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


Four: Coaling Up


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Cleaning the
grates: a very
necessary part
of tending any
steam locomotive.


Just beyond the turntable, a trench gaped between the rails of the roundhouse lead: the traditional ash pit.  Backing #14 off the table, the engineer spotted the locomotive with her grates directly over the pit. With a few quick turns of his wrist, the fireman opened up his blow-down cock and sent jets of live steam blasting across the grates. Propelled by the steam, ash and clinker from the previous day's fire tumbled off the grates and down into the pit. After giving the grates a good blow, the fireman climbed down from the engine and pulled a wicked-looking steel hook from a nearby rack. Leaning in from the side, he attacked the remaining clinker directly, breaking it up and knocking it down between the rails. After several minutes of poking and prodding, he traded his hook for a hose, and gave the grates one last going over with a stream of water. Satisfied at last that he had a clean bottom for his fire, he nodded to the engineer and scrambled back aboard the cab. With a clank of the power reverser and a crack on the throttle the engineer set #14 in motion, and locomotive and crew headed off down the roundhouse lead and away behind the shops.        


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#14 nuzzles up to
the coal dock


Following on foot, I chased the engine past the old sand house, around the carpentry shop and out to the south throat of the yard. There #14 picked her way back and forth through a series of turnouts, coming to rest at last beside a towering coal dock built right into the side of Blacklog Mountain. In the EBT's heyday a steep ramp track had led from a switch located on the main line up to the roof of the dock. Coal from the company's own mines was pushed up the ramp in hopper cars and dumped into the bins. The ramp track is overgrown now and highway trucks carry in the coal, but otherwise the dock still serves as its designers intended. Climbing out on the tender, the fireman tugged down on a counterweighted slide and then opened the leaf gate which held back the coal. Black diamonds tumbled down the slide and into the tender in a cloud of dust.


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Pulling back off
the coal dock stub
track and onto the
Rockhill Furnace
Once he had filled the coal bunker, the fireman signaled the engineer to pull forward a few feet. Leaning off to the other side of the tender, he grabbed a tall standpipe which stood between the dock track and the mainline and swung it over the tender's water hatch. Planting his foot firmly on the pipe, he opened the valve; water gushed in to top off the tender.




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Prepped and
ready, EBT #14
simmers on the
Rockhill Furnace

With grates clean and coal and water refreshed, #14 was ready for her day on the line. After swinging the standpipe back to its resting position, the fireman clambered down into the cab and took up a watchful perch on the left side of the footplate. With the head-end brakeman on the ground to coordinate the move, #14 twisted sinuously through a pair of turnouts, working her way back onto the main line. The brakie clambered back aboard and the crew charged off through the yard, white extra flags fluttering proudly in the breeze. Passing the tall carshop and the towering twin stacks of the powerhouse, they coasted to a stop outside the old foundry. The engine may have been ready, but the crew still had orders to pick up and switch moves to discuss. Leaving their charge to simmer quietly to herself, they headed back to the roundhouse on foot to confer with the conductor and lay plans for the day. The conference lasted only a few minutes; orders in hand, the engine crew soon strode back to their engine to pick up their consist. 



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