End of the year, but it was a great season...

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Mark D
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End of the year, but it was a great season...

Postby Mark D » Mon Oct 09, 2006 1:12 pm

Well, another season of running choo choo's has come to a close.
This last event, the trips along the river to LaCrescent, was a grand way to close a grand season.
A year ago, even three or four months ago, I would have never thought that we, the erstwhile crew of the Milwaukee Road 261, would be called upon to operate a pair of Chinese QJ locomotives right here in the USA.
The trips to Cologne in July were fun in that they were low stress, relaxing trips. The weather was warm, the nights calm. Friends and relatives of mine rode the trips, making them somewhat more special to me than perhaps to others.
And the trips from Wayzata during their JJ Hill celebration. Still don't understand why they have a local celebration named after a man who the people of Wayzata disliked back in the day, but I guess it doesn't really matter. On these trips, I had the honor of firing the 261 whith my daughter, who was visiting from Manhattan, in the cab with me. She was thrilled, as was I.
Milwaukee. What can I say? Everyone knows how those trips went. Well publicized on internet forums. The only mechanical failure, being another diesel locomotive that can be notched on 261's imaginary pistol butt.
We had some long and arduous running on many of the events this year. But it's amazing how fast time flies when you're having fun.
I never thought railroading was supposed to be "fun.'
But in the context of running excursions with 261, the hours of hard work that it takes from every member of the crew to make it happen, it is still fun. It is fun to see the faces of people standing trackside, watching us as we pass or as we come to stop in their town.
It is fun to meet and talk with some of these people. There seems to be a nearly universal interest in steam powered trains. One would hope that it might help promote awareness of railroads and what role they play in the lives of all of us. Moreover, one would hope that it might help people to understand the dangers of being near or in the path of railroad equipment.
The crew is fun. There is a thing about that crew I can't quite put into words, but anyone who visits soon picks up what I'm talking about.

Disappointing was the two hour, or something like tha, stop we made on Sunday, Oct. 9th. The track ahead was blocked because another train had just struck a grain truck at a crossing not far from Red Wing, MN.
It took a while to clear up the mess, fill out all the requisite forms, and inspect the track. That particular truck driver would have found few friends on the train yesterday. Apparently uninjured, I felt that due punishment for his mistake would have been to be sentenced to ride in the tool car with the 261 crew for the rest of that day. Darwin wannabe.

Good old 261.
I was thinking back on the accomplishments that old girl has piled up over the years both before I knew her and since.
It has been said by others that you cannot call it her or she until you've been inside her.
I generally prefer to refer to a locomotive as, it.
But this particular locomotive has really become a grand old lady in many ways.
What most impresses me is that it always does what is asked of it. It's just like the crew that operates it. Whatever it takes, it gets the job done.
Listening to the staccato roar of that exhaust during yesterdays run back toward Minneapolis, I stood in an open bag door of the imitation tool car, Grand Canyon, lost in thought. Some of the crew thought I was sleeping. I leaned against the door frame, eyes shut. Standing on one leg, the other relaxed. Listening to that blast of exhaust steam from the stack. Here we are, just a bunch of otherwise normal seeming guys ( I guess I can't include myself in that 'normal' category, but...)
working together to accomplish three main objectives. One objective is to accomplish the other two in the safest possible manner. The next objective is to run that steam locomotive at speed and on schedule while doing meaningful work on a mainline railroad. The third objective that occurred to me was that we do the first two to provide a meaningful, pleasant and enjoyable trip for the general public in a venue that is otherwise not available to them. Included in this objective is to promote public awareness of the railroad.
It all worked perfectly, it seems.
In spite of being late getting back, we made up a fair amount of the time lost due to the truck incident. The passengers I spoke with seemed happy, and seemed to have enjoyed their day. That means we did our jobs well. We accomplished what we set out to do. It is no easy task. Not for any one of the crew. It's hard work, as I mentioned. But it is enjoyable hard work. I am, as always, disappointed that it is now over.
Hopefully, there will be another. If so, I certainly want to be there.
Still listening to that blast of exhaust, I thought of that engine that's even older, by four years, than I.
Just like me, it's still working hard. Just like me, it might be old but it's certainly not ready to be put out to pasture. If it could think, and I'm not entirely sure it can't, I think it would still believe it has more to accomplish. New goals to meet. Things to do, places to go and people to see, as it were.
That engine just ain't ready to quit. Nor are the crew, ready to quit.
We now look forward to a long cold winter. It will begin with the winterizing of the engine. There will be inspections and maintenance to the engine. Possibly equipment additions or changes also. Rolling stock will need inspections, maintenance, repairs and changes. It never ends.
All of this occurred to me as I listened to that beast roaring out its defiance to the world around it. Grain trucks, stay out of my way!!!
The crew was thinking of nailing part of my shirt to the wall while I "slept" in the doorway.
That would have been funny. They wouldn't have succeeded. I wasn't sleeping.
Yep, what a year. And it ended on the most positive of notes. No accidents, no injuries and happy people in all facets of the whole operation.


So many thanks are due to all of those people who worked hard to make all these trips happen. In this weekend's trips, as in all the trips we have run, people worked hard. In the Canadian Pacific Railway, Amtrak, and BNSF, people worked out of view of the public window to make this happen.
How amazing yet wonderful it is that events such as those we participated in this year actually can happen.

And on the most positive note of all, for me anyway, was that our last service stop of the year ended on the most positive of notes.
Over here on the fireman's side of the engine we banged that job out with the most precision and competent use of time that I had yet to experience.
I also believe it may have been videotaped and may appear on a future video that may contain quite a bit of 261 along the river.
I am not sure on this point, but am hoping this was the case.

We were honored with the visit of a friend of mine, along with three of his friends who traveled from Great Britain. They came to ride and photograph our entire operation. Eventually the photos and videos they took will probably become available to the public. This person posts on this board at times, John McIvor.
He fixed a video camera with a wide angle lens in the cab of the locomotive for a segment of one of the trips. This should provide some very good coverage of just what goes on in the cab of an operating steam locomotive. He has done this in the past, but this is a first for the 261.
I had a very long and educational chat with one of his friends, Jamie. He was a fireman, and later driver (engineer) in Great Britain during the days of steam. He became such an accomplished fireman that he was chosen to fire the engine that pulled Sir Winston Churchill's funeral train in 1965.
He later started and works with a 7 1/2 inch gauge live steam railway in G.B. that has several miles of properly signaled track, many locomotives and plenty of rolling stock. The Great Cockrow Railway. They do haul passengers. From the photo's I've seen, the equipment is beautifully maintained, made to quite faithful adherence to the original full scale equipment it represents.
He also is a driver for a short line steam railroad in Great Britain. The Bluebell. He's a good guy. I can tell, because he also likes Triumph motorcycles.
We were talking about this in the tool car on Saturday when what should appear chasing us but a white Triumph Bonneville! (I think it was a bonne') We waved to the rider and gave him two thumbs up. He responded by a couple of full throttle blasts.
We loved it.
And ol' 261 just kept on doing its job during all of this. That engine is truly remarkable. Give it the respect and attention that it needs and deserves, and it'll do anything for us in return. That's a fair deal.
Maybe that's why they refer to a steam engine as "she"?
Mainline steam... Gotta' love it!
Mark D.
Mark D. - The bottom of the information curve

Fitz
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Re: End of the year, but it was a great season...

Postby Fitz » Mon Oct 09, 2006 4:06 pm

Mark, you really have a way with words. That was an excellent commentary. You guys who crew the 261 should be justifiably proud of your and her accomplishments. What a record of running every year since restoration was completed. I'm glad that I got to participate in a couple of her outings, at Steamtown in '95 and the Grand Excursion in '04.
Are there any plans to start the work on her next 15 year "ticket" with the FRA?
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Mark D
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Re: End of the year, but it was a great season...

Postby Mark D » Mon Oct 09, 2006 5:10 pm

Fitz, thanks for the compliments whether deserved or not.
The plans for the 1472 day inspection and boiler overhaul are made, but I don't have all the details offhand.
However, I've been told that part of that very plan is to do the job over winter and have it ready to go for the next season.
Mark D.
Mark D. - The bottom of the information curve

Brent A
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Re: End of the year, but it was a great season...

Postby Brent A » Mon Oct 09, 2006 8:20 pm

Great story, Mark. I was kind of figuring you'd have something here today. I gotta check for your commentary in case I might have missed something.
Kind of short, though taking into acccount all the trips the 261 had this year. You must have more installments coming. I'll watch for them.
Brent A.

Mark D
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Re: End of the year, but it was a great season...

Postby Mark D » Mon Oct 09, 2006 10:02 pm

Hi Brent! Welcome to Chaski!

Brent A. was the main man on the fireman's side servicing crew yesterday. He also pointed out John McIvor, of SVS Video's, to me.
He is the man who may have video'd the grease job. He may not have been able to get that. But if so, no matter. He got plenty of stuff that has never been on video before.

Brent, I don't have anything behind this last post just now. Time prevents me from really, truly, frothing at the keyboard.
Mark D.
Mark D. - The bottom of the information curve

Fitz
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Re: End of the year, but it was a great season...

Postby Fitz » Mon Oct 09, 2006 11:22 pm

Hey Brent, glad to see you on here. I will someday post the picture of you and Mark in the crew car back in July 2004 just about at the end of the Grand Excursion. It was great to meet you and so many other of the crew then. Glad you are still working that super engine.
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Brent A
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Re: End of the year, but it was a great season...

Postby Brent A » Mon Oct 09, 2006 11:50 pm

Thanks for the welcome, Mark. I figured I might take time to be a little bit social online.
I know what you mean about the time thing. I think the whole crew is trying to play a little catch-up after the busy summer.

Hi Fitz, It was very nice meeting you as well. Can you believe it's been over 2 years since then? Too bad you couldn't have come back this way for a trip this year.

Brent A.

svsfilm
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Re: End of the year, but it was a great season...

Postby svsfilm » Tue Oct 10, 2006 12:23 pm

Hi Mark, Yes it was great to meet you again in the fine surroundings of the 261 Tool Car - what an excellent platform to hear, see and film that magnificent locomotive - many thanks for your hospitality. I have hours of new video to review from 261, Nevada Northern, Durango and Chama, but I am pretty sure I have some good closeups of you and the crew during one the greasing stops. John McIvor www.svsfilm.com
John McIvor, SVS Film
SVS Film: http://www.svsfilm.com
Steam Train Diary: http://www.diary.svsfilm.com

Fitz
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Re: End of the year, but it was a great season...

Postby Fitz » Tue Oct 10, 2006 9:11 pm

John, please advise us on this forum when you have completed editing and are ready to go to market.
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svsfilm
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Re: End of the year, but it was a great season...

Postby svsfilm » Wed Oct 11, 2006 2:12 am

OK Fitz, I'll try to provide any update on the 261 material within the rules for this board.
John McIvor www.svsfilm.com
John McIvor, SVS Film

SVS Film: http://www.svsfilm.com

Steam Train Diary: http://www.diary.svsfilm.com

svsfilm
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Re: End of the year, but it was a great season...

Postby svsfilm » Wed Oct 11, 2006 12:07 pm

John McIvor, SVS Film

SVS Film: http://www.svsfilm.com

Steam Train Diary: http://www.diary.svsfilm.com

nathansixchime
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Re: End of the year, but it was a great season...

Postby nathansixchime » Wed Oct 11, 2006 3:07 pm

Mark D wrote: On these trips, I had the honor of firing the 261 whith my daughter, who was visiting from Manhattan, in the cab with me. She was thrilled, as was I.


A daughter, you say...?

;)

Kelly Lynch

Mark D
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Location: Sort of between Litchfield and Forest City, MN.

Re: End of the year, but it was a great season...

Postby Mark D » Wed Oct 11, 2006 3:25 pm

nathansixchime wrote:
Mark D wrote: On these trips, I had the honor of firing the 261 whith my daughter, who was visiting from Manhattan, in the cab with me. She was thrilled, as was I.


A daughter, you say...?

;)

Kelly Lynch


Yeah, I think that's what I said... Moreover, when she got back to work a few days later and told a coworker about her cab ride, the coworker was excited because she had ridden with the Strasburg RR that same weekend. Of course, that coworker didn't get a cab ride with her dad firing. But still, they both had a great steam filled weekend.
Mark D.
Mark D. - The bottom of the information curve

Howard P.
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Re: End of the year, but it was a great season...

Postby Howard P. » Mon Oct 23, 2006 10:53 pm

AH, c'mon, Kelly, you mean man does not live by chooch alone???

Mark, at least Kelly is "pre-qualified" as a potential son-in-law.....

Mark D
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Location: Sort of between Litchfield and Forest City, MN.

Re: End of the year, but it was a great season...

Postby Mark D » Tue Oct 24, 2006 9:53 am

She has a boy friend. Who, by the way, has been in the belly of the (261) beast.
Mark D. - The bottom of the information curve


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