August 06, 2002
I thought that maybe we could take a trip up the hill at Wabash, Indiana. The engine will be the 3115. I always thought it was the best of the L-4s that I fired.
The train is # 74 the northbound daily freight. On the NYC regular trains did not use engine numbers. The meet order simply said, # 74 meet # 75 at Wabash. # 75 arrives at Wabash after our train is together on the main.
You will have to use your imagination and smell steam loaded with moisture, the smell of steam with valve oil and the smell of smoke carried by the wind. In the background the slow thump, thump of an air pump working. We return from eating, the engine crew going to the engine and the train crew to the depot. Climbing on the engine I blow out the water glasses and start the fire burning from a bank of coal in front of the fire door. The engineer climbs aboard and blows the silt from the mudd ring. By blowing out the silt that has settled to the bottom it will keep the water from foaming and being pulled over into the super heater and into the cylinders. He turns on the bell and with the cylinder cocks open, slowly moves to the depot. Picking up the head brakeman we pick up the head end cars and double them to our train on the main. The yard engine doubles the Elkhart cars to the rear end and will be a helper over the hill.
The train is now together and the yard engine has the slack shoved in. I have a 1/2 glass of water put in the boiler by the Worthington feed water pump. The fire is in good shape with 245 lbs. of steam on the gauge. The HT stoker jets are making their noise at 45 lbs. pressure, the engineer looks at me, I nod back and he knows I am ready. Gabe, the engineer, whistles off, pulls the throttle out gently and with the helper shoving we start moving. The hill elevation runs from 1 1/4% to 2 %. The 3115 is rated at 1800 tons and the 2-8-2 Mike is rated the same. Our tonnage is 3600 tons and means the engines will be working all out.
Gabe opens the throttle past the half way mark, cranks the reverse out of the corner two turns laying down sand all the while. After the train has gone about 10 car lengths I turn on the water pump, open the fire door to check the heel of coal at the rear. The blast of heat from the fire makes the skin on your face draw as if it were ready to burn, the draft pulling on your bib overalls. The hard working of the engine makes the draft at the rear tremendous. Closing the jets and rolling in more heel, then turning off the stoker, I close the fire door and start firing normally. I will probably replace the heel two or three times in the next 3 miles to the top of the hill. As I sit down Gabe is standing up pulling the throttle almost wide open, again hooking up the reverse.
We have gone about 25 car lengths going into a right curve and the start of the 2% grade. Gabe is playing with the reverse fine-tuning to the traction that he feels coming through frame and body of the engine. Suddenly, the engine slips, Gabe grabs the throttle and closes it about two thirds, the engine quits slipping. Gabe gets the throttle out again and she holds the rail. Gabe plays the reverse just like walking a high wire. The stack noise is like a crack at every exhaust. The steam pressure is sitting on 248 lbs. just below the pops, a look at the pyrometer and it's setting on 625 degrees and that tells me the fire and the 1/2 glass of water is just right. The pyrometer tells the steam temperature after it comes out of the superheater. At a speed of 13-14 mph, the top of the hill is soon reached and the helper cuts off and we are on our own.
Our next stop is Bolivar and the Erie Railroad. We set off 9 loads for them. We couple onto the train pull down 2 miles to North Manchester and take water. We have only gone 15 miles from Wabash and now have 7 more miles of 3/4% to 2% grade and still have 2900 tons. The 2% is half way up the hill but is only 25 cars lengths long and will work the engine to the max. This is why we took water, if we laid down on the hill and had to double to Silver Lake or Claypool, we could run short of water. From North Manchester to the Warsaw water pug is a distance of 20 miles and by doubling and picking up at Claypool we probably would have to cut and run for water. If everything goes well after setting off 15-20 cars of coal at Claypool we have it made.
I will stop here, but it was All in a Days Work
Maurice worked the Michigan Division from 1947-1981. He then worked on the Bee Line from 1981-1992. From 1947 until august 1950, he worked on the section at Shirley and Markleville. In 1950 he started firing on steam and then on through the diesels. Maurice said, "I had the pleasure of working with C. C. Staley and Ron Buser many times."