FRENCH LICK, Ind. — The Indiana Railway Museum in French Lick is now open for its 48th season of operating the French Lick Scenic Railway, and two Lawrence County volunteers are helping it stay on track.
Steve Kimbley of Bedford is starting his 10th summer as a volunteer. He generally works as a conductor on the train but is also certified to be an engineer. Justin Asbery of Mitchell has been volunteering since 2009 and became a certified engineer in 2001. He typically can be found behind the controls of the engine.
“It’s something I’ve been interested in since I was in school,” Asbery said of working at the museum. “It’s fun getting to work around the railroad.”
Kimbley echoed that sentiment.
“The best thing is I get to play with real trains,” he said. “A lot of the volunteers here are also model railroaders as well.”
In addition to volunteering on the train, Kimbley is a member of the museum’s board of directors and serves as the organization’s treasurer.
He said most of the volunteers are retired, so they have the time to work. But on weekends it is easier to get a full crew.
“We have people from Louisville, Evansville, Cincinnati and north of Indianapolis who volunteer,” Kimbley said. “We have people who take their vacations to come here and work on the train. They come in their RVs and campers and help with maintenance and other things. They can’t be here on a regular basis because of jobs and other obligations, but they are a big help.”
Kimbley and Asbery said there’s always room for more volunteers.
It takes about a year of volunteering to become certified as a conductor and another year to become an engineer. The museum provides the training, and trainees get to work alongside the certified people, who critique their performance. They have to make certain grades before they can be certified.
Asbery said he generally serves as engineer but occasionally takes the role of a conductor.
“The most difficult thing is getting the train stopped where you want it,” he said.
The train’s track is not a loop, so the train goes out forward and comes back in reverse.
“The backing up isn’t really more difficult than going forward,” Asbery said. “You just have to rely on other people to make sure everything is OK in back of you. They let me know if there is a problem. They are my eyes when I can’t see.”
The French Lick Scenic Railway carried some 68,000 passengers last year. That included special events such as Wild West Hold-ups, A Day Out With Thomas, and the Polar Express. A “Wizard of Oz” event was added this spring, and Chuggington will begin this summer.
The train runs on Saturdays and Sundays through the end of May. Tuesday and Thursday afternoon excursions are added during the summer.
May is also a busy time for school trips. More than 300 students rode the train on Friday.
Source: The (Bedford) Times-Mail, http://bit.ly/1NpGqsZ.
Information from: The Times-Mail, http://www.tmnews.com
This is an AP-Indiana Exchange story offered by The (Bedford) Times-Mail.