Originally published on:
Nevada Northern Railway No. 40
Operating these machines was seat-of-the-pants. Whereas diesel-electric locomotives have throttles with limited settings, an engineer had to frequently adjust the levers that regulated the power of the steamers. They developed an ear and nose for their engines, frequently forsaking the distracting instrumentation in the rocking, dimly lit cabs for the scents and sounds of the working engine, head jutting out the window even in the most brutal weather. Inside the cab could be equally brutal, the backhead temperature reaching hundreds of degrees; a broken pipe or valve or rivet could flood the cab with scalding steam. A boiler explosion could heave parts of the engine weighing many tons thousands of feet. Most everything was heavy and bulky. Running a steam locomotive was a job for the rough and tough.
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