Comanches pistons hissed steam and condensation dripped. Her side rods clanked as she coasted in reverse. Her wheels and flanges clicked and clacked as she rolled over the switch frogs and rail joints. Sakura and Mirra were at the head of the train and Mirra was still trying to watch the beagle. She was even reaching out to it as if to grab it. Then A.J. let out a few short blasts of the whistle as a couple of stray dogs were on the tracks. They quickly scurried off but A.J.s warning grabbed some one elses attention. Mirra then turned her head and saw the big Yellow and Black locomotive rolling towards them. Mirra forgot all about the Beagle and the Comanche had her full attention. She was still and in awe of Comanches dominating presence. Mirras eyes were wide, taking in all the sights, sounds, and smells which now were so familiar. Comanche slowly groaned to a halt and the CLACK of the couplers mating was apparent. Mirra could see into the cab and there she saw her Daddy. The little girl then smiled and began to giggle and clap and then reached out to her father. Through all the noise of his Iron Beast A.J. heard her. Quickly he clambered back into the cab and made his way to the other side.
Sakura stood next to the locomotive with child in hand. A.J. carefully leapt off the Comanche and onto the platform. He took off one of his leather gloves so not to dirty his daughters fur with coal dust and oil. With his finger tickled her chin and Mirra laughed in her mothers arms. The passengers had nearly finished boarding as Duke looked at his brass Conductors watch anxiously. He leaned off the Cabooses forward platform watching A.J. and hoping that the train would leave according to schedule. Sakura first looked into A.J.s blue eyes and then at their old Iron friend, the Comanche. Then she sighed;
You know, I really do miss those times. She said recollecting on past experiences. A.J. Looked back at his locomotive and then back at his wife.
I do too; its never really been the same without you on the footplate. Said A.J. with a smile. But then something caught the Tigers attention. He looked towards the rear of the train to see Duke. He had his usual stern and uptight look on his face and was pointing to his watch. A.J. then looked back at Sakura and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
Youd better get aboard! I looks like Duke is about burst! A.J. joked. Sakura looked aft and saw what A.J. meant. She giggled and said; Alright. Then she stood up on her toes and quickly pecked him on the lips.
Now you had better get us to Wolf Creek safely, and on time if you know whats good for you! Sakura gestured, tilting her head towards Duke.
Will do Maam! A.J. nodded as Sakura turned around and headed back towards the Caboose. Mirra though still wanted her Daddy to be around. She looked at him with stretched out arms and gave out little cries.
Aww, its ok! Daddy gonna take us on a little trip! Hes going to be right up there the whole time, ok? Her mother said. Mirra then looked at Sakura and calmed down. But what clamed Mirra the most was the image of her Father standing next to the Comanche! Both stood strong and proud as if they could take on anything! A.J. watched as Sakura walked back down toward the Caboose. Then he climbed back aboard his locomotive but stayed on the firemans side, waiting for Dukes signal.
All along the train the window of the passenger cars were open wide and heads were sticking out and arms waving! Many were cheering and others were shouting. The whole train was bustling with excitement for what the next day would bring! One of, if not, the Biggest and most Dramatic displays of Railroading Skill of the Century! The baggage car was packed tight and nearly bursting with luggage! Sakura approached the Caboose and on the platform was Duke who was religiously staring at his watch. But he soon looked up and saw Sakura approaching.
Well youre just in time! Duke said tipping his had. Sakura made her way inside and took a seat in one of the chairs keeping Mirra in her lap. Duke again looked at his watch and then quickly closed the face and slipped it into his vest pocket. Then he raised his hand to his mouth and shouted those magical words forever etched into Railroading grandeur!
ALL ABOARD!!! shouted Duke! Then he waved his arm up and down towards the locomotive. A.J. took note and quickly took his place. He moved the Johnson Bar to its forward position and released the brakes. Then a slight pause, he looked at his crew and then smiled. A.J. then reached for the whistle cord and gave out two long blasts! The sound echoed off the surrounding mountain sides and then the cheering of a hundred passengers followed! The Tiger put his hand on the throttle and gently began to open it. Steam began to hiss and blow out of the cylinder cocks. Comanches pistons pushed on the side rods and the wheels began to turn. Slowly but surely the slack in the train was pulled taught. Powerful chuffs of thick black smoke began to erupt out of the stack and the wheels and trucks groaned with the movement. The then began to slip but only briefly. This happened again only once or twice but once the locomotive got its footing did really began to move. A.J. could feel the wheels grip as if it were an extension of his own body. He opened the throttle more and now the Comanche really began to show off its brute strength! The smoke became thicker, it became blacker, and she huffed louder! The train picked up speed and trackside Railroaders shouted A.J. and crew on! The Tiger blew the whistle in reply and kept blowing it! Again the Railroaders shouted and cheered and the passengers waved back to those who stayed behind. Leach and Fiesta were already busy shoveling and stoking the hungry locomotive. There smiles were unusually big that morning. They couldnt help their excitement and this cause A.J. to smile as well. Then he couldnt help but say; Wolf Creek! Here We Come!!!