Dominic Strong's great-great-great-grandfather worked in the railroad yards of Altoona.
One day, there was an accident that led to the loss of one of his arms.
They called an ambulance, but before it arrived, Howard Strong set off walking toward Altoona Hospital, with the injured limb.
Fans lined up Monday to see Nickel Plate Railroad No. 765, restored in Fort Wayne, Ind. The steam engine will pass through Altoona again on Monday.
There's gritty history behind the strong interest here in events like Monday's scheduled pass-through of a steam locomotive on the way from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh.
Dominic, 9, embodies that history.
His great-grandmother, Ruth Strong of Altoona, plans to take him to see the engine, Nickel Plate Railroad No. 765, restored and operated by the Fort Wayne Railroad Historical Society Inc. of Indiana.
It's the same engine that passed through here Monday on the way to a weekend of excursions in Harrisburg, drawing crowds at the Horseshoe Curve and downtown, despite almost no prior publicity.
Its scheduled reappearance has led to steady calls from readers asking, "What time is it coming through Monday?"
Howard Strong is not Dominic's only ancestor to work for the Pennsylvania Railroad, precursor of Norfolk Southern, which operates the shops and the mainline over which No. 765 will pass.
He was not even the only one of Dominic's great-great-great grandfathers to lose a limb to railroading.
Another, Ed Weston - Ruth's grandfather - lost a leg in a yard accident at Harrisburg.
Yet another, Jacob Stern of Altoona, was a railroad engineer.
A great-great grandfather, Ruth's dad, William Weston, was a pipefitter at the Juniata Shops.
And a great grandfather, Ruth's husband, was a mechanic in those same shops.
"It's in his blood," said Ruth Strong, who was among those who called the Mirror asking for Monday's timetable.
Except that there really isn't a timetable, said Wayne York, excursion manager for the Historical Society and former executive director of the Altoona Railroaders Memorial Museum.
"These are 'deadhead' moves and will move [in] whatever space is available between other railroad traffic," York said.
Deadhead or not, residents are grateful.
"He'll be pleased," Ruth said of her great-grandson.
The train should leave Harrisburg around 7 a.m. and stop for servicing and water here at Ninth Street, on the Ninth Avenue side, before departing for the big climb.
The Curve is "very heavy by railroad standards," York said.
That means steep - 1.75 percent grade - one of the steepest mainline routes in the eastern U.S., he said.
"That is why Altoona exists," he said.
The Pennsylvania Railroad built Altoona here, at the foot of the mountain, so workers could conveniently construct, maintain and station locomotives here to join trains heading up the mountain.
"Some helpers are still stationed here," York said.
No. 765 will try to pull the train up the mountain by itself.
Though obsolete now, steam engines were powerful.
Early in the transition to diesel, it took three of the new kind to make up for one of the old, York said.
Still, if No. 765 can't do it alone, the "protective" diesel behind will help.
Modern diesels are just as strong as steamers, he said.
The struggle to ascend the mountain Monday will mirror the daily struggle of coal-fired locomotives to breast the mountain here for a century.
Those struggles didn't end until the late 1950s, when the last of the steam engines gave way.
You can still see evidence in the woods along the tracks.
It's in the cinders, black as a bear.
They appear where ATVs have cut into thin soil.
The cinder layer is "feet thick," York said.
The Society isn't predicting a time of arrival in Altoona.
But railfans can track No. 765's movements at www.765.org.
It connects with an onboard GPS.
Look for the "track765" link at the top.
There's an application for desktop computers and one for smartphones.
You can test the system over the weekend, during which the locomotive will run five excursions across Rockville Bridge to downtown Harrisburg and back, York said.
Spectators who watch downtown Monday can still see the locomotive come through the Curve, because they can beat it there by driving, York said.
Dominic saw a working steam engine for the first time last year on the East Broad Top Railroad at Orbisonia.
His eyes got big.
"He picks up on things pretty good," his great-grandmother said.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.