A conversation around the club the other day, got
me thinking about the best runs I have ever had in Live
Steam. This is not intended as an information page, but
rather as a stimulus to get you thinking about YOUR best
runs. The track layout at Cedars may have changed since a
number of these took place, but I will make reference to the
distances involved where necessary.
10: 1982: I pulled into the
station, low on water (this was normal when #18 was a
tank engine - it held enough for 3 trips around the short
loop) and had to run light to the yards. I looked
up and, waiting for a ride, was Maurice "Le Mad
Dog" Vachon, a professional wrestler from the 1960s
and '70s. He lived just down the road from the
track, in Coteau. I stood up and asked him if he
would like to take the engine over to the yards - about
900 feet. He declined. I said "You were my
hero as a kid. Now, sit down, shut up and run the
engine!" He did, and we had a great visit
during the servicing.
9: 2000: Jim Leggett's
Mogul: Early evening at the International Meet, I
was keeping Jimbo's Mogul hot for some later night-time
insanity, and I had the track to myself, except - as I
came around each reverse loop, I was entering a cloud of
smoke from somewhere. I felt there was some other
engine out here, but I couldn't see it. As it turns
out, the night was so calm that I was running under my
8: 1989: A brand-new diesel
was on our track, with three matching coaches, each
holding four people, and he was running right in front of
me. I had eight people aboard when I set out.
When I got to the gate, the lowest part of our line, I
found that the diesel had blown the gasoline engine, and
was sitting, dead. I touched his rear coupler,
pulled out on the throttle, and the whole works - 20
people, 1 dead locomotive - started to roll.
Leaning on the cab to get some more adhesive weight, I
pushed the whole train 1600 feet back to the
station. The stack was LOUD
and I never did stop shovelling coal!
7: 1983: I had a girlfriend
who was very shy about meeting Mom & Dad, but she
wanted to see what the Track was all about. I
picked her up on a weekday morning - she was wearing a
pair of fluorescent pink jeans, a white T-shirt, and a
canary yellow windbreaker. We were out there by
10:00. I got the engine hot, and she did all the
running, all day. She had "The Touch" to
get the best performance out of that engine, as we hauled
more and more buckets of gravel. By 7:00 p.m., she
was dressed in one colour, head-to-toe, and wearing a
Polaroid shot of a brand-new locomotive.
6: tie: June 6, 1981: First
run of #18. It was a grey day, the engine ran like
a pig, we couldn't keep steam in it, but the first run of
an engine will always stand out in your mind.
September 1973: George Lovett runs
alongside the Highline as a nine-year-old kid (me) pulls
his very first throttle on a Live Steamer: George's Tich.
October 1976: Harry Turnbull sits
behind me on the tender of his 7-1/4" Tenwheeler as
I do all the throttle, firing, and running to
haul gravel on a workday.
5: International Meet 1989:
Again, early evening: I had coaled and watered in
the yards, and was heading out for the Main Line.
Mike Fields was on the Service Lead with the original
Stourbridge Lion, and he asked me if I could leave the
switch open for him to access the Main. As there
were no other trains on the track, I agreed. I
knocked off lap after lap of the 2200-foot oval, always
looking across the infield to see Mike directly opposite
me. Eight, ten, eleven - on the 12th lap, I opened
the switch to come into the yards through the Gravel Pit,
and Mike hollered across the road to leave that switch
open because he was coming off, too. I tucked into
the yard and cleared the switch for him to access the
turntable, and, after he had passed, I followed him
up. He got off and pushed his engine the last 50 or
so feet. I expressed my distress: "Mike
Field engines never need a push - my image is
shattered. What happened?" His
reply: "Oh, I got the throttle stuck about
eight laps ago, but you were staying out of my way, so I
kept going. When I saw you coming off, I stopped
firing, and that's where it ran out of
steam..." Image restored!!
Jimbo keeps his toes clenched so the toenails don't fall off.
4: Winter Runs:
Done this three times, and it keeps getting better and
better. You don't do much running, and it is
uncomfortable as your fingers turn blue and toes go
gangrene, but the kidding around, along with the great
condensation effects, make for a great day.
ten feet out, when I realise I am 60 lbs too heavy.
3: Efficiency Trials: Again,
you only get a half-hour run for the entire day.
But could you explain to me how I can knock off 12 laps
nonstop (#5) in 90 minutes, but I cannot get an engine to
run for 30 minutes when they weigh the coal? Top that off
with my turn to run alongside a nine-year-old
Elizabeth Leggett as coach for her first ever run at the
2000 trials, (see #6, above) and you see the basis for a
"Top 10" run.
My brother, Roy, does some night running.
He couldn't see a thing after the photo flash
2: 1998: Midnight Triple Header at
ALS: Jim Leggett's Mogul, our Mogul, and Ken
Power's Ten-Wheeler hooked onto a rake of 11 cars at
Adirondack Live Steamers at dusk. This club has a
mile of track snaking through some thick forest just
North of Albany, NY, and, come 8 p.m., they bring in
truckloads of dark and it flows through the trees
like molasses. Jim Leggett had handed his engine
over to Denis Tremblay, our Club President, then taken a
seat towards the back of the train. Ken Power (VP)
was riding as rear brakeman, with his nephew François
throttling the Ten-Wheeler. We had a derailment in the
deepest, swampiest part of the woods, just after a
tunnel. Next to the track were some
glow-in-the-dark mushrooms, and when you can see those,
you know it's dark. We heard an "All
Aboard!" from the back of the train, another called
from the front, so we whistled off in turn and pulled the
throttles. Running steam at night - particularly
with a heavy train, is an absolute sensory experience -
the roar of the stack; the pulsing flash of the ashpan on
the ground under the cab; the Roman Candle effects of
embers up the stack and thirty feet into the air (watch
them hit the overhanging branches and careen off
sideways); the blinding light and searing heat of opening
the firebox door. It is almost erotic. We
pulled into the station and stopped, when Jim came
running up from the caboose end of the train:
"You left your Vice-President in the woods back
there." ?!? "Ken got off to flag
the rear of the train, and you guys left without
him." !?! "I turned around to ask
him a question, and all I could see was his tiny
flashlight fading off into the distance." We
didn't see Ken come into the station on the following
diesel, because all three engineers were doubled over
with laughter. The more ticked off Ken got about
the whole situation, the funnier it became.
1: My next run. There is no
way I can believe that I have had the best run ever, so I
must go back to the tracks again, and again...