Frisco Steam Locomotive Taxi Ride

Volunteer firefighter Eric Hoyem of the Railroad Museum of Illinois throws coal into the belly of Frisco 1630. Photograph by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak
woman in black shirt smiles inside steam locomotive cabin;  woman in black mask and black shirt inside steam locomotive cabin
Train Production Editor Angela Pusztai-Pasternak smiles as she enjoys her first taxi ride aboard the Frisco 1630. Photograph by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak

My taxi ride in the Frisco Steam Locomotive was on September 5, 2021. This was a first for me. I knew it would be fun and that I would like it, but what I didn’t know exactly was how much. It was a feast for the senses. My photos here may not be great or even capture all the thrill, as I held onto a bar above my head with a gloved hand, with my feet inches from the steps and the open side of the cabin. In my precarious position, I took as many photos as possible with one hand, but also making sure to absorb everything around me. I’ve read about taxi rides over my many years with Trains, but nothing compares to the sensory overload that actually occurs during a ride. There were so many things I was unprepared for. And maybe you’ll think my words are silly, but I’m going to spread them here, so I can think about them and remember them over time.

My Understanding of the Feminine Nature of a Steam Locomotive

I was never offended when the authors used feminine pronouns to refer to a steam engine, however, I don’t think I understood why until this cab ride. Enter St. Louis-San Francisco No. 1630, a 1918 Russian Baldwin decapod, to explain it all to me at the Illinois Railway Museum in Union, Ill. What I would like to present to you here is that I perceive the steam engine to be quite human. In fact, many of the wonderful traits of a woman presented themselves to me when I first rode this steam engine. Like a woman, the 2-10-0 rocked her hips, so much that my boots were pinched by the deck plates as I struggled to keep my balance, hitting a maximum of 30 mph. It might as well have been 79 mph as my wandering tendrils of hair swirled around like mad flies in a fishbowl. Like a woman, the locomotive makes all kinds of beautiful sounds as it negotiates its way to its destination.

View from behind steam engineer in baseball cap at throttle
Illinois Railroad Museum volunteer steam engineer Ken Ristow at Frisco 1630 accelerator. Photograph by Angela Pusztai-Pasternak

Sensory overload for my Frisco steam locomotive cab ride

The noises of the rails, the rocking of the coal, the rhythm of the movements, the communication between the engineer and the fireman, the opening-closing of the Butterfly fire doors, the sound of the whistle, all of this filled me to the point where there was no other place for other thoughts. Like a woman, the 2-10-0 fills her cab with the intoxicating smell of burning coal mingled with steam and the fresh country air. For a few moments, amid the rhythmic rocking, my eyes were pierced by the fields of corn that seemed to match the graceful movements of the machine and its train. As I faced the tender for a reverse move, the coal dust whipped up, sending grating ash into my eyes. When I blinked them, it was like taking pictures with my memory bank. The cuckoo motion of the fire doors emitted instant warmth into the cabin, warming your skin, fervent and satisfying, like a woman. Fire and water are at the bottom of his soul. Each steam locomotive is unique, messy and beautiful, special in its own way, like a woman.

the tram and passengers pass on the track adjacent to the steam passenger train
It’s a busy day at the Illinois Railroad Museum as steam train passengers pass passengers on a streetcar. Angela Pusztai-Pasternak photography

Thank you to those who run the steam engines

Special thanks to Illinois Railroad Museum volunteer Ken Ristow for his superior engineering skills and amazing ride – one hell of a way to celebrate my 20th anniversary with Trains, a brand I love. Thanks also to Illinois Railway Museum volunteer Ray Weart, who handed over the reins of the 1630 to Ken; and Eric Hoyem, the friendly firefighter who kept his stomach full. And, my deepest gratitude to the centenarian, Frisco 1630, and her crew for turning it around, for the enjoyment of all museum visitors.

Jose P. Rogers