When my kids came along (the first in 2004, the second in 2006) I began to get them interested in trains, too, which revived my interest in them as well. I began teaching my boys all about trains--steam, diesel, passenger, freight, etc.
One day around 2008, I asked my dad about where my grandfather had worked. He told me that it was "on a pier, south of the Walt Whitman Bridge, unloading ore ships. You know, those big black cranes." As soon as I heard that I recalled my grandfather having brought home a box of different ore pellets, each labelled with its country of origin. I also recalled seeing the cranes every time we crossed the Walt Whitman Bridge--even though I didn't know what I was looking at.
I told my kids about their great grandfather, and how he operated a locomotive, etc. They were quite interested, but I didn't have much more to offer them. A few months later, in 2009, I began Googling "Pennsylvania Tidewater Dock Company," which my dad had told me was the name of the company that operated the locomotives on the pier. There were few references, and most entries referred to the company's Ohio location. However, I found an obscure reference to Pennsylvania Tidewater Dock that mentioned Pier 122--the first time I heard the pier's name. I began Googling "Pier 122" and back came a flood of entries. I began reading everything I could find. Before I knew it I'd found a ton of info on the pier, and even photos of the four locomotives they had. I kept reading, and discovered that one of the four locomotives was saved by the National Museum of Industrial History in Bethlehem, PA! Pier 122 imported ore that was sent to Bethlehem Steel, and when the steel plant closed, they made provisions for a museum--the narrow gauge locomotive was of interest to them, and they moved one into storage there, awaiting restoration.
In the space of a few hours I went from knowing very little about my grandfather's job and worksite, to knowing quite a bit, and even discovering that one of "his" locomotives was still around. Still not certain, I showed the pictures I'd found to my dad, who confirmed that it was the same pier, same locomotives, etc. He even recalled riding in one with my grandfather when he was a kid. I later found out that my uncle (my dad's brother) worked at the pier as a summer job, working on the locomotives, too.
At this point I was intent on getting to Bethlehem, but it was not going to happen soon, as my wife was pregnant with our third, and road trips were not in our immediate future. We were, however, traveling to Philadelphia for my wife's care during the pregnancy, and I began wondering what was left of the pier. I prepared myself with maps and Google satellite images. On our next trip to Philly, we left early, and I detoured to the Pier. To my surprise, it was not gated, and we drove right in.