Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Peace at last

Norbert Angell III
By Norbert Angell III
It was a typical morning, early to rise, coffee on, a quick glance of the morning edition. The obits were always the last stop, just to make certain I wasn’t in there and that I did, indeed, need to continue the day.
I gasped, felt sad, then for the first time in my life, felt relief for another’s passing. It was an instant of pain that was fleeting and welcomed. He was finally going to rest in the peace that he so much deserved. His suffering had been within, alone, and self-imposed, because he couldn’t feel anything else but pain.
He was my mentor. He helped me learn the craft of fireman, handling light locomotives around the yards. Later he helped me polish the skills of operating the heaviest of trains, with grace and finesse. He was selfless. We thought of him as a folk hero for his giving of a kidney to an ailing sibling in a time when it was unheard of. He sacrificed greatly in his personal life for that act, but was convinced it was just needed.
He was an incredible engineer. He could handle anything and always made it look easy. He never once fudged on a rule or neglected an order.
It all crashed down on him when he could see his retirement possibly in the next handful of years. It was a bright sunshine filled day. He had started his trip at the far-away terminal. He had plans when he arrived home. He would spend time with his grandkids, home on spring break. As he rounded the curve, on to the straight away, over a mile off, he thought he saw silhouettes on the trestle bridge that crossed the dry creek. It was once used as a water stop in the steam days. As he neared, he knew what was ahead. He did everything imaginable to stop his train, he prayed, he blew the whistle to the point of constant tones. He saw that his prayers were not answered. The older boys had scrambled across the bridge, the younger brother fell, and then stood up at the last moment, just in time for my hero to plainly see!
That was the last train he ever operated. That was the last time anyone saw him on a regular basis. He claimed he had lost his soul. He knew he could never pass this way, again. Tormented, but now at Peace…rest my Brother.

Norbert Angell III, is a retired Locomotive Engineer and Kansas Operation Lifesaver volunteer presenter, coach and board member.

Operation Lifesaver is a nationwide, non-profit public safety education and outreach program designed to eliminate collisions, deaths and injuries at rail crossings and rights-of-way. Kansas was the third state to join Operation Lifesaver in 1974.  To learn more, go to: http://www.ksoli.org/.
Next week, Sept. 24-30, is U.S. Rail Safety Week. For more details, go to: https://oli.org/


  1. Norbert -- That's a truly sad story but a wonderful tribute to a person whose life took a bad turn because of the thoughtless acts of others. I hope your mentor is at peace now. And it's a reminder that rail yards and tracks are not areas most of us should visit. Thank you for sharing this Norbert.

  2. Wow. What an incredibly moving story and tribute to a man who played such an important role in your life. Important reminder to teach our kids to never play on train tracks. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Thanks for your story, Norbert. It's important for us to realize that accidents/mishaps/crashes create a lot of victims.

  4. Norbert, you always know how to tell a story to keep one at attention. So sad for your mentor, but glad he is at peace now. Thank you for your continued efforts at keeping the rail industry a safe place and continuing to keep the public informed on how to stay safe by keeping away from the tracks. Those Engineers and Conductors are just as much a victim as an event will forever stay in their minds and hearts. I have heard countless stories, though this is one you never shared with me, where they say the last thing they saw was their faces(s) and were able to look into their eyes, and see the pure terror of knowing their life is over. Too many victims all the way around! Keep up the great work!

  5. Norbert I am proud to be able to call you my friend and sorry to know that this stoey is true for more people than just your mentor. We can only hope that people see what can happen when common sense fails someone when around the railroad