Friends of the Rail Hands-On Experience 20 June 1999 Photos and Report
|What better way to spend Father's Day than driving a steam
locomotive? Friends of the Rail members were busy Saturday night
preparing 15F 3094 for the day's activities. We had 13 or so budding
steam drivers lined up to try their hand at the regulator. Behind
3094 we had set up a small goods load with our caboose (complete
with guard) at the back.
First lesson was the basics of the controls in the cab, demonstrated in 24 3664. Then a walk around the loco to be shown the injector, valve gear, smokebox and other bits 'n pieces, followed by a bit more in the cab, looking at the firebox, grates, brick arch, fusible plugs, gauges, injector controls etc. etc. My head was spinning at the end!
Then the real action! Climbing up into 3094's cab with a sense of anticipation, the loco standing there awaiting a driver, hissing quietly, injector gurgling. Pretoria steam driver At Smuts was in the cab, providing instruction and supervision, and fireman Henry Lazenby attending to the fire. I took my place in the driver's seat, and At handed me the keys and pointed to the ignition... Keys? Ignition? Somebody had bolted a car ignition into the cab to catch the new drivers unaware - no wonder I couldn't get it started!
Then it's time to go, we have a schedule to keep. Wait for the vacuum, put the reverser into full forward, and a blast on the whistle. The guard gives the green flag, yank open the regulator. Steam hisses from the drain cocks, the loco creeps forwards slowly, the first blast of exhaust up the chimney, picking up speed, exhaust louder and faster, the thrill of steam courses through the veins...
After about 30 minutes or so at the regulator, it was time to climb down, so the next driver could have a go. Each driver was presented with a certificate, which officially proclaimed each new driver to be a Steam Freak!
Driving a steam loco is a fantastic experience which I would recommend to anybody - many thanks to all the Friends of the Rail members who worked hard to give us this opportunity.
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