johnthefireman wrote:I agree with much of the above. I'd highlight a couple of the things which have already been said.
- It's as if they're alive. Every one is unique. You have to be in empathy with your locomotive, understand it, get to know its character and quirks.
- It's dirty. I spend too much of my time sitting behind a computer, so whenever I can I love to get my hands dirty on a steam loco. I'm a volunteer steam locomotive fireman in my spare time, and also spend a lot of time helping to restore and maintain steam locomotives.
Summed up? Visual Impact! If you must WORK with them...........well, can be a wee bit different story! When I was working in the early days, we had the steam excursion program and I was around the steamers somewhat often. People, of course, loved them--even the RR workers. But there was a "catch". Fun to watch, but an entirely different thing when a steam train was in the yards awaiting an excursion trip! We clerks were TRIPPING over people trying to do our usual jobs as crowds with cameras filled the passenger station. Some of the die-hard fans would try to come into the yard office or Freight House and we were constantly shoo'ing them out. "AAAAAAANK! You can't come in here!!!" The phones would almost jump off the hook with people wanting to know when the steam train was arriving, etc. One time people flooded the yard and offices so badly, the Superintendent shut down ALL operations IN PLACE for fear of someone getting hurt. He had to get the Railroad Detectives to run the people OUT of the yard area! They were milling about the Roundhouse trying to gawk and snap pics of the locomotive.
We had to guard everything and tie everything down to keep people from stealing stuff for souvenirs. Our yard activities slowed to a crawl, and we tended to get a bit grumpy over all the hoopla. Often we'd try to mark off sick or take vacation days to keep from fooling with the steam train, but usually the Terminal Agent would say, "NO!!!! Don't you even THINK about marking off sick while that thing is in town!!!!!"
OTH, the steamers were "interesting", and I actually deadheaded on some of them. I rode the cab several times. Why? Because I COULD!!!!! I rode into Charlotte, NC one evening with a couple fans looking longingly up at us easing down to a stop aboard ex C & O 2-8-4 2716. I thought as we stopped, I just bet I could have "sold" that ride to those fellas for $500!!!
They looked at US with such a look of longing. I snapped a picture of that engine that I still have on my wall at home.
Love 'em or hate 'em, they are/were interesting machines. I am glad that I was able to partake of that part of railroading as well. Standing out there and handing up orders to Sou 4501 made 1981 seem like 1941!