Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sumpter Valley Railroad's Newest Engineer!!! ME!!!!!

This was the first run of the year for the Sumpter Valley Railroad's 1915 Heisler geared wood-fired steam engine, probably the only one left running in the world!!!  It was a chartered run for thirty of the local townsfolk ... it just happened that Dan received an email the morning before saying we could join in for a measly $14.00 each.  After spending the night in their huge parking lot, we headed to the station at McEwen.

 Here she is ... a real beauty!!!  After filling the tank with water and the tinder box with wood ... REAL wood ... we climbed aboard for a cinder-filled ride in an open car.  They had two enclosed passenger cars, but we chose to ride outside!!
She was built for the W. H. Eccles Lumber Company and used in this area for many years.  This entire 6 mile railroad line is run by volunteers.  They get some grant money for restoration of cars, but the actual operations are all voluntary man hours.  They need every passenger they can get to stay in business ... so PLEASE come ride this beauty, and maybe make a donation so they can keep going!!!
I LOVE the deer horns on the front!!
 Ready to roll ...

 Just before we reached Sumpter, the train robbers showed up.  Actually we knew they were coming ... they parked in the same parking lot!!!  Wow!!  There were about 15 of them!!  A couple of Sheriff Deputies on the train tried to shoot back (scaring the heck out of the horses), but to no avail.

 Uh ... someone needs to tell them to pull the handkerchief up to cover their faces!!
 They got the Wells Fargo box and all the gold!!!  Divided between 15 of them won't amount to much ... hope they don't quit their day jobs!!!
The Brakeman, a young guy of about 30 something, said this robbery would bring Sumpter a little closer to receivership!!   He was very knowledgable about everything on this train ... seems he's been working here since he was 12 years old!!!
Once in Sumpter, we headed down the hill to the Gold Dredge.  This country is covered with rock piles left by this behemoth.  The huge buckets to the right, scraped up the sand and gravel, transferring it to the trommel that screened the material.  The fines were then sent through a sluice box and the collected sand and gold processed.    With the high water table in this valley, it floated on the pond it created as it moved, digging ahead and depositing the tailings behind.
 I'm pretty sure everyone who worked here, must have been deaf.  I can't imagine how noisy all this machinery must have been when running.
 Cable system to lower and raise the diggers.
The trommel was belt driven by these huge gears!!
Four whistle blows signaled it was time to leave.  Standing on the platform, I heard the Brakeman say "Jeremy, you can ride in the cab".  I said "OH ... thank you!!!  I would LOVE to ride in the cab!!"  To my shock and amazement, he said "sure ... climb on in!"  In two seconds I was up the ladder and parked in a corner.  Here's Jim, the Engineer ... he gave me instruction on braking ... how it worked, what lever to pull and how to watch the gauges for brake pressure ... and why we didn't have any brakes because they were giving them problems right now!!!  UH OH ... maybe I don't want to be here after all!!!  
We talked the entire way, me learning all I could about how to run this baby.  The Fireman, Brett, explained about adding water to the boiler and keeping the pressure at a constant rate to provide the steam to keep her rolling, all the while adding wood to the firebox.  
 The pressure gauge up close ...  we kept an eye on this the entire trip.
 We checked the water level, tweaked a couple of valves ....
and added more wood!!!!  Sitting up here, you can really feel the power.  Getting up a little speed downhill felt a little free wheeling out of control, until we applied the brakes, which were sort of working!!  
 Leaning out the Fireman's window, I caught Dan taking a picture of me taking a picture of him!!!
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end as we pulled into the McEwen station ... I got a big hug from Brett and a bigger hug from Jim.   I climbed down the ladder, jumping up and down with excitement!!!  I'll remember this once in a lifetime cab ride forever!!  

I'm sorry Dan ... I know you would have liked to be in my place.  I'm pretty sure it was the blond Nancy, sweet smile, eyelash batting, hip swivel that got me up there!!!  

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