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2002 OVGRS Opening Day

On Saturday, the 20th of April ’02 IPP&W 4-6-0 number 8 was dispatched, with Vice-President Stuart Moxley aboard, to inspect the line. A short while later 4-6-0 number 9, with yours truly at the throttle, left Craig Leigh with a couple of empty wooden gondolas and some freshly shopped flat cars in tow. Although there was a brisk wind out the northwest, it was warm and comfortable in the cab.

After passing Rat Junction, the throttle was eased off and number 9 began coasting down the long hill past the siding at Mount St. Helen’s. Leaning out the cab window, I listened the comforting sound of the steel wheels over the jointed rail …. kathump, kathump …. kathump, kathump …. like the slow heart beat of someone close. It felt good to out on the road again.

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As the track turns westward at the bottom of the hill, the bright spring sun glistens on the grimy front window of the cab. Easing the throttle back and gently applying the brakes, our train clatters through the switch at the east end of Ironwood Junction. The stationmaster waves as we pass, and we toot hello with the whistle. After clearing the west switch, we enter a series of the long downhill curves past Spruce and Hill Siding.

I slam the window shut and pull my bandana over my nose as we approach the first of two tunnels. The cab quickly begins to heat up as we rattle through the dark tunnel. I begin to choke on the smoke as it curls in from the back of the open cab. “Damn” I think to myself, “we should have canvas curtains for times like this.” As we break back into the daylight I slid the window back open and grab a gulp of fresh air.

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As we approach the second tunnel I push on the window but it jambs. Jumping up from my seat I move forward in the cab to escape the smoke billowing in through the open window. Number 9 lurches sideways in the darkness of the tunnel, sending me sideways against the boiler. By the time we clear the second tunnel my eyes are watering from the smoke and my arm is stinging from the boiler burn.

The throttle is opened to clear the smoke out the cab and the first of two trestles appears down the line. Pulling number 9 up to stop beside the fire barrel, I quickly dismount and plunge my arm into the icy water. “Damn that’s cold!” I climb back into the cab after a quick splash to wash the soot from my face and eyes. The fireman leans out the far window trying desperately to hide his laughter.

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After releasing the brakes and easing on the throttle, number 9 slips a bit before finding her footing. By the time we pass Lily we are back up to speed and rattle across the highest trestle on the line. Rolling by the Blue Mountain Mine that is closed for the winter, we enter a long sweeping curve. Number 9 is reined in just before the yard limit sign for Glen Hammond. Normally a busy yard during the summertime, its station and other buildings are now quiet and dark.

Once out of Glen Hammond we again open it up as we head for Fir Grove and the end of the line. It’s not to long before we slow for the wye and pass the water column as we enter the yard. Slowing to stop apposite the station we set the brakes and hand number 9 over to the yard hostler.

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Climbing down out the cab, we head for the station where we will be treated to a home cooked dinner and a comfortable night’s stay before heading back to Craig Leigh in the morning. While this was a quiet run, we know this will not last. Management has plans to re-open the line through Peter’s Pond and extend the main this summer.

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