Up close with White Pass Rotary #1. One of the unique memories that I have of the 2011 White Pass Rotary Run was the ability of the photographers to get relatively close to the machine....as long as we were not on the discharge side. With just a small group of photographers, all of whom had been well-briefed on the safety issues, we were able to experience the sounds and sights of this very unique piece of history.
Here, Rotary #1 is climbing a grade out of a snow-filled cut, with Railroad Superintendent Ed Hanousek carefully watching the track situation from his door in the pilothouse. Note the steel cab on this unit. The thing is literally an armored car, built to withstand the rock-slides that can occur on the grades leading up to White Pass, a few miles back. On board the rotary is a crew of at least 4 people and because they were doing training, it was more likely about 6. In the aft right window sits the Engineman, who operates the throttle that controls the speed of the impeller. With him is the railroad's Master Mechanic, standing by in case any of the 113 year-old machinery decides to break. On the opposite side of the boiler, sits the fireman, who cannot see or talk directly to the engineer. He is adjusting his fuel mixture (heavy bunker oil) by looking out the window at the stack. Up front, in the pilot house, there would typically be the Superintendent (in the doorway) who is supervising the operation, a Pilot, who is watching the ROW ahead and controlling the discharge direction, and a Pilot Trainee, who is learning the job. Despite the presence of snow everywhere, crew members told me that it was like a sauna inside that rotary cab and on at least one occasion, things got so hot that they had to stop the train and bail out for a few minutes. Note also the whistle on top of the cab. This was controlled by the Pilot and was used to signal the pusher engines to stop, back up and move forward.....which they did a LOT during the first couple of days plowing the 15 foot deep snow at White Pass.
What you see here are ideal conditions for the rotary. With perhaps 3 feet of snow, the plow has enough snow to put on a great show, but is able to work through at a steady pace of 5 mph or so....enough to challenge 17 photographers on snowshoes, who were trying to keep up!