Gordy Harder loves this job.
With a toot-toot, a ding-ding and a chug-chug, Harder is off on his merry way - multiple times, three days a week.
Harder, 82, is the senior conductor of the Magic City Express, the tiny train that takes trips around the park when weather permits during swimming pool season. Harder drives the Express around Roosevelt Park from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Thursday and Saturday when the pool is open.
Dave Caldwell/MDN •
Gordy Harder sits atop the locomotive of the Magic City Express June 29. Harder, who conducts the train three days per week, is the train’s senior conductor at the age of 82.
The writer of this story took a trip on the Express Monday during Harder's shift, and although the locomotive popped off a coolant hose clamp and overheated on the other end of the park, it was still an enjoyable ride.
"I'll give you a refund if you'd like," Harder told each group as he opened their cars so they could exit the train. One by one, struck by his sincerity and having enjoyed the ride to that point, everyone refused.
Harder, who retired from the Soo Line railroad after 45 years, said he has been driving the train since it started "about 18, 19 years ago."
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"I was retired from the railroad, so I came down here and helped them build the track," he said. Harder started at age 17 and retired at 62, working in track maintenance. Now he enjoys getting the chance to drive the tracks in the park he helped to construct.
Harder said that he used to be able to bury a 6-inch spike in a hardwood rail in "three hits."
"I could swing that thing just like a trip hammer," he said with a smile.
Asked what his favorite part of his new job is, Harder didn't really seem to want to narrow it down.
He said he enjoyed being involved in railroading again, but also that he liked the children.
"I like the kids and I see how they like to ride it," Harder said of the Express. "But big people like to ride it too.
"It's just fun doing it."