Boothbay Railway Village Steam
Every boy's fantasy, to drive a real steam engine. I had
a chance to live that fantasy in Boothbay Maine the weekend of October
18-19, 2003. Spending time in that part of Maine each Summer, I immediately
became enamoured with these little narrow-gauge (2 foot) Henschel "Monta"
engines which were used on construction sites in Germany. Boothbay has
three of these engines of which 2 are operational. The oldest dates from
1913, the newest from 1934. An H0 version was once available as both a
kit and finished from MFB. The LGB Stainz replicates this engine in G-scale,
just remember to swap the smokestack.
The two day course was structured such that the first day
was spent learning about the theory of steam locomotive operation with
the second being a hands-on exercise in which each participant was able
to drive the engines. The weather was perfect and a terrific time was
had by all. The high of the day kept me awake on my 8 hour drive home
and provided sweet dreams as I still wore the aroma of coal and steam...
This past summer I spent a day working which included helping
get the boiler fired up and lubricating all the friction points. Then
it was my job to make sure the fire was kept going, that water was injected
into the boiler when needed, and blowing out the condensation from the
pistons. Oh, I got to drive a few times too. Very hot, hard, work, but
a wonderful experience.
Brian, our instructor explaining the inside of the boiler
Getting ready to fire up the boilers for a fun filled day of learning
and practicing steam operation
The boiler was started up with wood fires before coal (anthracite) was
added. Anthracite was used because it burns cleaner.
Me, standing in the cab as we pick up our open car before heading out
on the 3/4 mile loop which features two steep grades, one up, one down.
Both engines were on the track at the same time which made for occasional
excitement and hard braking. Despite its incredible romanticism, firing
up an engine and driving were very physical work, especially controlling
the throttle and the "Johnson bar" which controls direction
and the amount of steam reaching the pistons. The downgrade was taken
with the throttle closed and the engine set to reverse using the pistons
as air breaks. Worked amazingly well.
Starting up and blowing condesation out of the pistons.
Looking around during our lunch break.
Steamcourse Videos at YouTube
- Part 1: Introductions,
building the fire, and learning about the injector for feedwater.
- Part 2: Injectors,
valve gear and drive train, lubrication, and racing the other team to
get on the track first. We lost.
- Part 3: The
other team hits the track first while we watch... A pleasure in its
- Part 4: We
finally hit the tracks, get our train, and I get to learn the art of
firing (and injecting the feedwater...)
- Part 5: I
learn the fine art of driving, and am rough before getting the hang
of it. My first lap ends with a hard braking as we didn't notice the
other train ahead of us and parked in the station... Teachable moment
- Part 6: Have
the hang of it and the time of my life driving around again. Then get
to relax in the back while others get their turn. Final shots of the
train heading past my 1975 BMW 2002 "Wahnsinn,"
a term that describes this weekend in every respect. The memories still