johnthefireman wrote:There's a video of a different locomotive departing from Magaliesburg with less wheel-slip at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J9HXayrnNGM" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
I was aboard (american) a Southern Railway excursion out of Charlotte, NC. We were loaded to the max, and pulling those old,heavy, green coaches.l it is up hill southbound out of Charlotte , and not a lot of room to get a train moving. In the old steam days, helpers were on permanent duty out of Charlotte Yard to shove the heavy freights out of the yard. The engineer was George, whom I was privileged to know and work with in my RR career. And George, having begun his career in 1944(ish) was one of the few remaining steam engineers in the mid-80's. ON this day, he received his signal for Extra 4501 South to proceed, and we eased slowly out of the station, chuffing softly, then harder and harder. We got up to about 25 MPH, and the exhaust was deafening! And we got slower and slower....................and slower. Until I heard the radio ask Mr Ambrose what his speed was.
In that familiar drawl, George said, "We're down to 8 MPH, but we're still moving, over". Clouds of steam and sand accompanied this show of defiance as old 4501 clawed its way towards Charlotte Junction outbound. At times, she started to slip, but George was right on top of it with sand and throttle, a sudden silence signaling George's quick action to stop the wheelspin, He just seemed to know...............But when it DID suddenly break lose, I can hear him now fussin' at the engine. I had heard him before, "AWRITE NOW! You cut that out!!!"
Or "AANK-AANK--Oh no you don't!!
And we didn't stall that day, either.
It is times like this when I can look back and realize I came along at a unique time, and one that won't come again. In those days, early 1980's, Southern Railway was just before the end of the Timetable and Train Order regimen. It was then that I came along. While "real" steam ended 30 years prior, we still had the excursions in the summer. At any given time, there could be one or more steam engines in the yard! This, coupled with the train orders, block operators, and our passenger train, pulled by E8's, gave it all an atmosphere of 1940! It was a regular occurrence to be working at an outlying station, and have a steam train (or two) on our District. And, to rush outside to "hand up" Form 19's to a big 4-8-4. They were handled exactly the same as any train. Sometimes they were "Extra's" (white flags), or flagged (green) as part of a following section of of a scheduled train. Not being a true railfan, this was mostly part of my work, tho, admittedly, I regarded it as different, and beat slaving in a cotton mill somewhere! But as I continued this career, tho rough it be at times, it dawned on me that I was participating, or looking back on an era that I wouldn't ordinarily have experienced! It was railroading as the rail buffs read about or imagine. It was steam engines (yeah, slipping, and all), Being the Call Clerk, going to the dormitory to call the crew for Train 138, hauling supplies out to NW 611, doing the Cab Supply job (when we still had cabooses), deadheading in the cab of those beautiful, green E8's, or riding in the fireman's jump seat on a 4-8-4, melodious whistle screaming right in my ear! And standing out trackside on a cold, January night, with a hoop in hand, waiting for a heavy freight with High & Wide orders!
And one day, it was all over. The 30 years became 15, then 10, then 5, and I was on the top of the seniority list. Then it was over! The railroad that I cussed and "hated", suddenly was a missed friend instead of a screaming Trainmaster I wanted to slap the snot out of! And I get to sit and reflect on what was a tough
job, but an exciting time, too! And those steam locomotives kinda added to it all. I guess I was lucky after all!