This year we decided to leave a day earlier than usual so we arrived on Wednesday May 1, 2002. The weather prognosticators did not have a lot of kind words to say for the time we planned to stay. But we kept our fingers crossed. Here is what happened.
We got a good start from Atlanta but, due to the rain, traffic was a frightful mess at 8am. It took us just under an hour to travel the first 23 miles (that’s right folks…23 miles!). We finally cleared the crash site and began to make better progress. We drove in the rain and mist until well after Chattanooga, TN when the weather finally improved a bit. We arrived in Columbia just after lunch and began to unload the loco and cars. Once that was completed and a few hellos said, we fired up Lady Barbara and hit the mainline. Wayne did most of the engineering and I rode on the riding car. I had replaced the suspension springs on the riding car with hard rubber blocks to see if it would improve the stability and ride. It did very well indeed so the change is now permanent. We ran until supper time, went and got something to eat, came back, and ran until around 10pm or so before returning to the hotel for the night. It seems that once it got dark, we experienced a few “gremlins” with some derailments in areas that had never been a problem before and a minor problem with the pilot truck wanted to go on the ground up at the station. It was not cause for great concern but it was unusual to say the least.
The weatherman was promising rain today and, for a change, he was right. We ran a little in the morning but by mid-afternoon the rain had come to stay (along with other severe weather in the area). We shutdown and covered up for the night with the slim hope that the rain might break after supper but it didn’t. As a result, we called it a day early in the evening and went back to the hotel with the intention of getting a good start in the morning. There was some concern that the others that were coming up to Columbia on Friday might decide not to make the trip since the weather forecasts were so bad. It was left up to them to make the decision and take the chance of the weather.
We got a good start on the day but by noon the steady (hard at times) rain had set in. Wayne said I could run in the rain if I wanted to and left to run some other errands in town. I fired her up, got my umbrella, and hit the mainline. I made 23 laps around the mainline before it was all said and done. It was actually quite nice running in the rain once I figured out how to make my rather large umbrella fit through the tunnel. There was virtually no one else running all afternoon except for a couple of other die-hard steamers like me, so I pretty much had the track to my self. It was great fun even though the weather was cold and rainy. I barely got wet and never was cold. Lady Barbara ran very well in the rain although there were a couple minor derailments during the run. Late in the afternoon, the rest of our group showed up from Atlanta (my wife and another family). The outlook for Saturday was hopeful so we shutdown for the day, covered everything up, and went back to the hotel to pray for good weather. We had a nice steak supper and called it an evening.
The weather was supposed to be better today and there was some improvement. Wayne has been thinking about our problems with the pilot truck going on the ground so much and had decided that the cause must be the cylinder covers. The leading wheels on the pilot truck always rub on the cylinder covers due to a Little Engines design flaw. Wayne correctly theorized that the cylinder covers were blocking the truck from being able to make the sharper radius turns and causing the derailments. We removed the covers and did not experience any further derailments during the remainder of our stay. We ran virtually all day and into the evening. We had been having intermittent problems keeping water in the boiler and were having to use the injector occasionally. Just after dark as the time to run got better, Wayne noticed that the hand pump didn’t seem to have any back pressure on it. We looked around a bit and found water pouring out under the tender when the pump was operated and it was dripping steady all the time. Apparently we broke a fitting under the tender so we were done for the evening. The breakdown cut our evening a little short but we still had a good day of running with the best weather of the week.
We got over to the track about 9am and started to clean-up the loco and load everything. Somebody had sprayed my trailer with mud while driving behind it in the mud so I had to wash it off before we could load anything into it. All the loading went fine and relatively quickly now that we have stable places for everything in the truck and trailer. We had only gone about 50 miles up the road when I realized the we have forgotten to load the spare propane tank. Wayne was kind enough to make the trip back to Columbia to get the tank while my wife and I continued homeward to Atlanta.
It was a very good meet again this year. There were considerably fewer locomotives at the meet this year as a result of the weather, I’m sure. The track was in very fine condition again this year and the new steaming bays worked out great. We are told that even more improvements are on the way at Midsouth. We got to meet and greet a lot of friends that we only see at this meet including Tom and Blanche Hill and Bill and Alice Koster. They have become good friends in only a few visits with them. I always enjoy the stories they have to tell. I’m already looking forward to next year when I should be able to take my own Shay to the meet!!!
Here are a few pictures as well. Enjoy them and keep making steam!!