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The Locomotive Engineeer in the Cab

What boy has not thrilled at the sight of a huge locomotive! What boy has not dreamed of someday becoming a locomotive engineer! Poems have been penned, stories have been written and songs have been sung about the engineer "with his hand upon the throttle and his eye upon the rail." The locomotive engineer's job is fascinating to boys and men of all ages because it is a job of action, where things are happening constantly and where one must be on the alert at all times.

Under the expert control of the engineer, the big locomotive leaps into life and performs prodigious tasks. A powerful, throbbing piece of mechanism, the steam locomotive is a symbol of dynamic energy and strength.

The locomotive engineer must not only know how to run his engine, but he must also know a great deal about how it is built and how each part works, so that he will know what must be done if anything goes wrong while the engine is out on the road. Therefore, one who aspires to become a locomotive engineer usually starts as a machinist's or boiler maker's apprentice, or in some other beginner's job in a shop or roundhouse where locomotives are repaired. His next job may be that of a hostler, who runs the locomotives in and around the shops and repair yards but who does not drive an engine in main-line service, or his next job may be that of a locomotive fireman. The fireman's job furnishes the final training ground for the job of locomotive engineer. Every locomotive engineer is selected from the ranks of firemen.

When a man becomes a locomotive engineer, his first job is usually running a switching engine, pushing and pulling cars back and forth and making up trams in railroad yards. Then he is assigned to a local freight run, and finally, as he gains experience and seniority, he gets a fast or long distance freight or passenger run. Sometimes he may work during the daytime; sometimes at night; for railroads never sleep. Trains must be kept running at all hours.

Because the efficiency and safety of railway operations depend upon the skill and care and reliability of those who run the trains, the locomotive engineer and every other member of the train crew must not only be carefully trained for his job but he must also be sound of body and have good eyesight. He must be a man of good habits. He must possess an alert mind, and he must be dependable and trustworthy. The punctual operation of trains and the safety of passengers and express, mail and freight depend upon the reliability, intelligence and vigilance of those who operate the trains.

Before the locomotive engineer is allowed to run a locomotive, he must pass a rigid examination to prove that he is thoroughly familiar with the technical details of locomotive operation, air-brakes, signals and so on, and also that he is thoroughly familiar with the rules of railroading as published in the railroad rule book. And he must be acquainted with all the features of the road on which he operates his train. He must also pass a physical examination periodically.

To insure against over-fatigue, neither the locomotive engineer nor any other member of the train crew is allowed to start his day's work unless he has been off duty for at least eight hours.

Locomotive engineers and other train service employees are assigned to the different runs on the basis of seniority, the man with the longest service record having the first choice, the man with the second longest service record having the second choice, and so on.

Sitting on the right side of his cab, the locomotive engineer keeps his eye on the track ahead of the speeding train, as he is doing in the picture, to note the position of every signal and to see that the track is clear for the passage of the train. As the train approaches each signal, the engineer notes carefully what message it conveys and checks his observation with the fireman to make certain that he has read it correctly. The engineer and fireman also watch the train to the rear to see that it is intact and to note any signal from the conductor or brakemen.

In a steam locomotive, the engineer's cab is situated behind the boiler and firebox. It contains all of the controls required in the operation of the locomotive and train—the throttle, the air-brake controls, the sand controls, and several gauges and indicators which tell the engineer and his assistant, the fireman, how well the locomotive is performing. Many locomotives are equipped with automatic stokers whereby coal is conveyed by machinery from the tender into the locomotive firebox. The mechanism which controls the operation of the stoker is also in the cab.

In the picture, the engineer's left hand is on the throttle, by which he controls the flow of steam into the cylinders. To start the engine, he releases the air-brakes and pulls the throttle slowly toward him. To stop the engine, he applies the
air-brakes and moves the throttle in the other direction.

The lever with the little black spot in the center, under the engineer's hand, controls the air-brakes which extend the entire length of the train. In an emergency, air-brakes can be applied quickly.

The smaller lever, just under the engineer's wrist, controls an independent brake for the locomotive only. Brakes are as important to a railway train as they are to an automobile.

The two short upright valves, directly to the left of the independent locomotive brake, enable the engineer to release sand from the sand dome when it is needed to prevent the wheels from slipping on the rails.

The mechanism which enables the engineer to reverse the engine and drive it backwards is next to the wall of the cab behind and below the engineer's forearm.

The several cloak-like dials above the engineer's hand are gauges which tell the engineer and fireman the steam pressure in the boiler, and other important facts about the condition of the engine.

The long hammer-like shaft above the engineer's head near the top of the picture is the steam turret valve handle which enables him to open or close the valve through which steam is supplied to auxiliary devices, such as injectors, air compressor, blower and the steam heating system.

Just above the engineer's hand in the picture is the whistle cord by means of which the engineer signals the train crew and sounds warnings upon approaching crossings, stations and persons or animals on the track. When the train is approaching a station, the engineer sounds one long blast. On approaching a grade crossing, he sounds two long, one short and one long blast. Several short toots are sounded to warn persons or animals to get off the track. The engineer also has several whistle combinations for communicating information to the conductor and other members of the train crew.

On a passenger train the train crew communicates information to the engineer by means of a signal cord extending through the entire length of the train and attached to a little whistle beside the engineer in the cab. When the train is standing, two short pulls on the signal cord tell the engineer to start the train; three shorts tell him to back up; four shorts tell him to apply or release air-brakes. When the train is in motion, two short pulls on the bell cord signal tell the engineer to stop at once; three shorts, stop at next passenger station; four shorts, reduce speed.

Since freight trains are not equipped with signal cords, the conductor and trainmen signal the engineer by means of hand, flag and lantern signals.

The locomotive is a wonderful machine. It performs tasks which thousands of men working together could not do. It pulls heavy passenger and freight trains for long distances at great speed. But it would be helpless and useless without the locomotive engineer and his assistant, the fireman. They give it life and strength and direct its energies to the service of man. Under their direction it becomes one of our great and valuable servants.


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