A life long dream realized......


The Chicago CTA guy
Its amazing what a few short years will do. Ever since I was a kid, as I am sure many of you here did, have dreamed of someday pulling the throttle of a steam locomotive. For those of us who are railfans, there is nothing greater then the idea (unless your a diesel guy) of yanking on that throttle of a seemingly prehistoric beast, breathing fire and smoke. Never thought I would get my chance......

Back in 2008 I applied to work at Lakeside Amusement Park in Denver, Colorado. With the goal of being placed on the miniature train there, so I could operate their steam locomotives. Well, both their Class E Cagney's went out of service early that year, about a month before I applied to work there. So I spent the next 3 years trying to help Lakeside not only get them fixed, but bring their neglected Railroad up to a higher standard. I was also at the time volunteering at the Colorado Railroad Museum, so I knew people in the industry who could help. Well, after years of wrangling, nothing happened. They took my advice on binging the track back up, but did not allow me to bring in any of my experts to work on the locomotives. Here we are, 4 years later, they both still sit there, doing nothing but collecting dust.

Well, at that point I figured that was my only chance to run steam, and it was gone, so I went and applied at BNSF out of North Dakota, and got turned down from that. Then I had the Idea of applying at the Durango and Silverton. Well, after a rather great interview, and apparently a good chance of being selected for night watchman. Well after a month of waiting, guess what, nothing happened. No returned calls, no emails, no nothing.

Well, I was heading home one day about a month after my interview in Durango, literally going home to fill out an application to work at Home Depot when I got a call from the Georgetown Loop Railroad. I was stunned, I applied there 5 months earlier, and never heard anything back! So long story short, I have been working there ever since June of 2011. My first year I moved up as far as Fireman on our number 12. I have done a ton of work on both the 12, and our Shay number 9 which is not currently operational. I did not work from November to April, but began again mid April of this year working on our Shay 9 trying to get the restoration finished. There is still a ton to do, but we are making progress.

Well, had spent so much time in the shop, I was starting to think I still would not get my chance to handle the 12. That damn childhood dream kept bugging me. I spent some time operating the diesels around the Loop, taking the 21 from Devils Gate to Silver Plume, the 25 around the yard for switching, and doing a little bit of yard moves on the big Porter, 1203. Well finally, last Sunday, I was told by my boss Gary that I would have the 12 for the last run. I spent the first 4 runs firing, and she ran great. We got down to Devils Gate with train 9, Gary came up the the 12 and sent my Engineer Willie back to 1203, quickly stole my firemans seat, and told me to take her down under the bridge. I have to say, operating automatic trains brakes in Trainz is nothing quite like getting hold of a 6 brake stand for the first time. Amazingly it was a nice smooth run under the bridge with Gravity, then came the hard part, taking 12, with 1203 on as helper, and 8 cars, back up the hill, with 3 miles of 3-4% grades. To make this time even better, my Grandmother, my Aunt, and my Cousins were on the train, with my Cousin John riding with me in the cab. We got the signal to depart, threw the Johnson Bar forward, and pull on the throttle. I can't even begin to describe the feeling when I heard that first cuff, follow by the bitter embaressment by the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th as the wheels lost grip of the rails and proceeded to spin.....

Eventually though, I got 12 to grab, and we proceeded up the hill. If I have to say anything, its that the throttle on the 12 is terrible. Its a ball valve, with so much slop in the linkage, you have to open her wide up to get any steam at all, and then push it closed fast or risk spinning the wheels. It was quite a thrill though, 15,500 pounds of tractive effort at my disposal.... We made it up to Silver Plume after about a 30 minute battle up the mountain (even though we do this run 5 times a day, its still a battle every time) Got up to the top, shut off and coasted into the station. Took about 10 pounds on the train brakes, and pulled the throttle back out and eased on in. Missed the spot by half a car short, but that was because my conductor told me to stop at the wrong ramp.... Oh well....

So finally, a childhood dream come true. And whats better, I get paid for it! After we got moved, Gary's only comment was "Not bad for a first time"

So my message to everyone here. Follow your dreams, where ever they take you, never forget your dreams. I work 5 days a week, almost 45 hours, and while its hard, grueling, dirty work, I come home feeling like I have not worked at all.....And that my friends, no matter what the job is, is the best job in the world.


Taken from onboard the train on that run, coming up past the Palisades. Although you can't see the smile on my face from the back!
I'm very happy for you Klinger, and it does sound like a dream come true. Don't chalk it up to luck though, I'd say you persevered and did everything you could to attain your dream. You stuck with it, and worked hard, and before we know it, you'll be running the place! Congrats!
Well.... congratulations!

So my message to everyone here. Follow your dreams, where ever they take you, never forget your dreams. I work 5 days a week, almost 45 hours, and while its hard, grueling, dirty work, I come home feeling like I have not worked at all.....And that my friends, no matter what the job is, is the best job in the world.
Good story. Even a great example for many people out there.
Good for you Klinger , Your story/message is one that we should all heed . And
I concur , it was not luck but your perseverance . --- ,dave
Klinger, I envy you: I know it's hardly a secret around here that I'm a diehard steam fan, but ever since my first "real" steam train ride on the Cumbres & Toltec, I've dreamed of running steam in the Rockies. It's a pipe dream, to be honest, but the fact that you get to do it is good enough for me. Next time you're on the right-hand seatbox, give the whistle a blow for all of us dreamers still stuck in Trainz will ya? :D :Y:
Klinger: Those are the best words I've heard in a long time..What joy that brings for you..I'm kind of like sawyer..I envy you also..But there is no qualified then you, because of your past history..Congrats to you..
Hi klinger, thanks for sharing this interesting story.
I can relate in that I was a fitter on steam in the 60's and stole any opportunity I could get to move the steam loco's in the sheds after hours when most eyes were gone home.
I once persuaded a driver to let me drive a goods train hauled by a class 14R for a few miles, a whole new experience .
One of the many incidents on steam I recall is when we tackwelded one wheel to the rail and asked the shedman to move the locomotive. The fun watching what happened thereafter was worth the trouble we got into. Good old steam !
Thank you for sharing this story with us. A dream that I hope to realise too. I hope you won't mind if I share a quick experience of mine, when I came close.

I went to The Valley Rattler at Gympie, North of Brisbane, and I had a previously arranged cab ride in one of their locos, a C17 class. While I didn't get to drive, or even shovel one shovelfull of coal, I did get to blow the whistle. And get boiling hot water poured on my leg, which isn't fun. :)

Here's the website of The Valley Rattler for those who are interested: http://www.thevalleyrattler.com/
Your first cab ride went better then mine. My first ride in the cab was at the Mid Continent Railroad in Wisconsin. They advertised steam, but all their steamers were out of Service at the time (and still are). So I ended up riding in a little end cab 44 tonner, or something like that. It was actually pretty cool, and it got me started on a path I follow to this day.

I'm scheduled on the 12 again tomorrow in the Left hand seat, but I'm with Gary again, so I hope to move to the right seat again. If I do, I'll give everyone here a good Whistle salute over the High Bridge!