Saturday, January 24, 2009
The picture books and films of old steam locomotives always seemed to have a little box of coal heaped in an open car just behind them, when I was a kid. We naturally assumed it was full of fuel for the fires that kept everything going. Almost half a century into my earthly consciousness, I finally asked a knowledgeable railroader about it when I didn't see any coal on this "tender". It turns out that much of what these carry is a big supply of water to feed to the engine for steam! The coal, if there is any, usually sits up in a funnel-shaped hopper, surrounded by a U-shaped enclosed tank containing the water. So all those childhood illustrations were sort of camouflaged, unless you knew what questions to ask. Also, I always thought they were only black, but this beautifully maintained Simpson tender car is a spectacularly cheerful orange. Note that rolled up hose on top. Big clue. The things I learn living in Willits.