24 “Gonna be a Good Railroad Man”

by admin on November 19, 2011

At 4 years old Michael had already shown a keen interest in anything mechanical.  To him riding in the cab of the locomotive was as natural as could be.  He watched in fascination as fireman Roy Calhoun shoveled coal into the boiler.  He studied the moves of the engineer as the temperature and pressure gauges began to rise.  When they both reached a point marked in black on the dials the engineer began to ease the throttle forward.  Reaching for the cord over his right shoulder Jim Miller gave three sharp tugs on the steam whistle.  “All Clear”.  The wheels of the Old Number 7 Alco locomotive began to roll.

As the train pulled out of the station Jim Miller picked Michael up and motioned for him to grab hold of the cord.  Wide-eyed Michael gave a hard pull on the cord as the whistle shrieked at his command.  A few minutes later # 7 cleared the yard and rolled northward toward Lake Neccudah.

Mountains and rocks now replaced the plains and wheat fields as far as the eye could see.   The rails followed the path of least resistance heading north.  The distance from Denver to Lake Neccudah is not great (approximately 45 miles) but trains cannot traverse steep inclines. A 3% grade (meaning a 3 foot rise every 100 feet) is about the maximum a locomotive pulling freight can handle.  Back in 1873 that meant going through mountains not over them.  Not unlike the more famous Union Pacific/Central Pacific Railroad saga, LNRR also had to blast through its share of mountains.  Many of the same Chinese Coolie laborers were used to complete the LNRR, with the same deplorable work conditions and the same deplorable death rate.  More than a few would remain in Lake Neccudah and eventually add to its rich cultural tapestry.

At about 5:45 P.M. Jim Miller let Michael tug on the whistle cord to announce the arrival of Number 7 from Denver.  Ten minutes later the locomotive cleared the platform and rolled to a stop.  About a dozen passengers disembarked including the Bingham/Dunwell entourage.  Charles didn’t wait for the porter.  He grabbed a baggage cart and unloaded the suitcases himself.  Harold went forward to the locomotive to retrieve Michael.  Michael wiggled with delight as Big Jim handed him down to his father.  Harold smiled and reached up to shake Jim’s hand.  “He’s gonna make a good railroad man someday” Jim said.  Little did he know how prophetic those words would be.

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