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And on the rail....Redux

Discussion in 'On the Road' started by KL7AJ, Aug 22, 2019.

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  1. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    If you don't get this, you have no soul.
    N8AFT likes this.
  2. N8AFT

    N8AFT Subscriber QRZ Page

  3. KL7AJ

    KL7AJ XML Subscriber QRZ Page

    I grew up in Silly Cone Valley...our back yards was right on the southern pacific line. I remember the last of the steamers on the 1957. I was a LITTLE tyke....about 3...but I remember it vividly. :) I've been a railfan longer than I've been a ham!
  4. N2EY

    N2EY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Think about WHY steam locomotives went away....and what they were REALLY like.

    And where expressions like "the wrong side of the tracks" came from.....


    The Strasburg Rail Road (two words) is a small historic/tourist railroad in Lancaster County PA, several dozen miles west of Philadelphia, just off (and still connected to) the old Pennsylvania Railroad Main Line.

    They have two 1910-vintage steam locomotives that run trains on a few miles of track they own. Because of track limitations they can't go very fast, even though the locomotives and rolling stock are kept in first-class condition and can go 70+ MPH easily.

    Back in the mid-1980s, somebody who knew somebody somehow got permission to run a steam excursion to Philadelphia and back on the Main Line, on a Sunday. How they got the permission I don't know, but they did. It sold out in about 10 minutes, even in those pre-Internet days.

    Strasburg put together an excursion train using both steam locomotives and all the passenger cars they had. They got authorization to run track speed and without any diesel protection power - such was the excellent condition of the equipment. This would be a run for the ages; those locos could easily do 70 MPH if allowed.

    To see the train go by, I went to the Wayne station, which is normally used only by SEPTA commuter trains. I had two relatives who were small boys at the time so I brought them along.

    The station was very quiet that Sunday afternoon, and the three of us waited on the outbound platform for the special train to pass. After a few minutes, a very proper older Main Line lady arrived, all dressed up in Sunday best summer whites, to take the SEPTA train somewhere.

    She saw me and the two small boys, in old clothes, and sort of sniffed - implying that "our kind" didn't belong there, on the Main Line.

    Off in the distance, I saw a pillar of smoke - a moving pillar of smoke, going fast.

    There's a curve a few thousand feet down the track from the station, so the special train would not be visible until almost on top of us.

    The lady looked around for a posted schedule but couldn't find one, and finally approached me. "Young man" she said (which tells you how long ago this was) "do you know when the next train will arrive?"

    I looked at the moving column of smoke and said "About five minutes"

    "Thank you" said the lady.

    "But it won't stop" I added.

    The lady sniffed. "Young man!" she said. "I have been riding these trains for many more years than you have been on God's green earth, and on Sundays, ALL trains stop at Wayne!"

    "That may be" I said. "But this one won't stop".

    She sniffed again and moved away.

    And then, from around the bend, came an apparition from another age. A double-headed steam express, with at least a dozen cars, belching fire and smoke and steam and cinders, people hanging out of the windows waving, throttles to the roof. I don't know exactly how fast it was going, but it was fast. It's uphill all the way from Philadelphia to Paoli, so those locomotives were working hard.

    When the engineers saw two little boys, they started playing the whistles for all they were worth. In seconds the train was upon us, in a blast of heat, noise, grease, oil, smoke, cinders and dust. Then it was gone, rattle and bang, rattle and bang, around another curve and on back to Strasburg.

    The astonished lady just looked at me as I turned to go. "I told you it wouldn't stop" was all I could say.

    That was the day I learned what "the wrong side of the tracks" actually meant - the downwind side. Because we were all on the downwind side, and coal-fired steam locomotives aren't exactly the cleanest things to be downwind of.
    N8AFT and WC5P like this.
  5. N5CM

    N5CM Ham Member QRZ Page

    My dad, born July 1913 and now SK, told me that he and some of his ragamuffin friends used to play/hang out in the railroad yards. He spoke fondly of the "Malleys", which were huge, powerful 4-cylinder steam locomotives. He explained that the proper name was Mallet. To this day, I get a kick out of seeing one at all and even more so when I see one running with a full head of steam!

    The very first locomotive in the video is a 4-cylinder.
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2019
  6. K8ERV

    K8ERV Ham Member QRZ Page

    Long ago someone lent me a very thick book aimed at teaching someone to become a RR mechanic. All kinds of great info on the engines. When all the maintenance problems were reviled I wondered how the engines ever made it out of the round house. But they did.

    Check "The Engines that Baldwin Built". They made an astonishing 30,000 engines!!

    TOM K8ERV Montrose Colo
  7. N2EY

    N2EY Premium Subscriber QRZ Page

    Actually, Baldwin made over 70,000 locomotives in its 131 year history. Unfortunately, it did not handle the transition from steam to diesel very well.

    Steamers require enormous amounts of maintenance, which means a lot of workers and shops. That's one big reason they were replaced.

    Youtube has a good selection of British steam-era films that have been transferred to video. They show just how much work was involved, and how many workers it took to keep them running.

    Here's a typical one - 2 week maintenance of a typical British Rail steamer:


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