Dixie was built for the Roaring Camp Railroad. The weight is right, the power is right, the size and look are all, well, right.
I left off at Spring Canyon with the Heisler turning bird dog. I need to appologize and make a small retraction. The incident involving the bird happened at Deer Valley, not at Spring Canyon. The old mind wanders from time to time and my recollection aint what it use to be. To the fans of Deer Valley, I appologize.
So off we go out of Deer Valley, round the corner, past the wood-pecker trees and up the final pull to Spring Canyon. Prior to 1976 there would have been no stop at Spring Canyon and instead we would head out over the lower portion of the corkscrew trestle system. This trestle started out crossing the canyon then winding around the topography of the canyon wall, gaining elevation as it did and finally heading out over itself. It was one way to gain elevation in a tight spot. The trestle burned in a fire so now a switch back takes the train around Spring Canyon. The Kahuku was the last locomotive to cross the trestle and was marooned at Bear Mountain for a week before it was trucked back to the engine house.
Back in the cab, we are waiting for the water level in the boiler to be high enough to back up the almost 10% grade of the switch back. If the engine is running well, there is little to no wait, but on a bad day it could take 10-15 minutes to make up water. With the conductor on the "point" we whistle off (three blasts) and start drifting back. Gaining speed you look over at your fireman. You can tell by the look on his face if you're going to make it up the ladder track. Today he seems relaxed and looking at the trees. Good thing, stalling on the ladder track is never any fun. The train slows as the weight of the cars starts pushing back against the locomotive. Grabbing a handful of steam you shout, "open up!" and the engine roars. Franticly kicking the sanders, hoping you don't slip, the engine bogs down against the weight of itself, the train and the sharp curve at the top of the ladder track. The engine starts to quiet down as the load deminishes. The tail track at Hallelujah Junction is flat, maybe even sloping down hill a little, so you start closing the throttle before the engine gets around the curve at the top. The independant is all you need to come to a smooth stop. The fireman gets the switch to put you back on the mainline and off you go.
Oh that explosion! Oh... it''s just gas.