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America on the Move
Collection Exhibition Themes
Transportation in America before 1876 Community Dreams: Santa Cruz, California, 1876 Delivering the Goods: Watsonville, California, 1895 A Streetcar City: Washington, D.C., 1900 People on the Move Americans Adopt the Auto Crossing the Country: Somewhere in Wyoming, 1903 The Connected City: New York, New York, 1920s The People's Highway: Route 66, 1930s-1940s Roadside Communities: Ring's Rest, Muirkirk, Maryland, 1930s Family Camping: York Beach, Maine, 1930s On the School Bus: Martinsburg, Indiana, 1939 Suburban Strip: Sandy Boulevard, Portland, Oregon, 1949 City and Suburb: Chicago and Park Forest, Illinois, 1950s On the Interstate: I-10, 1956-1990 Transforming the Waterfront: San Francisco and Oakland, California, 1960-1970 Going Global: Los Angeles Introduction The Salisbury Depot What Happened to Plessy? A Way of Travel Railroad Conductor Pullman Porter Carrying Everything Into Town--and Out Locomotive Engineer & Fireman Railroaders behind the Scenes Promoting Good Roads Spencer, an Industrial Community What Happened to the Railroads?
9: Lives on the Railroad: Salisbury, North Carolina, 1927

Locomotive Engineer

Running a steam locomotive combined two responsibilities: managing a highly complex steam boiler—in the case of No. 1401, about 3,000 horsepower—and 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
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.

Member’s dues button, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, 1940s
The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, founded in 1863, was one of the 19th century’s most powerful craft unions.
Member’s dues button, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, 1940s

Locomotive Fireman

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
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 button, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen & Enginemen, 1950s
Member’s ribbon, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen & Enginemen, 1900s
Member’s ribbon, Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen & Enginemen, 1900s
Fireman’s coal scoop
Fireman’s coal scoop
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