October 4th has arrived and Jim French is making his last minute checks around the engine. He will also be the Fireman on one of the runs this weekend.
The Fireman is responsible for producing the steam needed for the trip. He (or she) must anticipate the trips varying needs for steam. Plus, water must always cover the boiler over the firebox (the crown sheet) to avoid metal failure and boiler explosions. When the train goes down hills, the water shifts to the front of the boiler, possibly exposing the crown sheet. When the train goes up hills, one might have the false sense of security because all the water shifts to the back of the boiler over the crown sheet. But when the train hits level ground, the crown sheet could be exposed.
Additionally, tending the coal bed is a critical task. Cold spots can allow cold outside air into the fire box, thus cooling down the water. To maintain 250 pounds of pressure, the water temperature must be maintained at 400 degrees Fahrenheit!
Milwaukee Road 261 - The Friends of the 261