Running a steam locomotive combined two responsibilities: managing a highly complex steam boilerin the case of No. 1401, about 3,000 horsepowerand controlling the safe speed of a massive vehicle that could weigh thousands of tons, counting engine and cars. An engineer specialized in one division of railroad, 100-150 miles long. The engineer needed to know the location of every signal, every curve, and the slightest change in uphill or downhill grade throughout the route in order to safely control the train.
Ps-4 class steam locomotive No. 1401, 1926
No. 1401 is one of 64 locomotives of its class that ran on the Southern Railway from the mid-1920s until the early 1950s. A flagship locomotive of "the Southern," the 1401 rolled on the Charlotte Division, between Greenville, South Carolina, and Salisbury, North Carolina. It pulled passenger trains at speeds up to 80 miles per hour. In April 1945, the 1401 pulled President Franklin Roosevelt's funeral train on part of its journey to Washington, D.C. Retired in 1952, the 1401 came to the Smithsonian in 1961.
Members dues button, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, 1940s
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, founded in 1863, was one of the 19th centurys most powerful craft unions.
The fireman and engineer operated a steam locomotive as a team. The fireman managed the output of steam. His boiler had to respond to frequent changes in demand for power, as the train sped up, climbed hills, changed speeds, and stopped at stations. A skilled fireman anticipated changing demand as he fed coal to the firebox and water to the boiler. At the same time, the fireman was the copilot of the train who knew the signals, curves, and grade changes as well as the engineer.
Fireman stoking locomotive's firebox
On some steam locomotives, the fireman controlled a steam-driven mechanical stoker that fed coal to the firebox. But many times, he still needed to add coal with a scoop (not a shovel).
Members button, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen & Enginemen, 1950s
Members ribbon, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen & Enginemen, 1900s