Steam vs. Diesel


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Zephyr Hills, Florida

'Your readers may be interested in this write-up by Carlton Gee, a retired engineer who worked for the Nickelplate R.R.,' writes Walter Gasch of R #1, Colby, Wisconsin. Gasch goes on to say that Gee formerly lived in Conneout, Ohio and now resides in Zephyr Hills, Florida. We hope that our readers will enjoy this humorous dialogue. Ed.

After nearly 36 years of honest toil, old Nickel Plate (workhorse) Engine #665 made her last run in February, 1958. He engineer for many years wrote on the final report sheet, 'Good-bye, old friend, good-bye' and left her standing near the turntable at Bellevue, Ohio. Her road number was painted out and she stood on the scrap-track, cold and silent, thinking of her glorious past. Old #665 had a wide reputation of being able to do more work and make more smoke than any locomotive of her size in the world.

As I stood looking at her, one of the brand new N.K.P. Diesels #433 stopped nearby and I heard the following dialogue: (Old #665 was nicknamed 'Smokey' by the new diesels.)

New Diesel: Well, well, Smokey, I see they have grounded you at last. With you off the rails I'll be able to see the signals ahead of me. (To this, Smokey made no reply.)

New Diesel: It's about time you 'two-cylinder jobs' were junked. (This aroused Smokey, who replied in anger.)

Smokey: Two-cylinders, indeed! I'll bet I can pull three times as many cars as you can right now with all your sixteen cylinders. It takes three of you to do the job I can do alone and you know it. I hope you are satisfied now you have me junked.

New Diesel: Maybe so, maybe so, Smokey, but I've got news for you. We can do the job much cheaper than you can, and if you are so good, why is the railroad junking you? Answer me that one if you can.

Smokey: It's because the railroad can't get new parts for us that's why. And by the way, why did they put that silly looking tin-horn on your roof? It sounds like a cross between a love-sick moose and a foghorn. You don't need it anyway. Many people have mistaken you for a fish peddler, and you make so much noise we can hear you coming ten miles away.

New Diesel: You're jealous, that's what's the matter with you, and you are a narrow-minded 'has-been'. You're a 'progress roadblock', that's what you are. Just wait until the boss compares our cost report sheets you and your tribe will stay buried in the scrap pile forever.

Smokey: Progress, my eye! You wait till the boss gets the repair bill on your sixteen cylinders and burnt out bearings and you aren't good for more than ten years anyway. The boss will have to buy nine of your tribe to do what I did myself for 35 years. And I didn't cost half as much as you did. You should preach about costs to me you tin-horn sport.

New Diesel: But I am so much cleaner than you are, Smokey. My crew can even wear white collars. They don't even have to take a shower at the end of a run. All of our trains and the railroad itself is cleaner.

Smokey: Alas! I never thought I'd live to see the day of tin engines run by panty-waists. Yes, panty-waists, that's what I said. The men who ran us had to be real he-men and our firemen could shovel 40 tons of coal on a single trip. White collars, bah! No showers, bah!

New Diesel: That I'll admit, Smokey, but it didn't help keep you on the roster, did it? And as for noise, your shrieking whistles are enough to wake the dead. My ears have been deafened when passing members of your tribe on the road. Your whistles are really terrifying and I'll be glad when you are gone.

Just the other day they coupled that rude old Engine #740 back of me and it kept screaming at me with its whistle to 'go faster' all the way from Conneaut to Bellevue. It kept blowing smoke and steam at me, too, all the way, and it did it on purpose. We saw a man pointing a camera at us near Vermilion. Just imagine seeing my picture with that old 'spiteful monster' back of me.

Smokey: Brother, you will find you have to work, not loaf, when you travel with us, but I can see I have been wasting my time talking to such a conceited person. You have a lot to learn, my friend. Just remember 'Old Smokey' when you are 10 years old, if you last that long. The yard master is waving his lantern at you so you had better 'look alive' and 'get going' or you will be off the roster before you are a week old.

New Diesel: Thanks, old palno offence. I'll remember what you said and I guess I am just a little sorry to see you go, too, even if you a stubborn die-hard old goat.

Smokey: Good riddance! I just wonder what demented genius could have invented that no good tin contraption a Fourth Class rattletrap I'd say.