FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – One of the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo’s attractions is a train ride by Shoaff Lake in Franke Park. The ten-minute ride is a nice little break from walking and guests can take in the sights of our native habitat.
But, for one conductor, the train is also a chance to spread joy.
Kevin Gilliam started working at General Electric in Fort Wayne in 1986. After the plant closed, he stayed on to maintain the buildings. Then in February 2015, he locked the gates on the GE campus for the last time.
“That was February. I came home and cleaned out all the closets and painted all the rooms in the house, including the garage, and it was March. My wife said, ‘Now what are you going to do?,'” Gilliam said.
The answer came at a zoo job fair.
“They said, ‘Hey, Kevin. How would you like to drive the train?’ and I was like, yeah buddy,” Gilliam exclaimed.
Conductor Kevin now runs the Z. O. & O. Railroad on Monday and Tuesday mornings until noon.
There’s the sights of animals like ducks and geese and turtles along the train route, but seeing kids and their parents enjoy the ride is what sticks with Gilliam.
“Seeing parents being good parents,” he said with a catch in his throat. “You hear moms going, ‘Hey look there’s a goose! There’s a little baby!’ It’s a lot of fun.”
One of Gilliam’s favorite train traditions is in the tunnel when he instructs all the kiddos to yell as loud as they can when they drive through.
“It just makes me giggle,” he said with a belly laugh.
With every ride and smile and laugh, he’s leaving an impression on the little ones who take a train ride.
“They’ll come up and say, ‘Engineer Kevin, I love your train!’ and they’ll hug my leg,” Gilliam smiled.
It’s a part-time retirement job that brings joy to everyone who climbs aboard.
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