Toronto - CP Rail Locomotive Engineer Bob Awde says romance went out of railroading when the steam went out of the engine and a hoot replaced the whistle.
Young children don't line the tracks any more, waiting to wave at the locomotive engineer on the big black steam locomotive, and eerie night time steam whistles are a thing of the past.
They're just memories now, but ones that Mr. Awde, who retired 4 Mar 1983 after 41 years with CP Rail, holds dearly.
"I don't think there is anybody who has worked in steam that doesn't get a little nostalgic about it," Mr. Awde said as his GO Train took him closer to the end of his last run.
Sitting in the cab of his diesel locomotive as it pulled into Union Station from Milton, Mr. Awde, who turns 60 this month, was a proud man.
There to shake his hand and wish him well were CP Rail officials, including Alec Boyar, superintendent of the Toronto Division.
"I don't feel like I'm retiring. I feel like I'm going on my annual vacation and that people are making a lot of fuss over nothing. I guess it'll take my old brain a while to get used to it," he said.
Mr. Awde is a descendant of the old Toronto family that had a street named after it. The name was changed to Croatia Street in July, 1981, after a heated debate.
At age 19, Mr. Awde headed for Chapleau, Ontario, where he trained to be a fireman, the person responsible for stoking the boiler with coal and making sure the steam engine was running well.
"It was fun to see if you could get a little more out of it (the locomotive) than it was made for," he said.
When Mr. Awde worked in Chapleau the locomotives were equipped with automatic stokers "but when I came to Toronto in 1947 most of them were hand fired so I got a lesson in a hell of a hurry.
"You don't have this," Mr. Awde said pointing to his protruding stomach, "when you've got a job like that."
There's no need for firemen any more, although the job title still exists, and steam locomotives are something you only see in a history book.
"Everything is getting modernized today. Everything is push button and computerized, it's just not what we were brought up on," said Mr. Awde, who has been a locomotive engineer for the past 20 years.
Do the kids still wave?
"They still wave but not as much as they used to. Now most of them throw stones," he said.
After his run into Union Station, the grandfather of five rode the train down the track just past old Mimico station where he met his wife Hazel, and other relatives.
At the end of the line he wondered aloud, "With no dispatcher, who am I going to swear at now?"
(Courtesy of The Toronto Star.)
"I want to know, "wrote the dispatcher to me,
"What happened last night when you stabbed No. 3?"
In a thousand miler, this message I sent,
Don't recall every word, but here's how it went.
"We stopped at the plug at Ten O Three."
The hogger winked and said to me,
"When we get water, we'll need some coal,
And we may as well eat, we're now in the hole.
The brains came running and we heard him shout,
He tripped on a tie and his lamp went out.
The air was so blue, we hardly could see,
When he yelled at the fire-boy, hogger, and me.
"Just what are you doing? We can't stay here,
The varnish is due, and we're not in the clear."
The hogger retorted, "Well, send out a flag,
cause I'm not moving till I clean out my bag."
"We've been going for hours, I'm stirring no more,
Get back to the hack before I get sore.
We took our "twenty", got coal and had air,
Back on the train and with time to spare.
The "PEG" got by, scarce slowing a wheel,
I got the main gate and we hit the high steel.
Soon we were rolling, the speed was a fright,
Just another old drag that rolls through the night.
We hit the yard limits and all was serene,
Pulled into an alley and lined it back green,
Cut off the engine, sent it to the barn,
And that dear dispatcher is the end of the yarn!