A good part of the maturing population remembers a time when nearly every town had its own depot. Train time was almost a community affair; families would greet the travelers or send them off with hugs and waves, kids would ride their bikes for blocks to see the train, old-timers would watch through faded eyes filled with remembrances. Freight agents and mail clerks worked quickly to offload the express shipments and pass the mail bags. With a few short toots of the whistle, the train would depart leaving the town to revert back to its tranquility as its marker lights disappeared into the horizon.
Today, the town depots are mostly gone as are the local passenger trains. Taking their place are trunk lines with mile-long trains of containers, highway trailers, mechanical refrigerators, tank cars, unitized hoppers. They don’t stop at every burg, but run from terminal to terminal. Every day, incredibly massive amounts of commodities move over the rails from coast to coast. Yes, they are less personal than their predecessor, but are just as vital to our way of life.
The sounds of a steam locomotive are unmistakable; the chuffs, the hisses, the whine of the turbo generator, the panting of the air compressors, and most memorable – the call of the steam whistle. Standing trackside as one of these iron beasts passes will forever burn into your mind the sights, sounds, and smells of a machine that a lot of people say seems to be alive. In a number of locations around the country, there are full-size working steam locomotives that will allow you to experience these sensations first-hand.
In the next issue of Live Steam & Outdoor Railroading, Jim DeVleeschouwer relates his adventures on a trip powered by not one, but two large steam locomotives. Today, a steam-powered train is unusual; a double-headed steam-powered train is rare. Jim’s photography is first-rate, so I’m certain you will enjoy his presentation. Don’t get the magazine? Visit http://www.livesteam.net to subscribe!
Want to Ride?
Around the country are scores of clubs, groups of individuals, who revel in the history of trains and the “call” of the rails. They can introduce you to the myriad workings of a railroad, in miniature of course; smaller than their full-sized brothers, but just as fascinating and complex. If you are an armchair railroader, join your local club and become part of the action. Check out our club listings at http://www.livesteam.net/clubs to locate an organization near you. Give them a call or write them an email. Let them know you’re interested. Every club has dozens of jobs needing the help of people with all kinds of physical capabilities. Let them know you’d like to find out more!
Already an Outdoor Railroader?
Good! We would like to hear about your adventures. Live Steam & Outdoor Railroading is always looking for articles about the hobby. Your fabrication techniques can be the subject of a how-to article, or your research into that old steam-powered mill in your town could be just the thing needed by others who are building miniature machinery. So, send in your articles! Write to firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll send you our author’s guide. It’ll be fun!