It's a girl! No. 261 hosts gender reveal party

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No. 261 on an excursion train in October 2013.
Steve Glischinski
MINNEAPOLIS — It isn't often that a full-sized steam locomotive bellows out a cloud of pink smoke like the Milwaukee Road 4-8-4 No. 261 belches out a cloud of pink smoke, but, James deRocher and Cynthia Weiland wanted to "go big or go home" when they learned they were expecting their first child and started thinking about how to reveal its gender.

"Over the last couple years, baby gender reveals have gained huge popularity on social media. When we found out we were expecting a little one, I knew it was only a matter of time before Cynthia would ask to do a gender reveal," DeRocher says, "One of my friends had posted a video of blowing colored smoke out the exhaust of his pickup truck, and that's what sparked my idea to do it out the stack of the 261. So when Cynthia told me she wanted to do a reveal, my response was ‘That's fine with me, but only if we do it using the 261.’ After I explained what I wanted to do, she was all for it.”   

DeRocher says that he and Weiland spent enough time volunteering with the organization that the rest of the crew "felt like family," and arranged to host the gender reveal party during a work session when the majority of their friends within the group would be present. Volunteers hooked the 261 up to house air and ignited six paintball smoke-bombs in the firebox, then cranked up the blower to send pink smoke billowing out the smokestack.

DeRocher says that he became interested in railroad preservation when his father took him to see the No. 261 on display in 1996. Now that he has been involved in the group long enough to be hands-on with many different tasks ranging from painting the coaches to firing the 261, the best part of the experience is watching the children see the locomotive in steam for the first time.

"You never know who will be firing someday," he says, "I hope our daughter will share our passion [for steam] so we can all enjoy it together. I would like to think it will be in her blood but, you never know... hopefully I get lucky! "

This isn't the first time that No. 261 has played host to an important point in someone's life. In 1990, a couple exchanged wedding vows in the cab. In 2016, another couple used the steam locomotive as a backdrop for their engagement photos.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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