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?