Monday, September 13, 2004

Locomotives run straight unless the rail says otherwise.

Locomotives by their nature are inclined to run straight, the rail has the job of convincing them otherwise.  I spent this weekend volunteering with a wonderful group of people who get together to demonstrate the magic of steam power to kids and adults alike.  Northwest Ohio Railroad Preservation put its the annual "Tracks to the Past" show.  (Check out the link in my favorite places!!!!)  We run a real quarter scale steam train.  This entry is going to turn all stream of consciousness on me, I have that feeling. 

Children are fascinated by the little Locomotive.  Their first question is invariably "where do you put in the gas"?  The answer -- no gas, just coal and water, leads to a look of wonder followed by a series of questions that, so far, have always ended up with something along the lines of "oh cool"!  Children are amazing.  Engine 901 is amazing.  While it pulls passenger cars that are comfortable for adults, the loco itself is small enough for a child to wrap his or her imagination around.  Steam power, kids get it.  Oh cool!

I started with the fact that Locomotives want to run in a straight line.  Steering.  I have a baby railroad in my "back yard."  Bigger than the quarter scale train but run by either diesel or gas.  We collect Industrial Switcher Engines which were used in manufacturing to move raw material in and product out of factories.  That is the hook for me with our railroad.  Our small attempt to preserve a mostly ignored part of American manufacturing history.  I like the idea that we have taken a machine that some average working Joe spent years running and caring for and probably thought that was rotting away in a junkyard, gave that machine some rework and a shiny coat of paint and put it back to work giving the occasional joy ride and a quick lesson in our manufacturing history.  My "oh, cool"!  Telling our guests who made our locos, where they worked, what they did and who ran them, if I know.

Back to the beginning, the hardest part for me of learning to run our locos was getting over wanting to steer.  No steering wheel in a locomotive, and the locomotive is designed to run straight, so the rail takes over.  No steering, one less thing to do while I operate the throttle and brakes on a machine that with every trip pays tribute to the average Joe from somewhere in the past moving American goods in and out of a factory.  Oh, cool!


oceanmrc said...

This is fascinating!  I used to work for a major railroad and so I find train lore and history really interesting.

cneinhorn said...

so interesting!  ~jerseygirl