A railway steam engine (Locomotive, to be precise) is something very romantic to many railway enthusiasts. And it is awe-inspiring and fantastic to kids too. They love its hiss, huff, puff and the clouds of misty smoke billowing out of the majestic chimney at the top. Many people feel that each steam locomotive has a distinct personality of its own. You could feel it when you stand next to one of them – it is a living, breathing thing that is hissing and blowing water, making all those exotic sounds that are unique to that particular locomotive.
But the coal-fired steam engine is becoming a thing of the past since it has given way to more-powerful and less maintenance-intensive diesel and electric locomotives to meet the ever-increasing demand for more haulage and speed. But you lose the emotional attachment to the contraption that is a mere distant phut-phut or a whirr.
The allure of steam trains is enduring to many who have seen the black brutes in action! Not to them alone, even kids of the time for whom it is a novelty, feel some kind of attraction – the whistle, the clang, the rattle, the smoke, the heat – all make it a very romantic spectacle! You feel the power happening on the engine that works in front of you with all the attendant racket!
I happen to grow up in the company of steam locomotives in India where it is no longer in active service. They remain only in certain mountain railways as tourist attraction.
My visit to the US during summer is never complete without a trip through the Black River & Western Railroad service from Flemington, NJ. They run summer specials hauled by the historic “# 60” steam engine.
My recent trip from Flemington to Ringoes & back on 28th May, 2016 was one such nostalgic journey back in time! Standing before the majestic Great Western #60 locomotive which was built in 1937, I was transported to a bygone era when railway was the primary form of transportation in which steam engine powerhouse ruled!
The train ride was about 25 minutes from Flemington to Ringoes, followed by a 10-15 minute stop at Ringoes and back to Flemington. It was not the time of travel nor the destination that matters.
The beauty is in the journey in the grand company of the steam beast!
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