Facebook Page
The Joys (!) of Live Steam

What is the joy in this Hobby?  First of all, let me say that I am glad this IS only a Hobby, because you couldn't pay me enough to work this hard.  I never wake up at three o'clock in the morning to solve some wiring problem at work, but I often sketch out bits and pieces of Live Steam equipment at that hour.  I also never dream about the video equipment I work with 40 hours a week, (unless you count nightmares,) but I often dream about Live Steam.

There is great joy in the running of the engine, but it is far from the be-all and end-all of the Hobby. It is the visible part of the game, and most people see that it is a great escape, which it is. You are Grand Master of the railroad - in addition to firing, blowing the whistle and pulling the throttle, you get to say where the train stops and how far it runs. You are doing the jobs of the entire crew, from engineer to engine wiper, from conductor to ticket-taker.

And what is wrong with that? Absolutely nothing. By the end of the day, I have a big smile on my sooty face, (a true Live Steamer is someone who can wash his face with GoJo...) the engine is covered in grime (to be taken off with an old rag and some WD40,) I have some good memories and hopefully some good pictures, and I have learned something else about my firing technique. Sometimes the day doesn't go so well, and I try to figure out what is wrong. Sometimes the day goes just right, and I still try to figure out what I am doing right. Still, there is something more to this Hobby...

Throttle time is time spent alone, for the most part. Sure, you have the passengers - "If it's a steam engine, why does it need water?" "How much does it cost?" And the perennial favourite: "How fast does it go?" If I had a nickel for every time I have answered that one...I'd buy another engine. (Or two...) If you want to relate to other Model Engineers, you have to do several things. You have to convince some other fool to double-head with you. (This usually turns into a contest of who has more guts to ride out the sharp curves at some devilish speed...) You can step off the engine, pass it to someone else, and pull up a coffeePepsi Sleeman Steam, and shoot the breeze.

Or you can go out and lay track with the gang. This is the real time of comraderie between the guys, as we plan out and execute our dreams (and each other, with running wit and dry humour) and it is here on the work crews that we really get to know our colleagues. We get to know who likes to run what type of engine, how fast and over what terrain. We see each other's dreams. When we have the engines there, we "run what we brung."

Some of the guys are happy to ride their trains around in a circle. Others want to ride around a BIG circle. Still others realise that, if that circle contains bridges, and trees, and buildings, then it doesn't feel like that HO train you had as a kid, going 'round and 'round and 'round on a piece of plywood. Within this, some of us want to preserve where we have been individually, as a Club, and as a Hobby. We want to have interesting things to see and do as we run our engines. Beyond that, we want to joke around with our buddies who are working alongside us today, and running alongside us tomorrow, for hopefully they are as enthusiastic as we are about this hobby... no, obsession would be more the term.

gkm 2002