EBT: Steam Along the Aughwick

 

1. Tuscarora Morning 6. Climbing McMullins Summit
2. A Walk Through the Yards 7. Across the Deep Fill
3. At the Roundhouse 8. Colgate Grove
4. Coaling Up 9. Afternoon Run
5. Readying the Consist

 

Three: At the Roundhouse

 

 

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EBT tenders in
the morning sun:
a railroad
chiaroscuro.

 

The clatter of a one of the steel roundhouse doors rolling up on its tracks cut short my exploration of the yards. Hiking back toward the roundhouse, I found the newly arrived EBT engine crew winding up the stall doors to let in the morning sun. Bathed by the eastern light, the tenders of the EBT's steam locomotives gleamed in the stalls in a kind of railroad chiaroscuro, a play of shadow and sun more reminiscent of church than a simple shop building. 

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Positioning the
table.

After seeking permission from a gruff railroad employee, I stepped inside the roundhouse to poke about. Shadowed and cool, the stalls offered welcome relief from the August humidity outside the doors. Eight bays radiated away from the turntable. Holding pride of place on the center six tracks were the queens of the EBT: the famous Baldwin Mikados #12, 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18. Flanking them to either side were the M-1, EBT's unique narrow-gauge Brill "doodlebug" motor car, and the M-7, a modern GE industrial switcher acquired in 1993. Most of the engines slumbered quietly, but smoke swirled up and away from #14 into the smokejack overhead. Picking my way around the hoses and tool-stands which lay about the floor, I walked over to stand beside the locomotive. #14's fire must have been left banked overnight, for already the boiler radiated that dry heat which is the unique signature of an active steam locomotive. Wisps of vapor escaped from the safety valve into the air above the engine, reflecting the sun and filling the roundhouse with a shifting, diaphanous light.  

 

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#14 makes her
debut, backing out
onto the table.

Not wanting to be in the crew's way, I stepped back outside to wait by the turntable for #14's debut. It took an hour of patient stoking, but eventually the fireman built up enough pressure to bring the locomotive outside. The engineer walked out to the turntable and leaned hard against its lever to align it with #14's bay. Once he had the rails lined up, he kicked a metal plate mounted between the turntable rails out over the gap between the turntable and the ground. Filling the width of the gauge between the rails, it effectively locked the table in place. After double-checking the alignment, the engineer walked back to his charge, mounted the cab, and guided her gently out of her stall. Under his steady hand the Mike picked her way down the stub track and out onto the table. The tender wheels and then the locomotive's own axles shifted onto the structure with an audible clank, while the the turntable girder bounced vigorously under the locomotive's shifting weight. 

 

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The engine crew
heaves to align
#14 with the
roundhouse lead.

After balancing the engine at the center of the table, the crew climbed down and made their way along the turntable catwalk to either side of the structure. The man on the roundhouse side unlocked the plate; then, after setting their feet and rubbing their palms, all hands took hold of the turntable levers and heaved against the engine's weight. Pushing hard, they rotated the table until the near-side rails lined up with the roundhouse lead. A quick slide of the appropriate plate locked the table into its new position.

 


 

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All materials, images, text and presentation copyright 1999 Erik Gray Ledbetter.  See Terms of Use.