Friday, April 04, 2008

A hot engine and the Granite Rock No. 10

After working around a cold engine for nearly three years, I climbed into a hot locomotive this afternoon. I say hot because the crew had steamed the Granite Rock No. 10 at the California State Railroad Museum for opening day tomorrow. You could feel the heat radiating off the backhead even though the ambient temperature hovered in the mid-60s along the Sacramento River.

Listening to the sounds of the steaming saddle-tank engine (the 0-6-0ST was built by H.K. Porter in 1942) gave me a much needed shot in the arm. After working on a Shay engine that's several years away from its boiler tag, the morale boost helped me recharge my devotion to the project.

I took the short walk from Amtrak parking lot after work to the museum gift shot to look for a DVD on the Westside Lumber Co. As I turned the corner on to I Street, I caught a glimpse of the No. 10 disappear around the corner into the shops. I though I missed the engine and walked into the store.

It was the distinctive chug-chug of a rod engine that first alerted me to the presence of the locomotive. So, after leaving the gift shop empty handed, I walked toward the river and mainline of the Sacramento Southern.

The sound of steam shooting from the dynamo and mechanical action of the air compressor filled my ears as I walked past the Big Four Building. I turned the corner to find the crew pumping water into its two saddle tanks.

As I did at Roaring Camp in December 2005, I walked up to the crew and introduced myself. For the second time I leaned that the world of steam railroaders is small. Even this newcomer received a warm welcome.

The fireman graciously described the action of the valves and gauges on the backhead. Unlike my cab ride on the Dixiana at Roaring Camp, I was able to follow along as he showed my how to drain both sight glasses and blow the oil back into the oil tank by turning the blowback valve. Other valves, like the atomizer and blower on the firing manifold with the quadrant, keeps the fireman busy as the engine runs down the tracks.

I'm ready to head off to the museum in the morning and keep working. A few more shots in our collective arms and we'll soon have a hot Shay running up the old Southern Pacific grade from El Dorado to Missouri Flat Road.

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