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


Six: Climbing McMullins Summit


Designed to haul 18-car trains of loaded coal hoppers, #14 had no trouble at all starting our lighter consist on the level river bottomlands. Smoke shot upwards from the Mikado's stack as she leaned into the load, and a steady drizzle of cinders rained down out of the growing thunderhead above. As they picked the fine black flecks out of their hair, my fellow passengers began to discover why their grandmothers and grandfathers had preferred to ride the steam cars from within a fully-enclosed coach.


The flatcar bucked under our feet as we clattered across the points of the depot throat; the former freight car's stiff trucks transmitted every bump right to the soles of our shoes. A few hundred yards beyond the station Blacklog Creek rushed up from the right, hurrying on its way to join the Great Aughwick down below town. We rattled across the stream on a fine, 90' long, two-span skewed deck girder bridge of 1900 vintage. Pressing on along the north bank of the creek, we came soon to a second bridge, a simple little girder affair thrown casually across one of the Blacklog's many tributaries.


Beyond the Blacklog we entered into a rural world of farms, meadows, and fields. Pastures succeeded one another along the line of the rails, each one sheltering its quota of cows; trim white-board fences kept one man's beasts from mixing with his neighbor's. Small streams wound down from the high hills in the background, nourishing the occasional free-standing tree; these seemed to have a magnetic attraction for the cattle, who clustered under their branches to escape the heat of the August sun. Inured to the EBT's comings and goings, the cows paid our train little heed.


After a time, the roadbed tilted upwards as we entered the McMullins grade. This mile-long climb lifts the EBT's northbound trains out of the Blacklog Valley, over the outflung flank of McMullins Summit ridge and on into the watershed of the Great Aughwick to the north. Determined to maintain track speed on the moderate but lengthy slope, our engineer opened up his throttle and reduced his cutoff. The trim Mike's stack talk sharpened to an insistent bark; the hail of cinders rained down on the hardy souls who had chosen seats in the open cars with redoubled fury. After several minutes of steady pounding, the remnants of a weathered telltale flashed by overhead and we blasted our way under the low farm bridge which marks the apex of the grade. Safety valve screaming in triumph, #14 hauled us through the cut at the summit and into the Aughwick Valley beyond.



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