Old No. 22 a relic of the past, maybe a sign of the future
October 21, 2007
Whether two or 92 – everyone loves trains.
Especially the steam locomotive. Billows of steam and smoke, a screeching whistle, the grinding of gears and the slow turn of oiled and shiny wheels – the puff of a smokestack and that guttural squeak, moan and first chug down the track.
“It’s infectious – don’t ever let anyone tell you different,” said Walnut Creek, Calif., resident Dennis Pisila, 66, who said he’s been a V&T buff since the days of his youth when his family camped in the Sierra and a handful of the old rail cars were still running. “I’ve got a couple-a spikes shined up in my house. These trains, to see them run again it’s like watching the natives come home to roost after a long journey.”
Several hundred visitors crowded the yard and grounds of the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson Sunday to take a gander at locomotive No. 22, taking to the tracks for the first time in a decade in a half.
Rail buffs recall No. 22 as one of their more famous artifacts. Indeed, the locomotive starred in the Disney feature film, “The Great Locomotive Chase” and was a regular on the “Wild Wild West” television series.
The locomotive was also an extra on “countless” western movies and shows, railroad officials said.
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No. 22, also known as the “Inyo,” was originally powered by wood, then converted into an oil-powered engine, and then restored back to its original wood-burning format, the museum’s crew cutter (manager) Barry Simcoe said.
“Yes, the old 22 has some stories to tell,” he said. “It’s a real art to run ‘er.”
Simcoe, in his 20th year driving trains at the museum said engineer Lee Hobold, who was driving No. 22 on Sunday, has “a lot of experience and knows the trick to those trains.”
“You’ve got to have a lot of respect for someone who’s able to drive that old engine,” railroad buff Pisila said. “You think about the train’s history. Hollywood rescued it from the scrap heap and restored it the first time – the museum took over from there.
“But the credit goes to the (engineer). You think of the art of keeping the fire going, building the right amount of steam, making it run the proper speed – it’s definitely a lost skill.”
No. 22 is 130 years old but, according to one new railroad buff, “looks shiny and new.”
“I like the whistle – whoo, whoo.” said Brecken McCrory, of Reno.
Brecken visited the museum Sunday with a dozen other little ones and their parents from his Reno playgroup.
“It’s a real treat to be able to bring him out there,” said Brecken’s father, Shaemus McCrory. “We’re just here with other families, but we’re catching a look at a different time.”
Indeed, as Pisila lifted his camera to snap the No. 22 from a different angle, he turned circumspect about locomotives’ meaning for the past – and future.
“It’s an interesting case of could you run this thing today – no way – not for the smoke it releases into the atmosphere or the wood it burns,” he said, looking askance onto the ceaseless stream of Sunday traffic zipping by at 60-plus on 395. “Then again, we seemed to have gotten it all wrong now.
“It’s not about putting more freeways down and putting more cars on the road so you can just sit there. In a way, these trains represent where we need to go.”
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