Engineers Restoring Steam Engines At Golden Spike National Historical Park
PROMONTORY SUMMIT, Utah – Workers at Golden Spike National Historical Park are busy preparing their two steam engines for the summer season.
It’s still about a couple of months before they ring these bells for real. But for engineers like Tom Brown, the excitement is already well underway.
“Oh yeah,” Brown said. “Yeah, this is the best job in the world.”
Like a kid at a train museum, Brown spends his hours doing what he loves. The Union Pacific’s No. 119 and Central Pacific’s Jupiter locomotives were actually built in 1979.
“They’re both replicas, but they’re down to within about a quarter of an inch of the originals,” Brown said.
But that doesn’t change what they represent — the completion of the transcontinental railroad, which united the nation over 150 years ago at Promontory Point.
“This was kind of the Victorian era, back in the 1860s,” Brown said. “If you had a locomotive, you wanted to show it off.”
And that’s part of why they work so hard, to get them looking like new — all the way down to the gold leafing trim and polished brass that really makes them pop.
“It’s my childhood dream. I think it’s a lot of childhood dreams. I’ve had a lot of people come up, ask me, you know, ‘How do I get your job?'”
But while Brown’s job can be highly coveted by many grown-ups, it’s not easy to find people with these skills.
“Absolutely. I would say a rare skill anymore,” said Brandon Flint, Golden Spike National Historical Park superintendent.
Flint said it’s an important skill in helping keep this piece of history alive.
“There were literally thousands of locomotives running across the nation,” he said. “Today, we are one of the last places that have operating steam locomotives.”
It’s an opportunity that Brown doesn’t take for granted. A machinist by trade, he learned to work on these engines as a volunteer, starting at 16 years old.
“Every now and then, I’d play hooky from school and come on up here,” Brown said.
And it’s that same kind of enthusiasm that will help keep this history alive for generations to come.
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