Another kind of High-Ball

In earlier posts, I mentioned a novel I work on from time to time about a couple of pals whose lives intertwine between the end of the First World War and D-Day of the Second. One of them is employed by the Pennsylvania Railroad and much of the story centers around life along the lines in Eastern Pennsylvania. It’s hard to imagine what the scenery was like back then. By this I mean the large number of steam equipment traversing the countryside as well as working in massive railyards located in major cities and small towns alike. Everything moved on the rails, especially if it had to move over a long distance.

Thus, I found this video of a Union Pacific steam locomotive running out west. The term high-ball originated from a signal which consisted of a ball run up to the top of a pole, indicating to the locomotive engineer that the track ahead was clear. Thus, he laid on the coal and proceeded with all due haste. Take a look at more than 200 tons of locomotive moving at full speed.

In case you missed it, watch the video all the way through. The whistle isn’t all that clear, but it does spark the imagination. I’m grateful to all the people who post videos like this. They go a long way to making my job as a writer a bit easier. Just think, sixty or so years ago, before jet liners arced through the sky, there were hundreds of steam trains like this striking out across the nation.

Published in: on June 19, 2009 at 12:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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