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 Post subject: Saint Paul Minnesota North Pole Express 2017 version
PostPosted: Dec Sun 03, 2017 3:56 am 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 7296
Location: Litchfield Minnesota USA
It has become a tradition that just before Christmas the former Milwaukee Road steam locomotive and it's doting crew stages an event mostly intended for children plies the rails in Saint Paul, MN. from Saint Paul Union Station (SPUD) to Santa's North Pole village and back. Santa comes out of his house and rides back to the station with the kids and parents and hands out treats and such. At the North Pole elves are busy repairing Santa's sleigh, the reindeer are in their reindeer health club getting in shape for flying Santa's sleigh to all the good little boys and girls all over the world....
Some of those little kids are a bit more on top of things than others. Now and then a kid has been heard to say, in different wording depending on which kid, "I didn't know the North Pole was this close!"

My input to this is, other than other little things where I can help out, is to take care of the engine overnight. My favorite job! All alone, just me and the beast. The beast needs tender care and if not cared for properly WILL bite back, and hard. The beast being a reasonably large steam locomotive that today is generally pressed into service as an excursion train hauler.

I spent most of this past week on the engine overnight from around 9:00PM to around 7:00 AM. It is constant work, not strenuous work, but work. Ignore this beast and it will nip for a small infraction and bite hard for a large infraction. Steam locomotives are essentially living and breathing beasts with no sense of humor at all. Feed me, Give me a drink. I have indigestion and you are going to clear that so I can eat more coal. My belly is hotter on the left than on the right and it doesn't feel good - FIX IT NOW OR I WILL BITE YOU!
I am tired of you using that injector. Use the other one until I tell you when you can go back to that injector. I want more water. I am thirsty. Feed me again..... Check my tender water, I think it's getting full. and on and on.

I love that task. I don't know why, but part of it is that I recognize that I am on it most of those times where nobody else is around because I'm trusted. Someone, somewhere, has faith in my ability to get that nasty thing through the night. I haven't blown it up yet anyway.

So this past week this old war beast from the 1940's when it was pulling the Milwaukee Road crack passenger train between Chicago and Minneapolis, sometimes farther west and sometimes to St. Louis, MO. with whatever train went there. It was built because of the war. The troop movements caused the passenger trains to become longer. The fast Hudson's weren't able to handle the load, to the Milwaukee Road ordered ten new 4-8-4 Northern type steam locomotives to replace the 4-6-4 Hudsons.
They really wanted diesel locomotives, but the War Production Board would not allow it, the diesel engines being built were needed for submarines and smaller surface water craft.

This engine was actually about to go into the scrap line in 1954, only ten years old, when a museum asked if they could have it as an exhibit. That happened.
Fast forward to today; it is owned by the Friends of the 261. I joined up in 1997 and never looked back. I have fired it on the road and probably will again, but I prefer the night job. It involves a lot of coal scoop work. On the road you just sit in your seat and watch out the left side of the engine for anything bad and for signals if they're on your side of the engine. The engineer trusts the fireman to tell him of anything on the left side that is significant to the safety of the train and most of all, let him know what the signals say. He can't see that side. The fireman can't see his side.

Back to SPUD.
Here are some links to what the North Pole Express is and does;

http://www.bing.com/images/search?q=sai ... &FORM=IGRE

Photo's of the "North Pole" and the engine are included.

https://www.bloomingtonmn.org/things-to ... le-express

A photo of the building where we do all the maintenance on the coaches we own and also for other coach owners, and the steam engine. We're equipped for all the heavy work along with day to day maintenance. https://www.facebook.com/theNorthPoleExpress

Mark D.


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 Post subject: Re: Saint Paul Minnesota North Pole Express 2017 version
PostPosted: Dec Sun 03, 2017 9:51 pm 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 3765
Location: WI 54812
That's a pretty sweet job you have there, Mark. I've always been a fan of those big old beasts, too. And to know those marvelous machines moved nearly everything across our great country at one time, what a nostalgic thought. We live very near a crossing on the old refurbished Soo Line, and we now have the frac sand trains that shake our house several times a day. I really enjoy hearing and watching them come through, especially enjoy hearing the horn blow off in the distance in the wee hours of a cold winter night. Just something comforting about it all.


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 Post subject: Re: Saint Paul Minnesota North Pole Express 2017 version
PostPosted: Dec Tue 05, 2017 2:25 am 
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Joined: Jan Thu 01, 1970 1:00 am
Posts: 7296
Location: Litchfield Minnesota USA
I had originally decided to just post links for other people's photo's because I have to go through so many gyrations to get a photo both small enough in file size AND (the two aren't entirely tied together) length and width.
But those links I posted had a lot of other crap in there too, including the Canadian Pacific Christmas Special, which is a wonderful thing as they, too, donate to worthy causes.
But none of those show Santa's village at the 'North Pole' so I decided to post a photo. I might have gotten the photo a bit too small, I won't know untile I post it here. But too small beats resizing it eleventy seven times to get the best size without going overboard.
Santa's village is erected each year by the 261 crew. It seems to grow larger and more sophisticated every year.

Part of the tender of the engine also shows on the left. It holds 20,000 gallons of water and 25 tons of coal. I realize that black is difficult at night, but that's when I had the chance to take a photo of it beside the Santa village. That's where it's parked overnight. Nobody around but I. Most of the village consists of construction shack buildings with false fronts on them. During the day the train stops there, Santa comes out, looks over his sleigh and the 'elves' who are feverishly trying to get it into flying condition before Christmas while other 'elves' are making toys and packing them in crates with the BNSF Railroad stenciled on them (BNSF is a supporter of this operation)
Santa eventually climbs onto the train and hands out candy to the kiddies and rides back to SPUD with them while they tell him what they hope to get for Christmas.
It's interesting how smart kids are at even the age of four or five. They figure out very quickly that it didn't take long enough on the train ride to get to the North Pole. But they're having fun anyway.

I can't wait for summer when we can get out on the high iron once again and run some real excursions at track speed.
Mark D.


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