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Rated: E · Fiction · Sci-fi · #1902396
Second initial attempt at a story evolving around a Steam Train.
         The tumbleweed is a dry plant that once it is mature becomes dislodged from its root to be blown across the desert. Usually found underfoot or generally in the way of where ever someone wants to go. With the notable exception of collecting in areas where is seldom trafficked by anyone like a seemingly abandoned train yard.

         In a small western town that appears to be more of a ghost town, tumbleweeds roll past an old rail road station on the edge of the town. Frederick and Mary walked towards the station with a small pack mule in tow. Frederick wore his Sunday best suit; collared shirt, vest and waist coat. A golden watch chain draped from his vest pocket to a button hole. A set of dirty goggles adorned the top of his boulder hat. Mary in a lavender hoop skirt dress and ruffles abound touting a matching frilly umbrella held high in one white gloved hand and a purse bag clutched in the other white gloved hand.

         “Father, please hurry, I do not want to be late.” Mary pleaded as she sidestepped a lone tumbleweed that dared cross her path.

The pack mule snorted and Frederick replied: “But of course my number one daughter.” Kicking the tumbleweed Mary had avoided out of the way of the mule and himself.

         “Father, stop that nonsense; I am your only daughter.”

         As they neared the station a whistle from a steam locomotive could be heard and the ground started to shudder as what could best be described as a rickety, dilapidated barely hung together steam train. Reminiscent of the fabled “little engine that could”; it looked as if it was able to barely pull the five cars and caboose behind it. Unlike when it first rolled off the assembly line, this engine was in some serious need of an overhaul.

         Old number 4 was fairly reliable as it made its route from east to west one month and then west to east the next month. A long route of servicing other small towns, Ol’ number 4 was an Engine and tender, a cattle car, a flat bed, a box car, passenger car and caboose. Just the bare minimum of cars; providing minimal services needed between the stops along its route.

         Mary was leaving the family farm to go to the big cities out east. To do so she would have to take Ol’ number 4 to the most eastern part of the route and then navigate other transportation means to get to her final destination.

However as the Ol’ number 4 pulled into the station and came to a halt so that the passenger and freight car lined up with the platform. One would expect the rumble to die down and the chugging to come to a complete halt. However instead of everything quieting down, the noise of a steam engine seemed to get louder.

         After a moment of pause one would realize that it wasn’t the rickety old steam engine making the louder noise, no, it was coming from the eastern horizon. The sound levels increasing in volume and the ground shaking becoming even more noticeable as windows began to rattle.

         There to the East, hidden in the early morning sunlight rising across the crescent of the desert plane shown a steam locomotive advancing upon the station house. Twin smokestacks blowing white smoke into the morning sky gave way to the illusion that it was two trains racing each other side by side the closer they got to the station. A giant cloud of steam, dust and debris flowed in their wake.

         Dual Whistles screaming as if announcing the arrival of the racing steam engines with a compliment of cars following for as far as the eye could see at first. However as the racing engines caught in a dead heat neared the station the air began to feel electric and it became apparent to Mary and Frederick that it was just a single steam engine.

         The government train; it was two trains plus wide. Rolling on two sets of tracks side by side with twin Boilers larger than anything prior to the Government’s train service ever made.

         Trains like Ol’ number 4 were measured by the arrangement of its wheels. Ol’ number 4 had four small leading wheels on the front of the engine followed by four driving wheels that provided the power to move the train. Larger trains might have a third set of wheels called trailing wheels, but Ol’ number 4 had none, and such was classified as a 4-4-0 engine. The behemoth of a train engine that was the Government’s train would be called a 12-16-8.

         Not only was the Government’s train huge but the tender and accompanying cars larger than life as well, all running wheels on both sets of tracks. Windows stacked two high on the passenger car and as many levels or more in cattle cars. Wooden sailboats without any masts used as the base of airships were strapped down on the flatbeds with a not so little red caboose at the end of the train followed by the tussling of debris and tumbleweeds tossed in the air by the airstream vacuum of the trains wake.

         As the Government train passed by Ol’ number 4, Franklin stood in awe with one hand on his hat and the other holding on to a frightened pack mule with all his might. Mary dodged a flying tumbleweed as a smile crept across her face. A smile that betrayed her cool exterior and offered a hint at the direction she now wanted her life to go.

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