The Old Steam Train
There was something about those massive steam trains that fascinated many of us who still remember them.
The early steam train was larger than the present day diesel train and was constructed differently in many ways. It carried tons of coal which was needed by its boiler to produce steam which drove the pistons, sending its massive wheels in motion.
Periodically, these steam trains had to stop and replenish their water and coal supplies. Water towers were spaced about 160 miles apart for this purpose. The transition to diesel units took many years to complete and today very few steam trains remain. The only place you will find one today is in a park such as Fort Edmonton Park or in other similar establishments. The diesel train, it was proven, had many advantages over the early steam train. It could be operated by a much smaller crew which resulted in savings to the various rail road companies. The diesel train was much more manouvreable than the early steam train which required a system in order to change directions.
The older steam trains required an engineer who was responsible for the care and operation of the engine. A fireman was required to feed coal into the roaring fire so the proper steam was maintained at all times, a brakeman was required for switching the train from one track to another, and a conductor was needed to control the passenger service. At one time, trains hauled our daily mail and a mailman was needed to sort the mail and to drop off the bags of mail to the different towns and villages along the way.
When the diesel train came into use some of these positions were eliminated. With these early trains, the fireman had to work many hours building up the required steam pressure needed for the train's operation. Anyone living near the railroad tracks remembers this preparation, especially during the winter when conditions were anything but ideal. At the end of each run the different crew members all had their job to do. The engineer oiled the massive wheels as well as-the other parts of the engine', the fireman looked after the Supply of coal and water required by the boiler and the brakeman looked after the switchIng operations.
The was occupied by the brakeman who was often joined by the rest of the crew members whenever there was a lengthy stop. The steam train always emitted a large amount of black smoke from its stack. It was produced by the large amount of coal used during its run.
Those who still remember the old steam train will also remember the shrill whistle which was operated by steam. It could be heard for miles.
Railroading as a whole has vastly changed. On most lines passenger service has been discontinued. The old rectangular wooden box cars have all been replaced with steel tanker cars used for the hauling of which, oil and chemicals.
The old steam train played a big part in our past history and I am sure many people hated to see this train disappear. Many of us remember when the railroad first arrived in our district back in 1927 and no doubt many of us are still wondering, will we see the railroad disappear from our district as it has done in many other areas in our province during the past few years?