 2002. At that time I knew almost nothing about the work that it took to keep a steam locomotive on the road, but thanks to the help and patience of several different volunteers and SRI staff I quickly began to learn. Over time I got to try my hand at many different things, from general mechanical work to welding and machining. Eventually I got to start firing the locomotives, starting out on Flagg Coal 75 and then 1225.
It wasn't long before I realized that I wanted to work on steam locomotives more often than every Saturday. The skills I gained through volunteering at SRI helped me to land a summer job firing the locomotives at Greenfield Village, and later a job at the Durango & Silverton where I worked for six years. I also managed to occasionally work on steam in Europe and South Africa while serving in the US Peace Corps from 2011-2013.
What started out as a hobby for me has since turned into a career. Though the railroad I work for today doesn't have a steam program, volunteering at SRI opened the door to many other opportunities in the railroad industry. Best of all, though, is that every time I go to SRI I get to be a part of a truly amazing group of talented, dedicated people who all share a passion for keeping history alive.
Starting 4th year at SRI in 2015
Dick is a retired Ford Motor Co. Assistant Chief Pilot, and retired from 33 years service as an active and Reserve USAF Pilot. Dick served combat tours in Viet Nam and Desert Storm. At retirement Dick was the Vice Group Commander 927th Tactical Airlift Group Selfridge ANGB MI and USAF Emergency Preparedness Liaison Officer for the State of Michigan. This year Dick will qualify for the Federal Aviation Administration Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award with 50 years of accident/violation free flight experience. He has logged over 13,000 hours of flight time.
His primary hobby interest for 35 years has been involvement with the Experimental Aircraft Association, a national organization with local chapters made up of people interested in all phases of Amateur Built, Antique, War Bird and Light Sport Aircraft. Dick has built 3 Amateur Built Aircraft. Dick is also a life member of the Yankee Air Museum and past volunteer aircraft restoration technician and pilot crew member of the B-25, Yankee Warrior.
Dick also admits to being a latent rail and model railroad fan. When SRI was discovered he realized that it might be possible to participate in the maintenance of the real thing.
The exposure to so many people with a wealth of knowledge and widely varied experience has provided a wonderful opportunity to learn about the important contribution made by the people and machines of the steam railroad era.
Name: Taylor Moon
Started Volunteering at SRI: June 2009
Occupation: Full-time student at the University of Michigan
School: Graduated Lake Orion High School in 2014
My first experience with 1225 was in 1999 when I was two years old. My dad and I rode on one of the numerous excursions throughout northern Michigan that 1225 pulled in the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s. After that trip, my dad started volunteering at SRI helping mostly as a car host on train trips. I began volunteering in early 2009 to help prepare for the Train Festival that year. I then became a Car Host and worked alongside my dad for a few years on many fun trips. During this time, 1225 was out of service due to her federally mandated boiler inspection, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of the rebuild.
I began helping with the rebuild in 2012 with very limited knowledge about how steam locomotives work. Over the course of the following two years, I played an active role in the project and gained incredible experience along the way. I learned how hot-riveting is done, how to put in staybolts in the firebox, how to apply jacketing and insulation, and many, many other things. Over the summer of 2013 I began learning how to fire Flagg Coal Co. #75. I got a lot of practice firing for SRI’s themed summer trips, and I am now a Student Fireman learning how to fire 1225.
When I am not at SRI I am studying at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, MI. I am studying Civil Engineering and plan to graduate in 2018. I am an active member of the Steel Bridge team, and helped with the design, construction, and assembly of this year’s bridge. I have extensive experience with Computer Aided Design as well as limited experience with computer programming. Outside of school I enjoy travelling throughout Michigan in the summer and skiing in the winter. I have lived in Michigan my whole life and love everything this state has to offer.
One of the main reasons I enjoy volunteering at SRI is because of all the great people you meet. I have met some of my best friends through SRI and I consider all of us volunteers to be a big family. In addition, I love to see peoples’ reaction the first time they see 1225 under steam. It truly is an impressive machine. I remember being in awe the first time I saw it back in 1999, and I love to see people experience that same excitement that I did.
Name: John Grembowski
Date started volunteering at SRI: January 2012
Occupation: Business Owner. Michigan Landscape Lighting 27 years. Award Winner.
School: Graduated MSU School of Horticulture 1985. Michigan Certified Nurseryman
Hobbies. Love summers in Michigan. When I’m not volunteering at SRI we like to take our offshore boats out of Traverse City and cruise to all the ports north to Mackinac Island. Also enjoy spending a lazy day out on the fishing boat on the inlands around Traverse City. Also love road racing. Licensed full competition racecar driver. When not racing and time and schedule permits, im also an instructor at an SCCA sanctioned road racing school, and if more time becomes available I instruct at high performance driving schools, teaching people car control at high speeds in their own cars. Also when time permits like to take the quads out and do some 4 wheeling thru the Northern Michigan trail system. Enjoy target shooting and have entered a few shooting contests. Love going to airshows, and a couple of summer concerts at DTE. Also try to attend at least a couple of car shows each year with a couple of our cars, and a few years ago had one of my cars in Autorama.
Why did I start volunteering? Never knew SRI existed until I saw an ad for the 2009 doubleheader trip to Cadillac. The engine was gone before I got to State so I didn’t see it there. Thought it would be cool to take a train trip. Bought our tickets and then was sent information for the 2009 Trainfest. Figured what the heck, lets go see it. I knew absolutely nothing about steam engines then, but I’m getting better! Didn’t know what all the fuss was about that orange engine from out west. Didn’t even get a picture of it. I remember them telling me one of the superheaters was leaking when we got our cab tour of 1225. So I said well just pull it out and fix it, what’s the problem. After working on the engine for the past few years, I now know the problem! Anyways a couple of years later I got an email from SRI looking for volunteers. My business slows down in the winter and I’m reduced to a few days a week so I figured it would be good to get out and work on a piece of history. Love spending time checking out the old equipment at Greenfield Village. Also owning and running a couple of race cars you learn real quick how to weld and repair them in a short amount of time. I stopped out first to see what I was getting into and started 2 weeks later. What started out as a 1 day a week hobby turned into 2 days a week pretty quick. What started as a winter only hobby, quickly turned into a year round hobby. Things get pretty hectic for me between April and Jan. Usually work about 60 hours Monday thru Thursday and at SRI on Fridays. During NPE and Train Robbery and Halloween weekends it’s a 3 day volunteer weekend. I get to turn into my alter ego Longcoat and blow things up! Learned a ton about the engine and other steam engines and last years NPE got to be lead Fireman on a few of the NPE trips. Nice thing is it gives me a break from my business. After doing electrical all week, its fun to come in and fabricate something, weld something and just generally work with steel.
From John Grembowski
Here are some of my favorite memories.
First would be getting to meet a few of the military families that we donated tickets too. Second would be along with Barney and Kevin Mayer’s daughter watching Kevin as the partridge in the pear tree in the twelve days of Christmas car! Third would be after I worked in the cab during the morning trip and walking thru the train on the afternoon trip coated in coal dust and having people stop to get their pictures with me, and being able to hand out the future engineer hats. Fourth, first year being in the cab and actually firing the engine with 35 family and friends in first class on the same trip. Fifth would be standing next to Charlie while we were alongside the engine getting our crew picture taken by Greg, and a bunch of people started to come up and take their own pictures and Charlie leaning over and whispering in my ear, makes you feel like a rock star don't it! 6th, hanging out in the museum while on maintenance crew before getting ready to board and listening to the reaction of the kids when they would open the door and see 1225 sitting there steaming away. 7th, being able to share the cab with other maintenance crew guys. I know they all loved it. 8th, the fact that the engine ran great and nothing major happened.
From George Van Duyne
One thing I remember is from second trip that first Saturday when I got my cab ride. As the passengers were disembarking after we returned to Owosso, I climbed the coal pile in the tender and watched them walk out the gate toward their cars. It was a fairly dark, foggy night and I don't think anyone noticed me way up on top of the tender. Some of the families were herding a pack of kids wired up on peppermint ice cream and hot cocoa. Others were carrying little ones already asleep. Finally one sleepy little girl, carried by her dad, spotted me way up on the tender and raised her head in surprise. I guess she didn't expect to see someone up there, or maybe didn't know what she was seeing. I waved my hand. She waved back, one of those curly-finger little kid waves, and snuggled back into her dad's shoulder. One last good-bye from the magical trip to the north pole.
From Mark Mowery
My most memorable moment from North Pole Express 2014 has to be the wedding we had in caboose A909. When the bride got ready to get back aboard after being in Ashley, we made a remark about how dirty the bottom of her dress was and how she'd have to have it cleaned. She said she had mud from SRI, mud from Ashley, coal dust from the caboose, and grease from PM1225 on it. Every stain was a story to her, and she planned on boxing it up just the way it was.