A sense of scale.

Lest I miss another week, let me add a sidebar comment that puts this automotive project into perspective.  There probably will not be another post here till mid June, since in a week my wife and I head to China on a business trip.  That’s another story entirely, one that has nothing to do with perspective or the Green Truck.

Last week I was unable to write because I was in Ogden seeing a train and to receive a donation from the Union Pacific Foundation on behalf of Southern Utah University. They fed us lunch on the train and we had plenty of time to walk around and see it from most sides. Even got a look into the cab.  I’ve been in these before, there was an engine to climb on in a city park of my childhood home, but typically everything was painted black and nothing moved.  This one moves.

This is UP 844, the Union Pacific Rail Road’s last steam engine, delivered in 1944 to the company that built the overland railroad in 1869. The cars are restored to their mid-century glory as long-distance transportation.  There is leg room to the point that one has foot rests to be comfortable.  This ain’t no 737.  Yes they blew the whistle–the deep, throaty wail that everyone should hear occasionally. The nasal air horns on a diesel locomotive are purely utilitarian, they just don’t have emotion in them. One does not understand “the lonesome sound” memorialized in American roots music until you hear a steam whistle blow a long, tapering wail.

Plus, you have to admire a vehicle that carries around its own maintenance shop. The sense of scale of these iron monsters is just not really comprehensible until one gets up close.  Now remember, I am six feet tall.  That drive wheel behind me, cast steel better than five inches thick, weighs more than half a ton by itself.  The interior of the fire box, the studded section above my left shoulder, is larger than the desk space in my office.  Compare this photo with the blog’s lead photo to help with a sense of scale.

Train 4

This is a seriously large machine, mechanical poetry conceived in the passion of engineering, born in the fire of mid-century American industry, and draped with romance.  This–this is a train.


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