One of the enduring memories of my biennial childhood visits to Milwaukee was seeing Old Smoky, a locomotive that once called the city home.
Somewhere amid the carousels of Kodachrome slides in my basement there are surely some snapshots capturing at least one of those meetings with the de-commissioned Milwaukee Road steam engine.
But sometime before I moved to Milwaukee in the early '80s, Smoky moved on, and now resides at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Ill.
Is Old Smoky coming back?
If the folks at Steam Marketing Group have their way it is.
The group will have a presence in the Milwaukee Road Historical Society booth at the upcoming Trainfest, Nov. 10-11, at State Fair Park, to help drum up support for its plan to build a Milwaukee Road History Museum in a replica of the railroad's 1920s-era Milwaukee roundhouse, and to bring Old Smoky back to Brew City for the museum, tentatively called Old Smoky Junction.
"Old Smoky delighted so many people in the many decades that he was in service, to the time that he was on display," wrote Nancy Ring, Milwaukee's self-described "Queen of Steam," in a note about the project. "Milwaukee had a very special train indeed.
"I never got the chance to see Old Smoky on display. I have only had the pleasure of meeting him in his present state."
That state, said Ring, can be described as in need of "an extreme makeover. He needs TLC from some very dedicated folks to bring him back to life."
The group is seeking memorabilia, artifacts, photographs and memories for its museum and is especially looking for Charles Schmidt who was 5 years old when he won the contest in 1957 to name Old Smoky.
They're also raising funds to make it all a reality.
To contact the group, email Nancy Ring, or stop in at Trainfest to talk them.
I sure hope Smoky finds the right track back to Milwaukee. In the meantime, I have to get busy looking at slides.
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