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This First-Grader’s Dad Had Always Been His Hero, But Then We Introduced Him To A Train Conductor

If there’s one thing you can say about 6-year-old Liam Burket, it’s that he loves and idolizes his father, Paul.

“My dad is my hero,” said Liam. “He is strong and brave, and he takes care of Mommy and me. If I have a scary dream, he comes to my room and makes everything okay.”

Liam says his dad is the “biggest, strongest, and coolest guy ever.” That was, until we introduced him to Joe Hartley, a freight train conductor who regularly steers 150-ton locomotives clear across the country.

Hartley showed Liam the time of his life, letting him call in signals to the train’s engineer on a walkie-talkie and toot the train’s whistle whenever he wanted. He let Liam wear his official hat so that he looked just like a train conductor, and he told him a story about how one time the train hit a moose and he got to keep the antlers. When it was time to go, Liam started crying because he didn’t want to stop having so much fun, but then he cheered up when Mr. Hartley told him he could come back and visit whenever he wanted.

Who would you pick—Liam’s dad or a real-life train conductor?

“I want to be a train conductor just like Mr. Hartley when I grow up!” Liam told us after his visit. “He is the coolest guy in the world and he has the coolest job in the world. He’s my hero!”

“Choo-choooooooooo!” Liam added.

When Liam got home, he spent the rest of the day making train tracks out of Legos in his bedroom. His dad couldn’t even lure him out of his room with ice cream!

Liam says it’s because a real train conductor can’t just stop what he’s doing to go get ice cream—everybody’s depending on him. But that’s something only Mr. Hartley would understand.