Water Stop: Elk Creek One of the unique features of the Durbin & Greenbrier Valley's excursions on the old C&O Durbin Branch is the water stops. Unlike most steam tourist lines, which take water from a tank or fire hose, the "Durbin Rocket" draws its water from a local creek, just as geared engines regularly did a century ago. In this photo, Engineer Earl Knoob attaches a large rubber suction hose to his engine's steam siphon. Working in a fashion similar to the injectors on the locomotive, the steam siphon uses a jet of steam to create a suction and literally draw the water all the way from the creek bed to the top of a standpipe on the tender tank. A metal screen on the other end of the hose prevents plant debris and other foreign matter in the water from contaminating the locomotive's cistern. The process is not fast. It literally takes about half an hour to fill the tank on this 55-tonner. Another consideration is that the process warms the incoming water, as you might imagine. As the temperature of the water in the tank increases, so too does the difficulty in getting the locomotive's injectors to draw it into the boiler. The water temperature issue is most pronounced during the mid-summer months.
This ability to utilize natural water supplies was a very useful feature of most geared steam locomotives, allowing them to operate for extended periods of time in very remote locations, where the trackage was often crude, and other railroad infrastructure (such as water tanks) was virtually non-existent.