A short look behind the scenes
Steam engines take lots of loving care and attention. We thought you might like a glimpse of what we’re doing before the park opens in the morning.
Just like engineers 100 years ago, our engineers arrive hours before the train is to depart, to do the many tasks that are required. The roundhouse is quiet first thing in the morning. The coffee pot gurgles in the background while we check the water in the boiler and the tender, fill the air tanks that operate the brakes, then open the roundhouse doors and move the engine out towards the turntable.
Today the air is very still in the valley, hazy and moist, and at this hour it is still very quiet. After charging the air brakes, and checking the water level in the boiler, we put a thin layer of coal on the grates, followed by a layer of kindling wood and scraps, then light the fire. The crackle and pop of the wood as it begins to burn, and the faint smell of coal smoke drifting up in the still air are a nice background for the first mug of coffee, and with any luck, a donut or homemade cookie. Engineers are surprisingly handy in the kitchen. (Shhhh! Don’t tell anybody.)
It takes more than an hour for the engine to get warmed up, building steam pressure to move. During that time we have 150 pounds of coal to break into small lumps for the engine, dozens of places to check and oil, mechanical linkages that need checking and sometimes adjusting, and of course the engine needs to be clean and polished, ready for her “photo opportunities”.
After brake checks and warming the cylinders with steam, it’s time to back around to the coal shed and load up today’s fuel, then drive around to the longhouse to pick up today’s consist. #10 can pull 5 full cars and the large caboose filled with kids up the long grade from the playground through the tunnel and up to Dinosaur Ridge.
We check all the couplers and safety devices, then park the train at the loading platform, ready for all the big and little kids to ride.