Trespassers in a pristine wilderness. Plowing snow that's just a foot or two deep, the White Pass Rotary Fleet is making good progress through Meadows, en route to a water and lunch stop just a couple of miles ahead in Fraser, BC. As I took this photo, I couldn't help but marvel at the pristine landscape that makes up the back-drop for this scene. And although this is a beautiful train photo, the soot-belching leviathan in the foreground just looks so out of place here.
I am often asked why the plumes from the pusher engines on the rotary train are so white and the rotary plume is so inky black. The answer is pretty straightforward, actually. Since the train is only creeping along, and the snow is not offering a lot of resistance, the two locomotives are just loafing....their fireman only occasionally goosing the firing levers to keep up the boiler pressure. On the other hand, the rotary is pretty much going full-tilt, and her fireman has the firing valve open quite a bit....perhaps a little too much. That inky plume is actually laced with a lot of unburned Bunker C, and the fallout nearby is pretty yucky. If the snow on the far left side of the photo, looks a little sooty, it is. It is covered with little dots of that oil. The fireman can be forgiven, however. The design of the 1898-vintage rotary is such that the fireman can't see his fire from his seat, nor can he see his engineer. In order to avoid blowing the fire out when the throttle is opened, he has to overcompensate by opening the firing lever a bit more than is probably necessary. During this operation, the fireman could be seen constantly leaning out his window and gazing up at his stack to get an idea whether or not his mixture was too rich. Right here, it sure was....and I had the little dots all over my face and camera to prove it!