My father was a railroader (CNR) and I was fortunate enough to be EXACTLY the right age to have some fantastic experiences. My dad was "stationed" (pardon the pun) at a very small town that was the last / first stop (depending on direction) before/after crossing to/from the Canada/USA border.
There were still STEAM locomotives on that little branch line, especially on the passenger trains. The diesels could never keep the same schedule as the huge 6000 series Mountain Class steam locomotives. On some of the freights there were also steam engines. I often got to ride in the cab when they were switching cars onto sidings etc.
I also got to ride in the cabs of the first (F-series "streamliners") diesels.
I have been a lover of the impressive, mind-blowing power of the huge steam locomotives ever since. Yes I know, the disease-els are way more efficient, they can be linked and only ONE crew is needed to run a 4-engine consist, the newest mainline diseasels actually have more tractive power than the steamers, but still.....