Just lighting off #2, the E. P. Ripley was exciting, but today – my first day actually FIRING the engine around the track, during park hours, WITH guest on board – was wonderful!
I lit the engine in the roundhouse, built up the pressure, and we headed out onto the main line. I’ll say though – a BIG learning curve! Last week was all classroom training, but actually being in control of the fuel stick, blower, water, atomizer (and the smoke from the stack) is much different. The smallest adjustment to any of these items affect the engine. And I do mean SMALL – a millimeter change in the atomizer will cause the stack to smoke (which you do -not- want), and moving the fuel stick changes the color of the ring around the peephole that goes into the firebox.
So – not only do you have to know how to control each of these items (and more,) you have to keep an eye on the boiler to make sure that there is enough water. If the water level drops too low, you can overheat the metal and potential cause quite a large explosion. Apparently, that is the main reason for people being terminated – not having enough water in the boiler (I understand why!)
The pressure gauge needs to stay steady at 125 pounds. But between waiting at stops, the outside temperature, how much water is already in the boiler, and how much you are currently adding, the grade of the track, the speed that the engineer is pulling, the locations of the curves – AND MORE, there’s A LOT to pay attention to. No doubt it will take six months of steady practice to get it figured out.
So – hopefully in March, I’ll be firing on my own (without the trainer sitting right behind me) and you can come visit and see me "at work."
Oh – I almost forgot – I get to / have to ring the bell at six different spots along the track at just the right time… all while doing ALL that other stuff too!