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December 10, 2013

Why do people regard the big steam locomotives of days gone by with fondness?


Steam locomotives challenged the daily order with their insistent, measured chant and riverboat whistles.
They were civilization's phantom of the opera, prompting approving grins on boys and men, and thousands of country tunes with home spun lyrics of travel and tragedy, preferably by dark of night. Towns reproved them not merely because steam was intrusive and loud, which it most satisfyingly was, but because steam was a fire-and-brimstone colossus that, alarmingly, moved of its own accord, a perpetually impending but useful disaster, a Frankenstein's monster, unnatural life beyond appeal or persuasion, a necessary neighbor that crushed hapless haywains caught out at crossings.ol remus and the woodpile report

Posted by gerardvanderleun at December 10, 2013 6:27 PM. This is an entry on the sideblog of American Digest: Check it out.

Your Say

...and you could see what made them work.

Posted by: BillH at December 7, 2013 10:24 AM

One look at a UP 'Big Boy' pulling a long consist across the landscape and you understood power.

Posted by: Vermont Woodchuck at December 8, 2013 1:55 AM

I think it was in the era that Engineering was in it's Apex. I wonder if we could have improved any on the Big Boy. They topped out on the rails. Although i feel sad to think what could have been if Diesel hadn't come to being. You could feel the power when they ran.

Posted by: Kelvin at December 8, 2013 11:33 AM

Ya gotta stand next to one passing, and at idle

Or watch Dr Zhivago.

Posted by: itor at December 8, 2013 10:40 PM

It reminds of a better time, when there was justified optimism in America.

Posted by: Fat Man at December 9, 2013 4:57 AM

This is an extremely well written essay. I enjoyed it very much.

Posted by: Lorne at December 9, 2013 6:55 AM

Helluva gif.

Posted by: BillH at December 9, 2013 7:47 AM

Search for "O. Winston Link". He took remarkable steam locomotive photos that were mostly at night in rural settings. The prep work for the photos was really unique.

Posted by: JimBobElrod at December 9, 2013 12:14 PM

You want to see one of the big boys of the steam world that wasn't an expansion engine in a battleship? Go here:


Posted by: Mikey NTH at December 9, 2013 6:19 PM

Steam locomotives were powered with wood, coal, oil - anything plentiful that burned hot. The technology lives on, atomic-powered submarines and aircraft carriers are steam engines with a different fuel yet.

Posted by: Ol' Remus at December 11, 2013 8:17 AM

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