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Thread: Steam Heroes

  1. #1
    FoamersNW Guest

    Default Steam Heroes

    Steam Heroes

    A photo essay by Robert W. Scott


    Once steam gets in your blood, it never leaves. Looking back, it seems to have just been yesterday, but also it felt like an eternity since I had my indoctrination into the world of steam preservation. It was 1989, and I, fresh looking for a way to get into real railroad operations. It had only been the previous year or so, the complete restoration had been finished on the "Triple C-15" at Chehalis, Washington.

    Click image for larger versionHaving been "stuffed and mounted" in a park in Chehalis since 1955, she was reborn under the careful guidance and repair of the dedicated crew of the Chehalis - Centralia Railroad Association, a group associated with the Mount Rainier Scenic line out of Mineral, WA.


    The "Triple-C" was a lumber and log hauling line originally constructed in 1911 with Chehalis being its northern terminus. The line ran south, and then east through Onalaska, where it crossed the Carlisle Lumber Company line. From "Ony" it continued out to Mayfield, and Cowlitz. In later years, the line went as far as Winston Creek, which is just outside of Mossyrock, WA. The "Triple-C" had consolidated two other roads in 1916, the Washington Electric Railway Co., and the Chehalis & Cowlitz Railway. One can still follow the line south out of Chehalis as it now serves as the branch line to the Chehalis Industrial Park. South of 13th Street in Chehalis, the current line veers east into the park. It was at this point the original line continued south, and is not readily seen as the current alignment of Interstate 5 covers any trace of the line for the next 4 miles. Service on this line continued until 1955, when the line was abandoned, torn up, mostly sold for scrap materials.

    Two engines were rescued from the scrappers torch. I have told you the story of the "15", but its sister engine "20" was transferred, and still resides in Fort Borst Park in nearby Centralia where its behind protected fencing but still is in harms way when powerful softball sluggers hit the side of the engine with a lofty homerun ball.

    In 1988, the preservation effort was planned and executed on the "15", and it was pulled out of the park in Chehalis, and moved to the BN Industrial spur where it was then moved to the site of its restoration, the Mt. Rainier Scenic shops at Mineral. Unfortunately, I was not a member of the Association to see first hand the restoration and transformation of the engine. In the spring of 1989, I made a trek down to the steam train ticket office in Chehalis to inquire on what I could do to volunteer. I was warmly greeted, felt comfortable, and asked to return early on the following Saturday.


    Click image for larger versionI was raised by my grandparents, and heard stories of steam engines, big time railroading, and the days of old. My grandpa had at one time been a worker on the Missouri Pacific, but with so many years gone, I don't specifically remember in what capacity. All other aspects of the hobby of railroading and model railroading were fostered by my grandfather and are crystal clear, with a vivid clear memory of running trains on our huge basement layout at the age of 3.

    I still felt something was missing, and thought that this experience of working with, on and around a live steam engine could come close to bringing a feeling of completeness to my experiences. I remember arriving on a rather chilly morning at the yard in Chehalis. Stepping out of my car, I heard the "thump-thump-thump" of the air compressor, saw the swilling steam and light haze above the stack of the engine, and saw steam escaping from around various parts and connections.

    As I was introduced around to all members of the group. Harold Borovec was the engineer, wearing his ever present red hat with white polka dots - Harold could remember riding the Triple C as a kid, and was rumored to be the one that put the "15" into the park, and the one to bring her out three and a half decades later. Charlie Robertson was the fireman - a retired fireman from one of the big roads, he always fired the train by the seat of his pants and was a wealth of knowledge. Rick Beaber and Phil Schweisow were the men in charge of the train in the capacity of brakeman and conductor. Wearing smart white shirts, and black caps showing their role on the train. Ray Beaber was always present - willing to do what it took to help run the train. He was not only the relief engineer, but he also fired the engine on occasion.


    Attachment 1504 The cylinder cocks were opened allowing for the safe expulsion of any accumulated water in the cylinders. That combined with a chilly morning sent clouds of steam pungent with the sweet smell of lubricating oil all around us. It was at that point - at that exact moment - I had found my calling. It was what I had been looking for. One of the worlds most influential inventions - one of raw power and grace and I was on it. I was a part of it.


    They say that when operating a steam engine it takes on a life form of its own. The pops, cracks, moans and groans are of an engine under fire and under pressure. Its a living being. Its one that cannot even for a second be left unattended or unsupervised. When running she talks to you. Mechanical problems are often diagnosed when the engine is "talking" as its heading down the tracks. A slight cock of the head of Harold, leaning a keen ear to the window usually meant that he was like a mechanic of today who would use computers and machines to diagnose problems. Harold, by using his ears and listening to her, would identify mechanical issues long before any visible signs would be noticed.

    The ritual that needs to be witnessed is "oiling 'round". The engineer and fireman would drop to the ground with oil cans in hand placing the lubricant on friction bearing areas, bubble cups, and along rods, all in the presence of the engine hissing, steaming, bumping, and thumping. The fireman could be then heard pulling the injector gun that gave a slow hiss, followed by a loud thud, then the sounds of flowing water, moving from the tender into the boiler, all the while carefully watching the water glass, as the level bounced up and down.





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    My relationship with the "15" lasted for five years. During that time, I worked mostly as the "head-end" brakeman. It was my job to drop off on the fly at the first switch at our run-arounds, and bring the engine back to the train after aligning and re-aligning switches. I endured manual track labor in tamping ties, and helped thousands of visitors become intimately introduced to steam railroading. As with time, things change, and in 1993 my departure had the most to do with available time and children that were growing older requiring more of my free time.

    Click image for larger version
    Recently, after a 12 year hiatus, I returned to the steam train to see if I could help out at all. Harold, Ray, Rick and Andy are still there, but all of the others have gone onto other things. What has struck me, as even through all of the players have or will change, there is still someone there to work the magic of keeping this dream alive. The dream of keeping an engine alive for their children and their childrens children. To this, they will always be heroes.










    Attachment 1502





    Last edited by Bob; 06-17-2006 at 06:10 PM.

  2. Default

    Robert,

    I thought your essay did a nice job of documenting your relationship with CC&C 15 and the Chehalis steam team. You set us up with the first paragraph and concluded nicely with the 'where are we at now' paragraph at the end. In the middle you mixed in facts about engine and operation as well as the job you did and the atmosphere around it.

    Photograph wise I like the selection, they complimented the things you described in the text. I love the low angle of the first shot of the 15, it shows off her 'face' nicely. However, on my monitor and in my browser the white behind the engine is distracting because the engine appears to 'hover' out in the middle of a bunch of white space. I don't know if there is any sky in that photo that Photoshop could help you with but even a faint gray sky would help in my opinion. I know you didn't use any sort of framing on the other photos, but that might be a consideration also. Last item here...got any photos of you at work? That would be a nice touch.

    Organizationally I'd like to see the photos mixed into the story a bit more because I felt a bit starved for picture input in the middle of the story. For example the photo of Josh oiling around would be nice below the discussion you give about watching Harold. Additionally I think the final paragraph would be best in two parts. I think the second part (starting off with Recently...) would be best at the very end after the last of the pictures to provide a nice wrap up.

    In summary, I will recommend this essay for acceptance with the condition that Robert take a look at the organization and see if there's something he, as the author, could do about my organization comments.

  3. #3
    ahockley Guest

    Default

    OK here's a review from a guy quite honestly isn't at all excited by tourist/branchline/etc steam. I know, almost railfan heresy huh.

    The story is great and does a good job of recalling your experiences with the 15 and your journey to "complete" your experience. The presentation of the text is solid, although in the paragraph that starts "They say that when operating" I noticed a couple typos: leanding and noticied.

    Black and white photos work well with the steam theme. My only complaint is that in all of the photos that show any sky (except the last one), the sky is blown out bright white which (at least at my monitor's settings) is very distracting and overshadows.

    At this point I would recommend some work on the photos to see if it is possible to tone down the blown-out skies in hopes of recovering at least some detail, or lower the levels to a point where they aren't absolute bright white. I'm holding off on approval until hopefully the levels in the photos can be adjusted more to my liking.

    Feel free to ask me any specifics... I'm also curious if it's as blown-out to others as it is to me here at home (I'll look on my work PC tomorrow).

  4. #4

    Default

    The sky isn't so bright as to be annoying on my screen, but it is definitely blown out and lacking in detail.

    You may have to use masks in Photoshop to retain the nice level of details you have on the loco while also bringing back some sky details. I'm not sure exactly how to do that, but basically you merge two images, one of the 15 and the other of the sky, into one shot. Maybe that's a good question to ask in the techniques topic...
    Bob Harbison
    RailroadPhotoEssays host

  5. #5
    FoamersNW Guest

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ahockley
    The presentation of the text is solid, although in the paragraph that starts "They say that when operating" I noticed a couple typos: leanding and noticied.

    Black and white photos work well with the steam theme. My only complaint is that in all of the photos that show any sky (except the last one), the sky is blown out bright white which (at least at my monitor's settings) is very distracting and overshadows.

    At this point I would recommend some work on the photos to see if it is possible to tone down the blown-out skies in hopes of recovering at least some detail, or lower the levels to a point where they aren't absolute bright white. I'm holding off on approval until hopefully the levels in the photos can be adjusted more to my liking.
    I believe I addressed your two concerns - #1 - The typeoes wur fixud.
    #2 - The original images were untouched by PSE, so I sent them throught the rigors of PSE with the following touches; Shadow and Highlight adjustment to reflect changes low to mid-range shadows, and a midrange darkening of the highlights. Finally the shot was overlaid with a small percentage (10-15%) or a #85 warming filter. Hopefully the boxes and text makes it look a bit richer, and deliniates where the sky ends and the pages begin.

  6. #6
    FoamersNW Guest

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by steveeshom
    got any photos of you at work? That would be a nice touch.

    Additionally I think the final paragraph would be best in two parts. I think the second part (starting off with Recently...) would be best at the very end after the last of the pictures to provide a nice wrap up.
    El-Done on x 2 with the final paragraph being separated, and the final tag paragraph after the last photos. I do have some photos of me back in the early 90's, but they are in print format, and our scanner is on the fritz.

    I thank you all for your suggestions and input - as for me, they are always welcomed!

  7. #7
    ahockley Guest

    Thumbs up

    The changes to the photos look good to me Robert... the white sky no longer overpowers the images and the detail still looks good.

    With the photo fixes now in place I give my vote of approval.

  8. #8
    Join Date
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    Overall, I think it is a pretty nice story. Nice background, some personal stories, history, the works. The photographs are a bit rough technically, though, regardless of the photoshoppery. I think you could have better used the light available with some different angles, although I admit I don't know the dimensions of a steam locomotive cab, nor how wide your lens is. But a better balance between the outdoors and the flash would have helped too, to bring more of the background in.

    Overall the content of the photographs is pretty good, but 3&4 suffer from the 'six-foot guy with a camera to his eye' angle. Perhaps getting closer or lower or something would have given them more impact. Again, I don't know if the loco is likely to shoot steam all over you, but shouldn't we all suffer for our art? Being 10 feet away (or whatever) makes the photos seem less intimate than they could be.

    But the flaws aren't fatal, I guess, so I will vote for approval. But remember them next time you are out there, ok?
    Chris Crook
    photojournalist

    pictures and yap

  9. #9

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by crook
    I think you could have better used the light available with some different angles, although I admit I don't know the dimensions of a steam locomotive cab, nor how wide your lens is. But a better balance between the outdoors and the flash would have helped too, to bring more of the background in.
    While the #15's cab is roomy, it's still tight for photography. Here's a shot of me that Rick took last weekend. He was literally leaning outside of the cab on the far side, and that's with my G6's lens set to 28 mm wide angle.

    You'll also notice the same blown out sky problem. I'm going to post this image in the workshop and see if it can be fixed. But the fact is that it's dark in there, real dark. Flash doesn't help, the cab just doesn't look right.
    Bob Harbison
    RailroadPhotoEssays host

  10. Default Blown Window Sky

    I discovered a method to deal with the blown out window sky. I was reading on fredmiranda.com about how Sunset magazine deals with it when shooting interiors. If you look carefully at their interior photos, the view through the window is always well lit as is the interior. Their photographers usually expose (and bracket) for both the interior and exterior. In photoshop they then merge the images using layers to provide one image with both portions exposed properly.

    Ok so that's real easy with a static subject and if you think about it ahead of time. It certainly doesn't help after the fact. It is something to consider though if you have the opportunity to get two shots.

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