The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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April 26, 2014

A train fan’s loco motive?

Riding atop box car in tunnel ‘local style’ in Ecuador

LEWISBURG – Railroads and trains have made Gregory P. Molloy an adventurer and a globetrotter.

He’s been pick-pocketed, he’s been involved in train derailments, he’s ridden atop a train car through a dark, mountain tunnel.

“I remember being on unpaved streets, no electricity. There were pigs just wandering around the streets, and it’s midnight,” he said about a trip to Guatemala. “If I wasn’t interested in trains, there’s no way I would ever be there in my life.”

Molloy, president of the National Railway Historical Society since 1994, spoke about his adventures in South America, Europe and Asia during a break between sessions Saturday in Lewisburg, where the group is holding its national conference.

The best way to travel on trains in Ecuador is by riding atop a box car – it’s the “local style,” he said.

“That’s one experience you never forget. You’re about to go through a tunnel on top of a train up a steep incline,” he said. “You go spread-eagle, grab something solid and wait ’til its over.”

Molloy and other enthusiasts were also once able to charter a tour through Argentina, which happened to be the first train to run in the country in six months. He also spent six hours on the tip of a steam locomotive at night, watching out for debris on the tracks.

Another time he watched people waving guns at his train in Central America — he’s still not sure whether they were friend or foe.

“If you do enough extensive traveling and get off the beaten path, you can sit down for a beer with anyone and tell loads of stories,” he said.

Molloy, a 67-year-old train enthusiast from Cincinnati, grew up loving trains, but rarely saw them in the Midwest.

“I remember much more the sound of steam engines outdoors at night,” he said. “You would hear them, but not see them. You never really miss that sound until it’s gone.”

Frequent train rides were taken in New Jersey while visiting his grandparents, but Molloy couldn’t pinpoint exactly when and why he fell in love with the mode of transportation.

“Maybe it’s wired into my DNA or something,” he said.

On the other hand, Al Weber, a director in one of the society’s districts, can recall the moments that sparked his interest in trains.

As a child, his grandfather would take him to railroad yards in St. Louis and they would watch the cars pass by.

And now, as a director and volunteer at the Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, the 63-year-old enjoys seeing the faces of young children light up whenever they see trains.

“It’s important that they have a love for railroads. Otherwise it will go away,” he said.

People in today’s world want to buy Mustangs, not railroad cars, he said.

“I don’t recommend you buy a railroad car,” Weber said. He paused and then lifted his hand in a confession, and added, “I did. And it’s expensive.”

The weekend conference consisted of a chartered trip Friday and a day of meetings for administrative, financial and responsive purposes Saturday.

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