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Edition #197  May 1, 2013

Encounter With A Train Master

Photographer: Richard W. Jahn

                                                                                                    Photo by Richard W. Jahn

Encounter With A Train Master

These pictures were taken when I was 23 and a not very experienced rail photographer. Boy, do I wish I had better techniques, today’s cameras and more patience to document what was all around at that time. Without the internet there was just the rumor that Fairbanks-Morse Train Masters might still be running at some mountain town in West Virginia called Mullens. My friend and I scraped a little money together in August 1975 and headed off into the great unknown.

August 3rd was a typical midsummer day -- a bit hazy and murky. We easily found the brick engine house and looking down from the road on the hill; we could see at least one Train Master. Things were much different then as we drove to the shop building - nobody minded us being there as we walked around back of the building to see the 174. It had recently had some type of failure and would never run again. Inside the engine house was the one painted in the new black with white "NW" paint scheme—it was 171, famous for being the “plug-in” Train Master. We were invited to take a photo of the engine in the house, but the pictures didn't turn out very well. The guys also mentioned there was another working down in the yard at Elmore, so my friend John and I headed off on a search and find mission following the road and looking through the trees.

I'm not sure how we got there, but somehow we got across the stream to the yard tracks and found the idling 158. The crew soon came out, noticed the two of us and asked if we wanted to go for a ride with them. Wow-- a ride in a live Train Master, this was not to be passed up! After taking a couple of sitting photos I climbed up the tall set of steps. I took a couple photos from the locomotive, but mostly just took in the experience. The engineer readily talked about the locomotive and how the few that were running were really tired. We tied on to one cut of cars and he said we needed to shove them up a specific track the name of which I no longer remember. He said that when the TM's were new, they could shove 14 cars up this track, but on this day we would only handle 9. Soon our ride was over and we thanked the crew for some very special memories. In retrospect we should have stayed longer and documented the scene better, but still I am thankful to the crew of a different time that gave a couple 20 something’s a lifelong memory.

Richard W. Jahn

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