By LINDA WOODLAND
Black smoke billows above Fostoria’s tree tops as the haunting whistle of Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive No. 765 chugs into town.
It doesn’t stop here, but still it draws rail fans far and wide to the Fostoria Rail Park where video cameras roll and digital camera’s snap images of the historic engine.
“I tell people when we’re coming through, to open their windows and we’ll give them some free soot,” Tom Miller, a retired engineer, said of the steam engine.
Miller, of Bloomdale, said he is planning to be at Fostoria Rail Park Thursday morning prior to the locomotive’s arrival, as will many other rail fans.
But when 765 rolls through town around noon, it will be pulling two historic rail cars that embody the glamour of cross-country travel from the 1940s to the 1960s.
The two California Zephyr cars are part of the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad’s $1.5 million capital campaign.
This acquisition adds two more dome cars — the Silver Lariat, a domed coach; and the Silver Solarium, a dome-sleeper-observation — to its two sleek, stainless steel Zephyrs for a fleet of four.
The domed cars offer scenic 360-degree views.
According to Trains magazine, the cars are coming from Los Angeles and will be transported by Amtrak to Chicago where Nickel Plate Road steam locomotive No. 765 will take over.
The locomotive will bring the Zephyr cars to Cuyahoga Valley in northeast Ohio where they will become a part of the railway’s tourism excursions.
And that creates a unique opportunity for rail fans in the Fostoria area as the steam locomotive will pull the Zephyrs through town on its way to Cuyahoga Valley National Park.
The public’s first opportunity to ride these historic cars will be during the scenic railroad’s Steam in the Valley excursions that run weekends from Sept. 21 to 30 and features steam locomotive 765.
Afterwards, the two Zephyrs — the Silver Lariat and the Silver Solarium — will be used for CVSR’s excursions and special events.
The Zephyrs used to make a 2,525-mile trek from San Francisco to Chicago that would take 2 days.
From the Silver Lariat, passengers are able to access the vista dome above, which provides panoramic views and seating for 24 passengers at tables.
The car is also equipped with a large dining and lounge area that seats 42 passengers, a full bar, restrooms, a full commercial kitchen, registered monogrammed china service, the original white damask California Zephyr table linens and an updated sound system, according to Trains magazine.
The Silver Solarium has been fully renovated and also features a vista dome and 24-seat observation lounge.
It has three double bedrooms with enclosed toilets, sinks, and showers that sleep up to 11 guests, a drawing room, and a stateroom, Trains magazine reports.
It, too, has a full commercial kitchen, a bar and a sound system.
Miller said the train will leave Chicago this morning and go back to Fort Wayne tonight.
“They’ll have a layover Tuesday to refill up the gondola cars with coal and they’ll take the coal cars with them when they come through Fostoria,” he said.
Miller said the train is expected to go through town around noon on Thursday.
“I’ll be at the rail park, talking to them on the radio,” said Miller, who along with his wife serve as car hosts on many of the steam engine’s excursions.
Rail fans can follow the steam engine’s trek by going to https://fortwaynerailroad.org/track-765/ and following it via GPS.
On Twitter, fans can stay in touch by following Steam Locomative765@NickelPlate765.