Monday, October 17, 2011

Riding The Rails

I'm sure a few of you out there, can remember the mournful sound of a steam locomotive whistle in the night. It wasn't until many years later that I learned that each engineer had his own signature sound with the whistle. I had always thought the whistle would make those mournful sounds on it's own, but it took a special touch with the whistle chain to do the job with finesse!
Then there was steam every where, when those old locomotives would start to move, and the "I Think I can, I think I can" cadence of the steam pistons as they fed power to the wheel's.
Seems a though I was always around trains. My mother's whole family had always worked for the Illinois Central railroad, so I got plenty of exposure to the railroad world. After high school, I worked for the I.C.R.R. for a short time, had to keep the tradition alive, or so I thought! By then steam locomotives were just about gone, and the diesel locomotives were being phased in. I can remember two engineers, one steam, the other diesel, almost coming to blows over which could out pull the other. The steam was more powerful, hands down over the diesel units of the time, just a lot dirtier to operate!
After riding "The Extra Board" for a long time (railroad lingo for work for free, until you learn the job,) I finally got a job as a fireman trainee on a diesel locomotive. Since there was no fire to feed on a diesel, the job was to watch a few gauges, and make sure the engineer was well coffee'ed up! The job soon got boring, even though the pay was great. So I broke tradition, and bid the railroad farwell!
Next, I thought I try a little 'Undertaking"....that job lasted 44 years. Still, everytime I see a locomotive I can still feel the vibration of the steel floor plates under my feet.

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