The Gramlings first met Eugene Reick when Barney began volunteering at the Little River Railroad in Pleasant Lake, Indiana. Gene was retired from Kelloggs Cereal and made the trip from his home in Battle Creek, Michigan, most weekends to volunteer as a conductor on the small tourist railroad. He would stay in a blue caboose on the railroad grounds. The Blue Caboose was a gathering point for the volunteers and Barney often stayed over on Saturday nights.
At this time Barney and John had several antique tractors they were in the process of restoring. In a conversation about a steam locomotive that might be available to Little River Railroad, the idea was planted that the Gramlings should restore a locomotive.
Barney received information about a group of old steam locomotives that might be for sale. He and John investigated and found them at what had been the Rail City Museum in Sandy Pond, New York. They called the owner Dr. Robert Groman and made arrangements to drive out and see them. They invited Gene to accompany them on the trip to New York “to give him something to do”.
On the way home from Sandy Pond Gene asked, “What would it take to buy an engine and get it home?” The Gramlings discussed it and said it could be done for $8000. Gene thought about it for about 5 minutes and made a proposal to them. “I have always wanted a steam engine. I tell you what I’ll do. I will put up the money to buy it and get it home. You will be responsible for restoring it and we will own it in equal shares. Then, when I am gone, it will be yours.”
When they got back to Indiana they called Dr. Groman and made arrangements to come back to New York the following weekend. Gene went back with the Gramlings and purchased the engine. It took several more fall weekends to bring the engine and all of the parts back to Indiana.
Sadly, Gene Reick passed away before the restoration was completed. He would have been thrilled to see Flagg Coal Company #75 as it is running today. We are grateful to Gene for his support and honor his contribution with this plaque that has been placed on the engine.