Karl Berna

On December 29th, 2009, we lost Karl Berna, a member of the ILS since 1987. Karl had a great love for trains and was always ready to pitch in and work on track. He was a regular member of the Wednesday crew and was often the “spark” needed to get the other fellows moving on a project. When not aligning or ballasting track, he would often be seen polishing the rails with his “little gasser”.  He promoted the ILS and the large scale railroading hobby at every opportunity. In fact, our corresponding secretary, Chuck Olejniczak, was introduced to the ILS by Karl. Karl was also ready to give a young person a ride and even let them try their hand with the throttle in the circle.

Karl’s prize possession was his Disney 4-4-0 America Locomotive.  Karl was the fifth owner of this engine and actually the one who finally completed the engine that was built from original Walt Disney castings. As is often the case with a steam engine, the prior owners were overwhelmed with the amount of work required to complete a steam locomotive and lost interest. Karl acquired the partially completed engine in 1986 and had the engine running on air in 1996. The first steam-up occurred in 1998 and it was running on the ILS track in 1999.  The accompanying photo from the ILS archives shows Karl riding with John Bertino who was serving as the engineer.

One of the more exciting runs of this engine occurred when Karl’s wife, Manetta was driving the engine in the 1 1/2” circle. All was going well until the engine ran over a large walnut which jarred the propane burner loose. The result was a column of flame that roared up between the engine cab and tender. Manetta jumped off the engine and John Bertino quickly shut off the gas supply. Karl, without any emotion, asked his wife what did she do to the locomotive? This incident reminds the editor of the comment made by Bob Keding on Page 1 regarding one of the reasons live steamers are seldom seen smiling when driving their locomotives. As Bob put it, the “picture of a 300 degree fire between your legs” demands concentration! We all miss Karl, his love of the hobby, his years of hard work and a great sense of humor.


The following tribute was written by George Dean, as editor of ILS Stacks and Tracks, and appeared in the May 2010 issue.