I had been preparing for this trip for a while. Certain clothing—leather work gloves, boots, etc.—was required, and some other items seemed necessary to fully participate in the experience. I collected my outfit for the day over a couple of weeks, and I replaced my old engineer’s cap only the day before I arrived on the EBT property.
|The Engineer for an Hour at the Orbisonia, Pa., station (manipulated photo; click for larger image)|
I was directed to the roundhouse, where Mikado No. 15 (BLW #41,196, 1914) was being fired, oiled, and inspected for the 11 AM trip. My briefing consisted of a quick trip to the cab, where I was shown the Johnson bar (i.e., reversing lever), throttle, and valves for the train brake and engine brake. Apparently, it was assumed that anyone who had signed up to be Engineer for an Hour already knew something about locomotives. There were no safety instructions.
|Engineer’s side of the cab. My briefing was here in the roundhouse. A work light provide illumination.|
|No. 15 being readied in the roundhouse.|
Soon enough, the train was on its way to the station, where a handful of passengers were waiting to board.
|Train approaching the station for the 11 AM run.|
|No. 15 nearly ready for departure.|
The cab arrangement made it difficult to observe the engineer, however. To watch him, I had to stand on the narrow cab apron and grasp the handholds for dear life. It would have been easy to step off the apron and into the abyss. (In the picture above, the engineer can be seen in the cab window, and the fireman has one foot on the deck of the cab and one foot on the cab apron.)
The train ran about 5 miles, turned on a wye at a small park where it stopped for a few minutes, and then returned to the station after turning on another wye. On the return trip, I got to sit in the engineer’s seat. This was fun, but I had no intuition about what I should do. The locomotive had no speedometer, and the grades were hard to discern by eye. I couldn’t even determine for myself when to blow the whistle; there were no signs announcing upcoming grade crossings.Without crossing my fingers, however, I can say that I once controlled a real steam locomotive in revenue service.
By the way, the material describing the Engineer for an Hour program indicates that one would have the opportunity to shovel coal into the firebox. I didn’t get to do that, which was fine with me. I imagined that trying to fire the locomotive would have provided the greatest opportunity for personal embarrassment. Besides, that’s fireman’s work.
When the trip was over, I received a certificate testifying that I had indeed been Engineer for an Hour.
My day with the EBT was memorable, and I would certainly commend the Engineer for an Hour program to any serious steam fan. There was one very odd thing about the day, however. I never introduced myself to the crew, and they never introduced themselves to me.