42698 – Then end of the line! Today was the last time Engine 42698 left the Station. It was a tribute to the memory of Drexel Westfall and his wife Martha Jane who both passed away last month.
In 1998, Candy Fiorito and her “partner-in-crime” Lexie Barnes had an idea of a way to spread GOD’s message. They took their idea to Drexel Westfall with a paper cut-out and notes of what they needed.
Drexel not only made it, but made it so the set disassembled into compact, easy to carry sections with carrying bags for each section plus put handles into the weght blocks to stablize the set because 6 women were going to be setting up and taking down. Then John Panek was enlisted to paint the Hallelujah Express 42698. That Easter, the Paneks and their friends had a picnic Easter dinner because the dining room table was otherwise occupied.
The Hallelujah Express was blessed as the service the morning of 04-26-98 was the first performance of the Hallelujah Express ministry. Candy Fiorito, Lexie Barnes, Leigh Merrifield, Patty Vincent, Lexie’s daughter Dee, and Candy’s daughter Holly then took their puppet ministry on the road. They not only performed at their home Church, First United Methodist Church of Shinnston and churches in the area, but to surrounding states and as far away as Maine. People donated puppets in honor of and in memory of their friends and families. Each puppet became a person and was treasured.
The program starts with the conductor calling All Aboard! as the people with tickets for good works, tithing, etc try to board the train to Heaven only to be told their ticket will not get them to Heaven. Only the person with Jesus in his heart can board the train. “Jerry Lee Lewis”. “Hank Williams Jr”, “Elvis” (“Elvis has left the building”), “Dolly Parton”, and many others perform.
Life (including grandchildren, parents, schedules, and knees) has indicated it was time to bring the Hallelujah Express back to the Station for one last performance. And that would be the theme of the 2012 Mother/Daughter Celebration.
The ladies followed the tracks up to the Ticket Booth to receive their Boarding Pass (table assignment – Mama Lucille Anderson and I were seated at Wondrous Love) and then shown to the correct tables.
The Railroaders and Hobos (men and boys of the Church) served Hobo Stew in tin cans, tea, lemonade, and water were served in pint Mason jars, and each person received a “Hobo Pack” with bun for “build your own sandwich”, chips, and cookies tied up inside.
The Hallelujah Express brought much joy to the audiences and I can say without equivocation, to the ladies and everyone involved with it. It was a day of joy and sadness – the joy of performing and the sadness that all good things must come to an end, on 42912 – 14 years later, almost to the day!.
Thank you Hallelujah Express!