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 Post subject: Steam Stories
PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2017 2:27 pm 

Joined: Mon Jun 24, 2013 12:54 pm
Posts: 258
With the wide plethora of steam guys on the forum, I am curious about what their favorite stories are. So many have been crew members of engines, both in excursion service, and regular service. I am curious as to what are the best stories out there from the guys who have done it all.


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 Post subject: Re: Steam Stories
PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2017 2:44 pm 

Joined: Sun Sep 05, 2004 9:48 am
Posts: 399
Location: Byers, Colorado
I won't claim I've done it all. BUT, in all modesty of course, my best story used to be archived here in the articles: THERE IS NO PLAN B. Last I knew, it was archived on the website of Ferrovias Guatemala, try www.rrdc.com

There is also one about the first time I drove a locomotive, I think this one is still functioning on this site "Valley of Mexico, Valley of Memories".

Actually, there's another one about the Ferrocarril Mexicano del Pacifico, the last steam powered freight railroad in North America, again, try the RyPN articles section.

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 Post subject: Re: Steam Stories
PostPosted: Mon Feb 27, 2017 10:18 pm 

Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2011 11:23 am
Posts: 171
Location: Sheboygan County, Wisconsin
Well, the best trip I ever experienced was as a guest in the cab of 4960 from Williams to the Canyon. We had 8 cars: a full water car, the power car, 4 Harrimans and 2 upgraded cars. No diesel. It was the perfect trip, no mechanical issues, no slips, pressure kissing 200 lbs the whole way. Couldn't have asked for anything better. When I got off up at the Canyon, my friend was waiting for me and as I walked up to him, he started shaking his head, then smiled and said "you got to run, didn't you?" I asked him how he knew and he replied that my feet weren't even touching the ground.

The best entire day that I ever had was in March of '73 in Guatemala with Al Shelton. We were riding a steam powered mixed local and took siding at a place named Jalapa to let the daily passenger go by. The crew was smart and got off to sit in the shade so Al & I both took turns sitting in the right hand seat and taking each others photos. When the crew came back, I jumped up to get out of the way, but Gustavo Loyo put his hand on my shoulder and had me sit back down. This was my spot for the rest of the day, 49 miles and 5-6 hours. He coached me down the 3.3% into Rancho and then he & the fireman, Hermenegildo Tobar, both got off without a word as I rolled by the train order office so Al was now the fireman. The train crew took us down to the other end of the yard and we picked up another 10 cars and made the airtest. I backed the train to the office where the pair of Guatemalans got back on and took a seat on the sandbox where they sat for the rest of the trip, leaving us to figure the road out for ourselves. This went pretty well except for one instance when we drifted down to a big bridge across the river. I should have figured that there would be a pull out of there, but didn't. I finally woke up when I felt the tug on the drawbar of the 2-8-2 and we managed to stagger up the hill with a wide open throttle and me with somewhat of a red face. The last hour or so was in the dark and we finally picked our way through the yard at Zacapa where we cut off from the train. Al & Gustavo put 180 in the roundhouse and I went over to the Hotel Ferrocarril and got us a room for the night. $4.50 US that included the room, a 4 course dinner and hot breakfast the next morning. Nothing would ever equal that experience.

The best weekend I ever had was over Labor Day of 1971 when the Pacific Locomotive Assn. crewed the Sugar Pine Ry. near Sonora, CA to run 3 days for the public with Pickering Lbr. 80-3 Shay 7, some passenger flats and a wooden caboose. Karl Koenig was engineer, Pete Rogers was fireman, Joe Ward, the conductor and Chris Collins was rear brakeman. I was the head end brakeman, but fired one trip, ran another, braked and best of all, hostled at night at Lyons Dam where we tied up. The last day, there was some switching to do and this we did quietly around 1AM without whistle or bell as courtesy to the sleeping campers there. All this on my favorite railroad.


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 Post subject: Re: Steam Stories
PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 2:18 pm 

Joined: Sun Sep 05, 2004 9:48 am
Posts: 399
Location: Byers, Colorado
Boys, it looks like this is one hot topic...

If and when RyPN takes a new direction (or doubles back on the old one), Tom's stories would be perfect candidates for longer write-ups, supported by his excellent fotos. Many others have or could contribute as well, but see preceding paragraph.

So I nominate FRANK BARRY as the best storyteller/photographer/linguist/folkloricist of the Mexican and Central American steam scene to have his works partially published in magazines. He has written up a much more complete version of his Mexican steam experiences, BUT CANNOT FIND A PUBLISHER. Only a dozen or so of his friends are willing to pay for an on demand type special book to be printed.

The old heads I knew and worked with, (BN, C&S, FEGUA) who told me their best stories, ALL complained that pretty much nobody listened to them. They took most of it with them to their graves.

If you want some good RR stories, try the old editions of Railroad Magazine, published pre Carstens, and edited by Freeman Hubbard. Those guys could really BS.

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Sammy KIng


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 Post subject: Re: Steam Stories
PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 3:20 pm 

Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2014 5:05 pm
Posts: 417
I was invited to fire on Pete Replinger's Alco 2-8-2T on Simpson's logging railroad out of Shelton, WA. An outfit had spent a week filming the road and we were going to take a string of log cars and a caboose out for the filming.

After we had steam up we went into the mill to pick up our cars. On the way out of town we dropped a driver on the ground at a bad switch. With the use of scrap wood and rocks we walked it back on the rail at the frog. After that it was smooth railing. The camera was up on an overpass to shoot us as we passed. The first run was perfect except they wanted more smoke. I smoked it up for the next run but it still wasn't enough. After the third run we couldn't even see the bridge for the black cloud. They didn't ask for another run.

We loaded up the camera crew and headed about five miles out of town to a great photo spot. After several runs everybody got on and we headed back to town. We returned the cars and caboose and tucked the loco into the roundhouse. It was a great day!


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 Post subject: Re: Steam Stories
PostPosted: Wed Mar 01, 2017 3:44 pm 

Joined: Sat Aug 21, 2004 10:52 pm
Posts: 829
Hi,

My short story is based upon a background of my Mom having been raised in Harrisburg PA with 13 members of her family hiring onto the PRR from about 1920 through to the end and the last retiring from successors about 1985. Mom (1930-2012) rode the first GG1 passenger train from Harrisburg to Philly.

Dad met Mom in Hershey, PA in about 1948/9 at a dance.

Dad got transferred to Saint Louis, MO in spring 1955 and I was born there in 1955.

Dad got transferred again to Jackson, MS in 1956. where I had my first birthday and started 1st grade in 1961.

Mom saw an article in the Jackson, MS newspaper about what she and dad called the Fulton and Amory railroad. The Mississippian Railroad interchanged with the Frisco and ran between Fulton and Amory. They ran two ex-Frisco 2-8-0s in freight service and had no passenger service.

Just before moving to Atlanta, GA in October 1961 (where I had my 6th birthday), Mom decided I needed to see steam railroading. They took me out of school for the day and we drove up to Amory. We found the yard and one of the 2-8-0s was paused in its work. Dad asked about letting me get up into the cab. Dad and I got to ride a few feet back and forth in the cab in the yard. We watch them switch local industries and then ate lunch. Mom got us to drive to the north side of town to a Mississippian crossing and we waited in the car until the train came.

Surprise! Surprise! It stopped before the crossing and they asked if I'd like to ride to the end. Mom told me it was the only thing I ever did before high school that I did not ask permission for first. I rode the cab of 76 or 77 (I have the locomotive on Super 8 movie film only) for some 35-odd miles. It was my first train ride ever (full sized or amusement park).

Once Mom and Dad met the crew and I at Fulton, we headed back south to Jackson.

During my last spring vacation before graduating from Georgia Tech (1980), I drove over to Fulton. All the intense memories from 1961 that never made sense became crystal clear when I saw the yard and industrial spurs.

Doug vV


Last edited by Dougvv on Tue Mar 07, 2017 5:46 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Steam Stories
PostPosted: Fri Mar 03, 2017 9:29 am 

Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2011 11:23 am
Posts: 171
Location: Sheboygan County, Wisconsin
Doug, that trip that your mother helped out on was certainly the trip of a lifetime. And on a former Frisco locomotive too. Even I knew about that line when I was a teenager and living out West as it was mentioned in Railroad Magazine frequently as one of the last steam holdouts. Good for you.

John, that time that you had with Pete on the 16 must have been really something. I never did catch any of those operations at Simpson, just the diesels.

It should be noted that we were living in a much different time then with a somewhat different work force. Many times, if you showed interest in what a rail did for a living, they would go out of their way to accommodate peoples interest. Rules were also a bit more lax then too. I think that there is a lot more stories out there that could be added of similar instances like those mentioned already.

There's a parallel here with aviation. When I was a kid, I used to go airport hopping. While I can't come up with a percentage, a number of those visits resulted in rides, one in a Cessna 210 cross country from Palo Alto, CA to Redding and back. More recently, I hung around the little airport at Sonoma for months keeping Chris Prevost company while he rebuilt a Curtiss P-40N. He gave me one of the first rides in it and let my fly it from the rear seat. There are still good people out there.

I don't think that I hardly ever really turned down any offers to ride, run or fire when I was younger. It was all a lark back then. I did pass up a chance to run one of the Brazilian VFCO 2-8-0s in 1977, but only because I had no idea how the brake valve worked and I never regretted the decision. I'd have been in way over my head when we got to the top of the hill. The engineer was Emidid Girola who was known to a number of fans and he had an assigned engine, the #68.


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 Post subject: Re: Steam Stories
PostPosted: Fri Mar 03, 2017 3:55 pm 

Joined: Sun Sep 05, 2004 9:48 am
Posts: 399
Location: Byers, Colorado
Unfortunately, things have tightened up so much after 911 that even retirees need special permission to be on the property. That's a big part of it...

Thanks Doug and John.

COME ON. All you fellas have stories to tell, even if you've never been published, or nobody has ever heard of you. And it doesn't have to be steam to be interesting. I never have written up anything about the time one of our hostlers dumped a U-36C in the turntable pit. (I'll give you a hint, the brake handle fell out.)

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Sammy KIng


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 Post subject: Re: Steam Stories
PostPosted: Sun Mar 05, 2017 11:37 am 

Joined: Thu May 24, 2012 1:37 pm
Posts: 783
Here is the direct link to the PDF of Sammy King's "There Is No Plan B"

http://www.rrdc.com/article_2001_gua_steam_no_plan_b_King.pdf

Note that RRDC sold the Guatemala operations in early 2013, so there may be a time limit on how long they maintain the page that contains this link 'in being'.

"The Story of Two Wayward Tenders" is on the same links page, which is

http://www.rrdc.com/op_guatemala_fvg.html#links

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 Post subject: Re: Steam Stories
PostPosted: Sun Mar 05, 2017 2:34 pm 

Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2004 7:57 am
Posts: 2345
Location: Faulkland, Delaware
In 2004 I was with two amazing friends in Reshui, China at Jing Peng Pass in the part of China known as Inner Mongolia. We walked up to a freight that was lined up to leave the yard and greeted the crew with our few Chinese words. We then pointed to the cab and got a quick nod. We were on our way within minutes in the second of a double header of the famous QU locomotives on the point and about 70 cars back behind us. As we tore down the line I got a taste of railroading as never before in my life. A real mainline freight with two steam engines being fed coal on a cool crisp April morning.

Soon I tapped the driver on the shoulder and pointed to myself and then the controls. He shook his head side to side giving me a no and then motioning the cutting of his throat. As he was doing this I was pulling out a 100 YUAN note and upon seeing the money he jumped out of the seat, took my money, shoved me into the drivers seat, and put his cap on my head. Alan, Don, and I all took turns driving the engine for the rest of the run. We took the siding and passed the trains and ducked down and hid when passing places where officials worked.

We went over the top of the mountain and rolled down the other side where we got off at a passing track. We started walking down the road and soon found a ride back to our hotel. There is nothing like real working steam. In the subsequent years I returned to China 4 more times and also caught the twilight of steam in Paraguay, Botswana, and Zimbabwe. More on those adventures another time.

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If you can't fix it with a hammer, you've got an electrical problem.


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 Post subject: Re: Steam Stories
PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 12:18 am 

Joined: Tue May 21, 2013 3:20 pm
Posts: 65
Location: Vancouver Island
In Feb. 1993 I made a solo trip to Northern China. A friend of mine had gone on one of the big money photographic tours a couple of months earlier, so as best I could I just copied their itinerary on my own. In the town of Hunjiang I was looking around the yard and went over to have a look at a JS Mikado (JS8232 built 1987) which was sitting in steam all by itself at the far end of the yard. I was taking a pretty close look at it, checking out all the mechanical details, all of a sudden the engines four man crew emerged from a little shack I hadn't even noticed. They were pretty surprised to find me poking around their loco, I pulled out some cards I had made up at the library using an English to Mandarin dictionary describing some photos of the locomotives I worked on in Canada. They turned out to be incredibly friendly and interested in the photos. They quickly waved me up into the cab, and took down all the laundry they had drying in the cab. The driver then waved me over into the left hand seat and they all started making sign language GO! signs. So I started moving forward cautiously thinking I would just be taking it for a little spin up the siding, then there were more GO! GO! FASTER, FASTER! signs, so I took it up to about 20mph. Of course I was a bit nervous of this as I had no idea where we were supposed to be going. It soon became clear that we were leaving the yard on a spur line I had walked earlier in the day leading a few miles across town to a power plant and 2 foot gauge line. This line would soon cross the main street in town so I started giving a full on two longs, a short, and a long using the floor pedal that operated the whistle. The looks from some of the people waiting at the crossing barrier were hilarious, obviously they were not used to seeing a "gwai lo" (ghost person) running a locomotive. Lots of laughing and smiles in the cab. The road then climbed a bit and started out on a long bridge across a river, so I got to enjoy a little burst of power up the hill and speed across the bridge. We then entered another yard, and following the drivers signs, coupled up to a short string of coal hoppers, and started shuttling these around the yard even getting the odd little slip out of it. Of course as much as I was enjoying this I was getting pretty nervous as I was not at all familiar with their hand and flag signals, and so was going at a pretty slow, safe pace. This wasn't the way they were used to doing it so I soon got kicked out of the seat and they finished their chores at about five times the speed! They then let me run it back across town to the first yard pulling about ten loaded hoppers, we then retired back to their shack for some green tea and many thanks on my part. A couple of days later I was lurking around the yard in Harbin having found a way around the crabby guards at the gate. Some signal men invited me into a signal cabin near the roundhouse to warm up a bit. Again these turned out to be incredibly friendly guys, as it was lunchtime they ordered up an extra lunch for me from their commissary, and someone went and got a few big bottles of Tsingtao beer. So we spent a great afternoon BS'ing in sign language, eating silk worms, and getting drunk (fortunately the signal cabin didn't actually seem to do anything) while QJ's drifted past the window coming into and out of the shops. At quitting time they took me through the shops, but unfortunately my memories were getting a bit hazy by that time. I do however remember seeing what must have been a classroom for steam loco crewmen, with all sorts of diagrams on the walls and fascinating model teaching aids of engine parts. The looks on the faces of those same guards on the gate as I walked out drunk with the signalmen was priceless.
Pat Hosford


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 Post subject: Re: Steam Stories
PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 5:37 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 5:55 pm
Posts: 643
Location: Warren, PA
I can't even begin to match the quality of nearly everybody else that would post here, but I do have a favorite that lingers....

'Several' (Many?) years ago when Steam Railroading Institute was still Project 1225, they did 'engineer for an hour' and 'fireman for an hour' turns on 1225. First year that was announced it made my bucket list goal, second year I actually made it out to Owosso. Signed up for both, made the trip. I've been in small steam, lots of cabrides, but nothing ever quite like this. Went through the classes, and stepped up into the cab the second day about as green as any student fireman ever was.

So that means, among other things, that you pay absolute attention, and follow instructions. You don't question, you just do. And quickly. After the first light move down the track to the crossing, the fear subsided somewhat, got the hang of the somewhat balky injector handle on the firemans side (no feedwater heater for moving this slow), watching the glass and pressure gauge, and learning to attempt to hit the top corners on the football-field sized firebox that the stoker couldn't reach. That stoker was downright tricky to operate as well as the injector. Actually, everything was, in todays age of ergonometric design, right back to 'you better know which valve is which or the last thing you'll ever see is me running away'!

My friend and mentor Aarne Frobom came along, both to watch and apparently harass me gently about my performance as a green fireman. We finally got back to Owosso after about three passes - and I'd stuck in the cab for a second firing hour for a no-show. So by this time I'm actually feeling pretty confident. Pressure is where I want it, glass is full, stack is nice and clean. Ah, but I'm not done yet. My instructor fired off instructions....'give me a three-count on the stoker...back off the draft.... give me shovels in both top corners....cut the blower..... (huh??...well, OK...). 'now.... lean out of the cab and smile. (HUH??) I SAID, 'lean out of the cab and smile!

Only then did I realize I'd been set up, as I lean out of the cab under a pall of smoke wafting over Owosso that would have concealed an entire North Sea Convoy in WWII from submarine attack. And there's Aarne, with the camera, documenting me looking up at my handiwork.

Gotcha. Have a nice day!


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 Post subject: Re: Steam Stories
PostPosted: Tue Mar 07, 2017 6:08 pm 

Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2011 11:23 am
Posts: 171
Location: Sheboygan County, Wisconsin
Thanks, the last 3 were especially good reading. Appreciate all of the detail on China.

Regarding the 1225 trip, it sure pays to have a sense of humor. What else could you do but laugh it off.


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 Post subject: Re: Steam Stories
PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2017 1:23 am 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 10:49 am
Posts: 622
I have several good ones I can tell, but I'll start with this one....

The week before Christmas 2009 and I was firing SP 786 on a night run to Burnet from Cedar Park. We had fourteen cars and around 700 passengers on board. Getting to Burnet was easy, the engine steamed well and there weren't any problems. The problem came when we were getting ready to leave and the thought dawned on the train crew that:

a. This was the biggest train we had ever run;

b. THIS IS THE BIGGEST TRAIN WE HAD EVER RUN!!!!!

c. Are we going to be able to get the hell out of here?

That was the question, as once we shoved out onto the main line, we had four miles of two percent grade facing us, and we started out on a one percent at the west switch.The main there had a 10 MPH speed limit on it, which increased once we got into the teeth of the grade...no chance to make a run for it. To add to the drama, there were no helper locomotives available. We were on our own. Serious thought was given to "doubling" the hill, but the engineer and I said we could make it. About the time we talked the conductor into it, it began to sleet. Hard.

Climbing back in the cab, I had my fire right, my water where I wanted it, and the pops feathering. We shoved out onto the main in a full blown sleet storm. With the mainline switch lined, the brakeman on board, my engineer looked over at me and said, "Are you ready for this?" I told him " Too late to back out now, you'll hurt her feelings", I said as I patted the firing valve.

With a couple of quarter slips, we were on the move, slowly gaining whatever speed we could. The exhaust was deafening as he bit into the two percent. The throttle was wide open, I had the pump open a turn or so, and the firing valve was about three quarters. The 786 was giving everything she had, and we actually gained speed climbing the hill. Pressure was dead on 200 pounds, and as we blasted into a long left handed curve, I looked back to see all that varnish we were lifting up the hill.

We had one real trouble spot left. About halfway up, there is a crossing, then a relatively sharp right hand curve, which had been equipped with a flange oiler. It was a place where 786 would habitually slip with lighter trains. One good slip there and that might end our little adventure. As my engineer blew for the crossing, he had his hand on the throttle, just in case. As the 786 heeled into the curve, it happened...the old girl broke loose and sounded like she was making a good 60 before he shut 'er off so she could catch her feet. Then...she slipped again... Those slips cost us dearly in momentum, as our pace slackened considerably. Once we got the engine out of the curve, the slipping had stopped...we were now down to about 8MPH and we were in a full blown cage match to the summit.

The engine settled down right there, lugging it out until we made it past the best landmark ever...a tree which marked if you were still moving, you were going to make it. The 786 was not going to be defeated this day. We made it to the top of the grade, and as we stomped past the Summit station sign, the conductor keyed his mike from his handset...and we could hear cheering from wherever in the train he was. Then he said "Thought you would like to know. Conductor out."


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 Post subject: Re: Steam Stories
PostPosted: Thu Mar 09, 2017 7:31 am 

Joined: Sat Aug 21, 2004 10:52 pm
Posts: 829
Hi,

A real shorty.

My first (and only) ride on the Denver & Rio Grande Western was in 1972. We left Durango on time on the second train. Beautiful Day. On the way from Hermosa to Tacoma (I do not recall exactly where), a storm came in. It rained the rest of the way to Silverton and back.

We were beyond Tacoma when 478 hit a section of steeper grade. With nine cars and wet rails she slipped. To quote Highballer
Quote:
sounded like she was making a good 60
. She stopped and tried to restart. No luck - just the slipping locomotive. This repeated a couple of times.

During this period, one of the passengers asked something like 'Why don't they run it fast like that all the time?' Since the fellow was sitting across the isle from me (I was about 16 at the time), I was trying to be helpful and said, when the fast beats were occurring, the locomotive drivers were slipping on the rails and had no traction. His response was something like 'Well, they are a cheapskate railroad for not assigning enough locomotives for the run."

I then kept my own consul - he was one who wanted to complain no matter what - he knew better.

We ended up doubling the hill to Elk Park if I recall correctly.

Doug vV


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