Monday, April 30, 2007

Real steam locomotives

I suspect that railroaders might have invented the term "running out of steam." If you worked a steam locomotive too hard without proper care you "ran out of steam" literally. The fireman needed to keep feeding fuel to the firebox, and maintain water going into it from the tender. The amount of steam being generated needed to be equal to or slightly greater than the amount being consumed.

By the way, if the water going in wasn't turned to steam (and hot enough) there was a problem due to pressure. If there wasn't enough water the "crown sheet" (the portion of the boiler where the hottest heat was) would get too hot and fail with catastrophic consquences- a boiler explosion! So it was a delicate balance between the engineer, the fireman, the weight of the train, the speed, the grade, the track condition and lots of other things, including a small bit of luck. Four choices: getting through on time and safely, explosion, stopping to dump the firebox before explosion, and running out of steam.

So why the heck do you care about this ancient esoterica?

In our busy lives it is easy to run out of steam. We're trying to balance our lives in a thousand differnt ways. Money, family, health, happiness, fun, nonsense are just some of the top contenders.

What are you doing to get the "train through on time" without running out of steam?

I've subscribed to a list server where one person has been trying to do everything. In my way of thinking this person ought to consider doing it as a blog but it's not my train. I'm just along for the ride.

Most of us need help in our lives. We will never admit it. On the old locomotives it took at least two men to keep it going. One fed it fuel and the other one checked the track ahead. Who's checking your track ahead? Who's maintaining the steam?

Back to that poor person doing the listserver. Fuel is getting sparse. No one is apparently writing in with praise or suggestions. I sense it's getting old. This person is running out of steam. I see it daily. I guess that's better than losing the "crown sheet." If I tried to run a listserver or write a blog about politics I'd be doomed. I'd lose "my" crown sheet before I'd run out of steam. That I know.

So, try wearing my railroad hat for a minute.

Where is your train bound?
What time does it have to get there?
What's the track look like?
How long is the train you're trying to pull?
Who's your engineer?
Who's your fireman?
How's the fire?
How's the water?

And don't forget to occassionally wave at the kids standing along the track!