The Lope: June 2006

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tulsa: Rancho Grande on Route 66

After winding up photography at Trek Expo 2006 this past Sunday in Tulsa, OK (pictures to come), we couldn't resist a short trip down Tulsa's 11th street, one of that city's Route 66 alignments.

Anytime I see a man on a ladder beneath a neon sign I shudder and wonder if it's being replaced with some back-lit plastic chunk of banality.

No worries in this case. Terry Seay of Seay Electric Company in Tulsa (right) was working on the neon sign outside Rancho Grande Mexican Food for its owner, John Walden (left).

Walden says the sign dates from 1953 when then owner, Ruby Rodriguez, moved her business to this location at 1629 East 11th Street.

He also says he wants to maintain the sign as it is, with a minor paint touch-up but nothing so dramatic as to alter its character.

I demonstrated my appreciation of his preservation of niftyness by commenting with my dollars - I had a cheese enchilada plate and it was a fine repast.

Ace Jackalope poses by one of the Oklahoma US 66 squares that dot the sidewalk in this block at regular intervals. They may be elsewhere, also; I didn't have time to look, but I will when I come back to Tulsa to see that sign at night.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Summer Solstice

Stonehenge, on Kodak black and white infrared film, from a 1993 trip to the UK. We were there in May, so obviously not at the solstice, which I hear is a madhouse at times.

Summer snuck in behind some clouds at 6:26AM today in central Kansas, and we began preparing for our weekend. I'll be shooting photos In Tulsa, OK at Starbase 21's Trek Expo 2006, just as I did last year at Trek Expo 2005. Ace will be going along, as usual, to observe human pop culture.

Toward that end, he sought the craftsmanship of Justin Reichert of Reichert's Custom Leather in McPherson, KS, to help make him a new disguise.

Reichert whipped out the main component of one of Ace's costumes; with it, he'll be able to blend into the throng of fans and be indistinguishable as he continues his study of the human condition. Can you guess what he'll be dressed as?

I've seen Reichert work a few times now, and have always been impressed at the variety of kinds of leather there are in his shop. I asked if there were any types of hides that he was particularly looking forward to working with, and he showed me this skin he had just procured of a Cane Toad from Australia.

Notice that I didn't write, "Australian Cane Toad." That's because they're South American, not Australian, and therein lies a problem. I had just heard a story on BBC radio the other night on Cane Toads. The abbreviated version is that they were introduced to Queensland from South America some 70 years ago in a misguided attempt by the sugarcane industry to control a beetle problem.

It didn't work.

Well, not for the sugarcane industry, but the toads loved it - so much so that they went forth and multiplied in their new world, protected from their own predators by poisonous backs. It's good poison, too...lethal enough that it's enabled the toads to have a detrimental effect on Australia's native wildlife. Here's a story on them from National Geographic News. In a classic case of bad research, nobody had taken into account that the toads can't jump very high, not nearly high enough to get to the beetles where they live at the top of the cane.

By the way, someone accidentally released some Cane Toads in Florida; maybe in a few years Reichert won't have to import their hides.

So, I'm leaving the leather place and what do I see but a man on a horse carrying a flag and trailed by a donkey as he moves down Main Street in McPherson. Of course, I yelled to him - something articulate like "I know there's a story here, what's the deal with you?"

It turns out he's a bible-toting cowboy. Couy Griffin of Reserve, New Mexico is an ex-member of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at Disneyland Paris who is now on a San Francisco to Jerusalem trek to spread the word of his ministry.

Ace considered that perhaps he needs his own quadruped.

There's some pretty big-time golf coming to Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, KS. Prairie Dunes will be hosting the 2006 Senior Men's Open.

Really, I'm only experienced with *miniature* golf ("the sport of kings", I always say to anyone I'm trying to con into going with me), but the terrain out here is beautifully prairie and "duney".

Hutchinson is, of course, trying to spiff-up for the tournament. Right along Kansas Highway 61 in Hutchinson you can see this trailer, festively decorated to greet visitors.

I like it. I really do; I'm not being sarcastic. I wonder of the city told this guy he had to paint his trailer and so, well, he did.

Who doesn't like bunnies? Bad people, thats who. Here's a baby one underneath a hedge in Joplin, MO.

This is the common variation, without antlers.

And finally, we leave you with a pretty road cut, just because we like all of you. This along Kansas Highway 400, near a rest stop just east of Beaumont. The cat tails are blooming now and I've always enjoyed this particular patch of erosion so it seemed the time to shoot it.

We had a fine mid-summers day and hope you did, too. Here's to hoping the summer treats most of us well.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

844: Riding the Iron Horse

Union Pacific steam locomotive 844 warms up on the morning of May 28, 2006, in Claremore, Oklahoma.

The locomotive and its train, the South Central Heritage Express, was nearing the end of it's 30+ day public relations tour. I had seen it in Kansas earlier as well as in Claremore the day before this.

But today I would not just see it; I would ride it. By the courtesy of the Union Pacific, writer Patsy Terrell and I would ride the train today all the way from Claremore to Kansas City.

I was allowed to ride in the locomotive itself for a leg of the journey, and I chose the first one, from Claremore to Coffeyville, because I had been advised that the cab got quite hot - 40 degrees hotter than the ambient temperature. So the morning was a good time to ride.

The cab of the steam locomotive was in stark contrast to all of the diesel locos I'd seen, the latest of which look more like small computer rooms. The engineer sits on the right, the fireman, on the left; you can see their arms. That's a door into the boiler in the middle. I shoot mostly on digital these days, but had to break out my 35mm in order to use a 20mm lens that gives about a 90 degree diagonal view. That's how small the cab is.

The controls, in this case some of the ones on the fireman's side, really underscored that I was riding in an antique.

Engineer Lynn Nystrom takes us out as we pass viewers along Industrial Blvd. Although 844 made lots of noise in the cab, I barely felt us begin to move. I'm told this is the mark of a good engineer.

James Barnes, Director of Media Relations for Union Pacific, stands against the tender as we gain speed. Barnes is the person who approved our presence on the train.

Speaking of standing against the tender, stability when standing up is a problem in 844; it's a rough ride. When you stand in the cab, there are actually two deck plates to consider. I am standing on the one for the tender. The one beneath is actually the locomotive. Since they are articulated, I sometimes found myself doing a slight version of "the twist" when standing with one foot on one and one on the other.

Changing lenses was fun, too...I think I probably looked drunk the times I would start to dock the lens to the camera body and I'd miss when we jolted a bit.

Barnes was the person who advised me about being in the cab in the morning and I think he was right. The breeze coming through the windows sure felt good, and this small skylight in the ceiling probably helped, too. The beadboard and the skylight reminded me of the ultimate kids' clubhouse.

Officers of the Claremore police department get their pictures along North Industrial Blvd as we leave town.

Steam spurts from the sides of the locomotive on occasion. I hadn't seen it do this while still and wondered how trackside animals would react.

The crew hosted a few other guests in the cab; this gentleman sported a UP engineer cap and the set of earplugs we were all issued. The cab is a very noisy place and made communication, be it "what's that lever for?" or "May I please lean over this way for a shot?", rather difficult. We all got by very well, though.

Fireman Rick Braunschweig monitors water, fuel, pressure, fire and other factors that control the steam the boiler produces to run the pistons that run the rods that run the wheels. I kept hearing a line from an old Genesis song, "Suppers Ready": "I know a fireman who looks after the fire."

The boiler can be seen on Braunschweig's right.

Occasionally, a small amount of sand is thrown into the boiler; this helps keep the flue clean through abrasion.

Though the engine is black, it reflects some of whatever color is around it. For the first of many times today, I would see it tinged with green from the foliage.

Engineer Lynn Nystrom works the throttle. At times I would see him lift slightly off his chair as if this was something he had to throw his weight into.

I've seen diesels operated and this seemed like it required much more attention and sensitive interaction.

I'm pretty sure this is the Verdisgris River. We would cross over it a number of times today as it serpentines back and forth across the generally straight UP tracks.

Did I mention that 844 is FAST? This thing is like a huge steam-powered sports car. I didn't see our actual speed but was told it was just a hair over 70, and 844 can go a *lot* faster if they let it. Its only practical limitation is what the curves and condition of the track can handle.

The wind wings of the engine were not much of a hindrance to the view. Also called "elephant ears" or "smoke lifters", they help channel the exhaust away from air intake ports farther down the train

I think this was Oolagah, OK. I was struck by the height of the cab when we looked down on viewers. Of course, the ballast boosted us somewhat, too.

Whenever we were alongside a road, there were railfans paralleling us. There wasn't huge mass of them most of the time, though. I saw no near mishaps, despite the amount of railfan-driven cars beside us. This is alongside OK 169.

Man, I wish I had a copy of this guy's tape.

I had been warned by an editor who had ridden the train previously that it puts out a lot of water droplets. He was right. This is the fireman's view and you can see the droplets on the glass.

And always there was the smoke and the sky. Air pollution never looked so good.

This guy probably thought so too.

Railfans jockey for position alongside 844.

Railroad employees had a more tolerant view of railfans than I expected. None of the ones I questioned said they'd seen any mishaps.

This is a view out front with some of the fireman's controls.

Was Ace Jackalope with me? You bet. Periodically some of you write to remind me that this is a supposed to be a chronicle of *his* explorations. He doesn't say much, but he observes a great deal.

Engineer Lynn Nystrom pulls the chain that activates the whistle as we approach a crossing.

We made great time to Coffeyville...too early for my tastes as we made it in about 90 minutes. A friend of mine had missed the train south of town by assuming it'd be on schedule. In fact, it would run ahead of schedule the whole day.

I wonder how many pictures were taken of us that day?

After I left the cab, I noticed we'd pulled up alongside a Canadian diesel locomotive. Such "pool units" are common; when railroads need more power, they lease it from others.

My ride inside 844 was over, but I still had a trip back in the passenger coaches, all the way across Kansas, to look forward to.

This is the third in a four-part series on 844. Why so many parts? Because shooting on digital is cheap and, even with film, I have no self control.

Part one: 844

Part two: 844 Returns

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Meeting Mater

Sunday night, June 11, 2006, found us back at the 66 Drive-In Theatre in Carthage, MO, to see "Cars" again.

In attendance was Dean Walker, President of the Kansas Historic Route 66 Association. Dean is credited with being a large part of the inspiration for the personality of Mater the tow truck, a character in the Disney/Pixar film.

He and his wife, Paula, are among the people thanked in the closing credits of the film. I found them to be a wealth of information on Route 66, not only in the MO-KS area but westward as well.

Dean Walker demonstrates the reason they call him "crazy legs" and poses with Ace Jackalope and fellow movie-fan, Landon Mynatt.

I asked Dean if this was uncomfortable. He replied: "Would you believe in ten seconds I'll start telling people to start taking all the pictures they want before I count down to'll see the pain in my face but where it really gets me is in the hip sockets."

The idea for the "Mater" character began when the film makers saw a rusty old tow truck in Galena, KS on a scouting trip for the film several years ago. Walker told me that, unfortunately, the actual tow truck on which Mater was based is no longer in Galena; the property has been cleaned up and the truck was gone as of April 10 of this year when another film crew looked for it.

Here, Dean has signed a McDonalds Happy Meal toy for me.

Paula Walker is writing her own book: "To Hell and Back on Route 66." Dean referred to their dog as "Rosco the Route 66 Mutt." I seem to run into transportation-named dogs of late, having just met "Barley the Choo-Choo Dog" last month while photographing a train.

A nice little Americana moment at the drive-in: Before the movie, the Star Spangled Banner plays.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

"Cars", and lots of 'em at the 66 Drive-In

We've long been anticipating the opening of the Disney/Pixar movie, "Cars", ever since we learned that John Lassiter and crew had traveled Route 66 seeking material and inspiration for the film. In fact, we had seen graffiti and certificates left behind by Lassiter last August when we traversed a good portion of Route 66.

We had chosen to see the film at the 66 Drive-In Theatre on Route 66 just west of Carthage, MO. It seemed the only fitting choice for us.

We arrived 50 minutes early for the 9:05 PM showing; as we approached from the west, this is what we saw ahead. many of them pulled over and driving along the shoulder of 66 toward the theatre that you could barely discern the theatre itself in the distance. While my lovely significant other and fellow 'lope driver saw to the foreword progress of our car, I walked down for a closer look and to get a few pics. If we weren't going to get in, I was at least going to leave with something.

This is the view from in front of the theatre, looking west down Route 66.

And here's the fabulous place, itself. Just look at it. Does it not bring back a flood of childhood memories to the average baby-boomer?

Here's a better look at that marquis with the traffic behind.

An employee told me that the boxed portion of the screen is original to the 1949 opening of the theatre and that the two 14-foot extensions were built on the sides in 1955 to accommodate CinemaScope wide-screen movies.

A plane circled overhead; no-doubt they had an amusing view of the duel lines of cars trickling into the grounds.

I watched as car after car entered, each taking a precious parking space. Finally, I spotted our car at the ticket booth and hopped in. We forked over $5 each to see the double feature - a bargain, if you ask me.

After we settled in a spot in the last row (best we could find), I walked back out to admire the ticket booth. I got just a couple of pictures and was still playing with the exposure when the ticket booth and the marquis went dark. There was no more space and an employee estimated that about 200 cars had to be turned away.

On the way back in, I noted the nice retro graphics on the audio announcement.

Back inside, I had forgotten that drive-ins had playgrounds.

I took a few of these cloud silhouette shots before heading back to the car.

Back near our car, I admired the way this family had colonized their space. According to co-owner Wes Alumbaugh, The width of space is now twelve feet and is intended to hold only one car and the accompanying lawn chairs and such; originally it was eighteen feet and a space housed two cars. This has had the effect of shrinking the capacity of the theatre from 540 to 400 spaces.

The movie was thoroughly enjoyable and lives up to the hype given it by Route 66 aficionados these past few months.

The flavor of many locations along the mother road, along with the general feel of traveling the southwest portions, was well conveyed. Ace and I have been many of these places with friends, and met a few people that inspired characters, but that is another post.

In the meantime, I highly suggest that you check out a post called A Route 66 guide to the Cars movie over at Route 66 News.

As the movie concluded, the clouds that had been to the west started doing fun things in front of the nearly full moon. We had actually seen a meteor earlier, too...what a bonus!

We skipped the second feature and lingered outside to admire the place.

You couldn't ask for a cooler ticket booth.

I don't know why they had turned it on again, but I was happy. Maybe they had shut off the lights earlier just to signal waiting motorists that it was sold out.

Ace Jackalope always admires good neon.

A group of classic cars (oh...and the people driving them...sorry, was caught up in the idea of anthrpomorphic cars in the movie) exited the theatre after "Cars." I don't know much about automobiles, but I know what I like, and I like old, cool cars parading past neon. This was a group of Norwegians which you can read more about in this article in the Springfield News Leader or at the website for Cruise66, the name of the Norwegians' four-week Route 66 tour.

Update: We went to the 66 Drive-In again on Sunday night and met Dean Walker, who furnished some of the inspiration for "Mater" the tow truck...more to come.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

844 Returns

This is the second of four posts about Union Pacific's classic steam locomotive, 844, and its South Central Heritage Express Tour. The first post dealt primarily with the locomotive as the train passed through Salina, Abilene, Herrington and Hutchinson Kansas April 29-May 1, and may be seen here.

Since that time, Union Pacific graciously granted writer Patsy Terrell and myself permission to ride aboard the train on its return trip across Kansas as it worked its way back to its base in Cheyenne, Wyoming. We were given clearance to board the train on May 28 in Claremore, OK and ride it all the way to Kansas City.

I drove to Claremore the previous day, May 27, to watch 844 come into town for the night. Here it is crossing Lynn Riggs Blvd - the two-lane routing of Route 66 in Claremore. It isn't a particularly photogenic location, but I couldn't resist the chance to cross two popular interests: trains and the mother road.

Passengers wave to the assembled crowd; the next day we would get to know the lad on the left.

As usual, the Union Pacific's 1944 Northern class Alco steam locomotive was a hit with all ages.

At every stop, the locomotive must be lubricated.

Gripado's restaurant was right across the street from the siding at which the train rested. Sightseers, including me, stopped in to enjoy the air conditioning. I bought quite a few cold beverages from them during the course of the afternoon and noticed that it looked like a nice stable place with good food. One must always note such things for future road trips.

Gina Gripado works at her family's restaurant. She was thrilled to see the steam engine as it reminded her of a steam-pulled train trip in the French Alps a few years ago when, against the advice of her fiance's father, she stuck her head out a window and got "shumtzed with coal dust."

Many of the train's stops are in places not built or suited for passenger travel so footing just off the train is a challenge, but most people don't seem to find it much of an obstacle. Here, a Union Pacific freight passes by.

Marty Foster and "Barley the choo-choo dog" didn't know the steam engine was coming. The Cookeville, TN resident was visiting a friend of her family in Waggoner OK, south of Claremore, when she heard the whistle and gave pursuit.

As long as I was there, I asked permission to scope out the train for the next day's journey and was kindly allowed to do so as the train was moved about into its position for the night. I have been sent a few questions about the passenger cars since the last post so I will attempt to describe them here. I knew locomotives generated interest but questions about the coaches were a surprise to me.

There were four train cars we would be moving throughout. The trailing one is the Idaho, which was built by American Car & Foundry in 1950 as a bedroom car named the Western Mountain. It was rebuilt by Pullman Standard in 1965 and renamed the Sun Lane before being converted to the track inspection car, Idaho, in 1980.

Track inspection may be the Idaho's real purpose, but the huge rear picture window is well suited to sightseeing for riders of excursions. I photographed it from the Kansas Highway 77 overpass as it approached Herrington on May 1st.

The Idaho has 24 stadium seats facing a large picture window.

Between the rear window and a few side ones, the view is virtually panoramic.

The UP website explains a few tidbits about Idaho and its economic history with the railroad. For example, sometime after track was laid through the state in 1883, the railroad began marketing "Idaho baked potatoes" on dining car menus in hopes of increasing their popularity and thus increasing freight traffic. Today, entire trainloads of Idaho potatoes are hauled, both whole or processed as french fries. I'll think of this the next time I see a parent trying to feed a kid a french fry with that "here comes the train" routine.

During all this jockeying around of the train, we were surrounded by railfans.

Foreward of the Idaho is the Challenger, a dome coach built in 1958 by Pullman Standard. According to UP, it was the last dome coach built. It must have left their ownership at least once because their website refers to it as having been "reacquired" in 1989.

The coach was named for the Challenger passenger trains, which had their genesis in the middle of the Great Depression when they were known as the "Everybody's Limited." The Challenger was designed to draw people back to the rails with an economical level of service. The meal service was advertised as "three meals for under a dollar a day," in contrast to the first-class fare streamliners, where one meal might cost $1.25. When dome cars came into use, the Challenger was renamed the Challenger Domeliner and ran until 1971.

The UP website has a bit about the Challenger trains which I find interesting as it relates to American social history:

"The introduction of the Challenger also started the use of registered nurse stewardess service in August 1935. These single women were charged with first-aid service for the entire train, but their main function was to assist women with small children and children traveling alone. They were paid $125 per month plus expenses. There were exclusive coaches for women and children which were placed at the head of the train, thus eliminating the need for men to even walk through the cars."

I liked the curved aesthetics of the dome; it reminded me a bit of late 1950's googie architecture.

The Challenger's upper deck would be a comfortable roost the next day; and its dome would be great for viewing railroad operations.

Foreward of the Challenger was the Texas Eagle, a passenger coach built by American Car & Foundry in 1954 as 44-seat coach No. 5483. It was named the Texas Eagle in 1990, presumably in honor of the Texas Eagle passenger trains of the Missouri Pacific Lines, which ran from 1948 to 1971. The Union Pacific bought the Missouri Pacific (MoPac) in 1982 and I found it appropriate that this coach was included on the train as we were traveling on ex-MoPac track.

This was a very comfortable coach, but, at least when we were there, it was the least used. I guess you can't compete with a dome or a rear window.

Neat upholstery, huh? This was found throughout the rail coaches.

Foreward of the Texas Eagle was a concession car, the Sherman Hill. It was built in 1961 by the St Louis Car Company as a railroad post office, and served several other functions before becoming the place where we could buy cold pop, and souvenirs. The name "Sherman Hill" comes from a hill in Wyoming that is popular with railfans who like watching the UP.

The Sherman Hill was fully stocked when I saw it in Salina at the end of April; by May 28th they were running low on some things. As we were pretty much at the end of the tour, they must have gotten the inventory about right.

These wood train whistles were very popular and quite loud, as this young man in Salina last month was discovering.

I bought one in a "L'il Engineer Kit" for my girlfriend's niece and nephew; I hope their parents still speak to me. I loved the innocent retro graphics on this package.

In addition to belt buckles, hats, t-shirts, book, magnets, etc., they also sold these cool pins with which Ace was able to disguise himself so as to be indistinguishable from the average railfan. Note that he wears a Missouri Pacific pin to signify that the trackage used for tomorrow's journey was once part of that now-defunct railroad.

Between some of the cars, the vestibule was open. These were great observation points.

Scattered about the train were framed advertisements from the golden age of rail travel. Ironically, this one portrays the type of diesel streamliner that spelled the end for steam passenger locomotives.

Union Pacific still owns two such locomotives, E-9s built by General Motors Electro-motive Division in 1955. I photographed number 951 in Newton Kansas in the mid 1980s when it was pulling Operation Lifesaver, a crossing safety awareness train. Back when streamliners were in wide usage, this one pulled such trains as the City of Los Angeles, City of Portland, City of San Francisco, City of St. Louis, and the afore-mentioned Challenger.

Although we did not enter it; I did peek into the Art Lockman, a maintenance tool car.

The train carries not only spare parts for 844, but tools to maintain it and fabricate many things which might be needed.

There was also a baggage car, the Golden State Limited, a boiler car, the Howard Fogg and a boxcar, UP 9336, but we did not explore those.

After my initial 844 post, I had two questions from readers about the tenders. Here's a shot from Hutchinson, KS May 2, which shows both the black and yellow ones.

The black tender right behind 844 carries 6,000 gallons of fuel (no. 5 oil) and 23,500 gallons of water.

The yellow tender carries about 30,000 gallons of water for 844. It is yellow because its last job was as a fuel carrier for Union Pacific's gas turbine locomotives and such locomotives were in the yellow paint scheme. Before that, the tender (no. 809, I believe) served steam locomotives of the 4-8-4 class and was black. It was actually built back in 1937.

I just found something on the net that may indicate the tender will be changed back to its steam era appearance. Wasatch Railroad Contractors has been hired to remove the remaining equipment used for the turbines and return the tender to an appearance more conforming with its duty as a companion to a steam engine. They have already begun the process on 809's sister unit, 814, as seen here.

UP had experimented with gas turbine locomotives from 1949 to 1970. They were immensely powerful and desirable for long hauls as long as their specialized "Bunker C" fuel was less expensive than diesel. However, they were loud enough that they gained the nickname "big blows" because their volume was likened to that of a jet engine, so they were not used in areas like Los Angeles. Their economy also dropped at low speeds, at which diesels were more efficient. Eventually, the energy crisis of the 1970's doomed them with high enough fuel costs as to become uneconomical. I saw UP turbine #18 in Kansas City in the mid-1980s; it now resides in the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, IL.

Finally, I was asked for a better shot showing wheel arrangement. Here is one from Hutchinson, May 2, in which you can more clearly see the wheels in the 4-8-4 arrangement.

I have a bit of history with 844; I saw it for the first time in Denver, CO nearly 30 years ago in the summer of 1976. I was 15 years old and this was taken on my first camera, a Kodak Brownie that used the long-gone 127 film format.

By 1985 I was a professional newspaper photojournalist and was covering 8444 in Salina, KS, when the locomotive was painted a bit differently and had an extra "4" in its number.

"844" is the number it was given when built and delivered to the Union Pacific in 1944. After UP's steam fleet was mostly retired, they gave the 800 numbers to new diesels. Thus, in 1962, the number "844" was given to the GP-30 diesel seen below, and the steam engine formerly known as "844" became "8444." When the diesel was retired, the extra "4" was dropped from the steam engine.

By happy coincidence, I photographed the diesel 844 last May in Boulder City Nevada, where it resides after being donated to the Nevada Railroad Museum by the Union Pacific. The diesel 844 is a General Motors Electro Motive Division (GM-EMD for short) GP-30. Both 844s are "the last" in some way: in 1944, the steam engine was the last one delivered to the Union Pacific and, in 1989, The diesel was the last GP-30 retired from the UP.

And so, 844, by any other name, had been popping up in my life for thirty years, about half of the time of its existence, and two thirds the time of mine. Through contact with it, I was discovering why the older railfans pined away for what had been lost: a steam engine is a beautiful, almost living thing. I had never ridden behind it, though. That would come the next day, and I was excited.

Next 844 post - Riding the Iron Horse. This should be up by Friday, June 16.