Monday, March 18, 2013

W11: Locomotive Management

It was a small thunk this week from the Biblio-Mat, but the spoils were grander than the heavier fare of the last few weeks - a thin text with a heavily textured and embossed hardbound cover in immaculate condition that was just begging for a crayon rubbing.

For size reference only.
While the cover is embossed with “International Library”, the spine itself read “Locomotive Management”. However, the table of contents reveals that this thin text actually contained two separate books in one binding. The first is “Locomotive Management” by A. B. Carson, running at 92 pages, followed by “Heat and Superheaters” by J. W. Harding, at 66 pages. Being printed in 1942, the construction of the book is a work of art in itself. The pages are neatly printed on extremely thin stock (180 pages are less than a centimeter thick), yet the ink does not bleed through. Blue stippled edges and marbled teal inner coversheets add to decadence, but it is the stamped and textured navy blue cover that gives it an air of authority and antiquarian splendor. Being about trains is pretty cool as well.

There are only two times in my life where the notion of locomotives has piqued my interest. Once when I was five and my parents took me on a train ride for the first time and the second when I read Trainspotting in first year university. Having a lack of heroin and incomprehensible words, this book spoke to the five-year-old part of that wonderment.

There are no sections on public toilets in Scotland.
The first book, “Locomotive Management”, went into detail on the care and operation of the various types of steam-powered trains, down to when to stop for water and how to tell if your coal is burning properly. Truth be told, it was so detailed that I could not tell if operators went to school for this or if simply picking up this book is certification enough, as after ninety pages I felt so confident in being able to run a 1930s train that I walked to the roundhouse outside the Steam Whistle brewery to persuade someone to let me try. Turns out most places do indeed require a formal education of sorts and climbing locomotive relics making whistle sounds is also frown down upon.
Okay, I lied. With a cover like that, how could you NOT do a rubbing?
The second part of the book, “Heat and Superheaters”, deals with the more technological advancement of heating steam hotter than regular steam is capable of getting. With detailed diagrams and theory explanation, it convinced me that this was the future. Well, as much as the future in 1942 was going to bring. When the various equations and tables recounting the different properties of steam in different pressures came around, I found my mind wandering a bit to the applications this would have in present day. The conclusion was that if I had access to these superheaters, I would probably be able to steam my vegetables in thirty seconds instead of having to wait the full four minutes on the stove.
More complicated than the actual time tables.
The saving grace in this second book came in two forms. The first being a section breaking down the meaning of heat, which was very interesting as it is something we take for granted that everyone understands yet it isn’t something most people can easily describe. A friend asked me to explain time a few weeks ago and I was at a loss for words as outside it being a dimension, I could only explain it to people who already understood the qualities of time. In the same way, when the book asks what is considered heat, outside a strictly exothermic/endothermic scientific energy explanation I couldn’t think of anything else. Harding delves on this for half a chapter and cements that heat is a relative term that only exists only through comparison to a benchmark, usually our own body temperatures, which fluctuates and is therefore cannot be depended on to describe energy. A most interesting piece of debate that could be argued for or against. The second saving grace was the gatefold drawings. Regular illustrations are interesting, but foldout drawings make my inner five-year-old giddy with delight.

Like a hidden surprise for literary nerds.
Book rating: 9/10 (useful if you ever plan to train-jack a 19th century locomotive)

Random quote: “A blow-off cock is generally located on each side of the firebox, at or near the lowest point of the mud ring, but in some cases one is placed in the center of the mud ring at the front of the firebox.” (Okay, maybe this text does speak a little to the Trainspotting side of my wonderment)

1 comment:

  1. This manual is probably better written and more informative than modern instructions. If you own an historic home with steam heat, this book will probably help you to maintain your heat--which, when properly installed, is the best heat one would ever have.