To the Editor: Blue Bird Train back on the right track
Written by Lillian Mandler   
Wednesday, 09 September 2009 08:38
I volunteered to help Toledo, Lake Erie & Western Railway, the "Blue Bird Train," promote boarding at the Waterville depot, starting May 1, plus increase passengers, our only source of income.
Having heard there were bad feelings in Grand Rapids from past years, I went in June to introduce myself, the marketing director of TLEW, to some town leaders - a Chamber of Commerce member, Mayor (Judy Keifer) and City Administer (Chad Hoffman).
Outlining some of our plans  such as getting the culvert fixed, approximately $30,000, hopefully by Apple Butter Festival. The bridge has been inspected and is safe.  I could not change the past but what I could affect was the future in resolving issues plus build a working relationship for the future benefit of all.
My first two meetings went well. Then I met with Hoffman. His first words were "There is only one thing we are going to talk about and that is getting the crossing fixed on Wapakoneta Road." TLEW had plans to fix the road crossing (repaired July 17-22 plus 2 sidewalk crossings) and becoming more viable for better upkeep and repair.
He responded as far as he was concerned this is a hobby and he was not supporting anyone's hobby. He doesn't ask anyone to support his hobby and he "would not support the train hobby of Bill Limbaugh and the Blue Bird would not be back in Grand Rapids - ever!" I replied, "We do plan to return and hope to back in by Apple Butter fest." Chad's  response (his words) "I guarantee you the Blue Bird will never be back in Grand Rapids and everything relating to the train will be gone forever. I also guarantee, you will be out of Waterville before the end of the year. No one wants the train in Grand Rapids or Waterville. It did not bring in any business including the restaurants. All the train did was to bring in a bunch of thieves with big bags and purses who stole from everyone. Merchants hired extra help, not for sales but to keep shoplifting down." I was personally offended, since my children and I were "those people" who rode the train. We had a wonderful day shopping, eating, did not steal, and paid for everything.
Realizing he had made up his mind of getting the TLEW permanently out of Grand Rapids, plus no sense of wanting to work together, I thanked him for his time and left.
Yes, it has been years on the culvert and I understand the frustration of the community, however, it is not any more than that of TLEW members.     
The TLEW has a long ways to go but we are "The Little Engine that Could."

Lillian Mandler

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