The steam locomotive made possible the rapid opening of the western states and territories of the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. This marvelous invention came into being in England right after the turn of the century, less than seventy years before the completion of the first transcontinental railroad linked the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific. Will Braddock’s quest for freedom in Eagle Talons, The Iron Horse Chronicles–Book One, places him in frequent contact with the steam locomotives of 1867. His further adventures in Bear Claws and Golden Spike, the second and third books in the trilogy, involve him in continued association with the engines and the men who worked on them.
I wrote about the beauty of the 4-4-0 locomotive on May 5, 2015. That posting concentrated on the exterior of the locomotive and its tender. The interior working of the steam locomotive is also a thing of beauty. To stand beside one of these engines when it passes close by on a track, such as happens when the Union Pacific’s #119 and the Central Pacific’s Jupitor are on display at the Golden Spike National Historic Site in Promontory, Utah, makes one want to understand how the iron horse operates.
I recently found a great YouTube presentation prepared by the California State Railroad Museum that explains how a steam locomotive operates. The locomotive featured is not a 4-4-0, but the principle is the same. The narrator points out that this locomotive burns coal or oil. The 4-4-0 burned wood or coal. After the initial video completes you can select additional videos about the operation of locomotives. Click the “x” in the advertising box to delete that distraction. Have your speakers turned on.