Some time had past now in the roundhouse, Comanche was now hissing happily and anxiously in her stall. The pressure gauge read 200 psi, which was enough for operations. A.J. then took his rightful place and gently cracked the throttle. Steam hissed as the massive slim gauge Mikado eased its way out of the stall stopping just before the turntable pit. The engine face head first out of the stall as if to show itself off proudly. Black smoke billowed from the diamond stack atop Comanches smoke box. Her fire burned intensely in the fire box. The flame licked the ground beneath her occasionally. Her air pumps thumped with anticipation and it was only eight in the morning!
Over the sound of Comanches hissing was heard the Eastbound Mixed Train, double headed by C-18s. They rhythmic but unsynchronized chuffing echoed off the surrounding mountains. The lead engines whistle blew clear and loud. Then as the train steamed into the station her bell tolled and brakes squealed as the train came to a halt. Thick coal smoke swirled up from their stacks as they paused briefly. Then the brakemen set the brakes and then cut the locomotives from the train, all the while men on the freight platform took goods off and put goods on to be shipped out. The two C-18s, one at a time, steamed away heading towards the engine facilities.
The little Beagle then proceeded to add a few more freight cars to the trains head then followed by an additional passenger car. A heavy train, but nothing that a locomotive like Comanche cant handle. The K-28 simmered anxiously away and her pressure gauge now read 220 psi. The two C-18s took turns at the water tank. Then one by one they headed to the roundhouse. The first eased its way onto the turntable and was spun around. It was common practice for GFRR locomotives to back in their stalls rather than ease in head first. The first C-18 backed into a stall across from Comanches and then the second C-18 backed into the stall next to its twin.
It would still be a few minutes before their train was scheduled to leave and Sakura was already on her way to the depot with Mirra in hand. Passengers still boarded and did they board! The train was nearly packed full like a sardine can! Every available space was taken up by someone or something! All of them, no doubt, were on their way to witness one of the greatest displays of railroading at its finest! Fortunately for Sakura a caboose was added on and she was able to take refuge in it. As the wife of a Railroader and a former Railroader herself she was allowed special privileges. And luckily the conductor was a familiar face. It was Duke. Duke had been the conductor on almost every train A.J. had ever hauled on home rails. A tall stocky fellow with red-ish brown beard and mustache. Hes a bit chubby around the waist but still rather fit. As Sakura made her way aboard the Caboose Duke took off his Conductors cap in respect.
Well hello Sakura! Long time no see! Duke smiled.
Sakura smiled back in reply.
Same to you Duke, I hope you havent too much of a hard nose to my Husband. Sakura said jokingly. Duke lowered his head as if embarrassed and scratched the back of his neck and chuckled. Duke was always VERY concerned about his schedule and often harped on A.J. for his train being late leaving a Station. But A.J. has always had a good reputation for always being on time!
Sakura made her way over to where the bunks were in the Caboose and Duke helped carry her bags. She sat down on one of the bunks and again smiled at Duke.
Thank you again She said to the Conductor.
Why it was my pleasure Maam! But I have to say, the Railroad really does miss ya. Every run hasnt been quite the same without our best Ashcat! Complimented Duke. Sakura smiled and laughed a little.
Oh Duke, dont flatter me. Im sure that there plenty of others Firemen better than me. Sakura said humbly.
Heck sure weve got plenty of good Firemen! But youre the only one who had A.J. teach you! I remember when he first started working on our road. He could stoke a fire like no other! Although hes a FAR better Engineer its still kinda a shame we didnt had some one with his skill. Except for you of course! Duke and Sakura continued their conversation, but Mirra began crawling around on the bunk and then stood up to look out the window. Outside were three more slim gauged tracks that made up part of the Right-Of-Way and the small yard at Gunpowder Falls. Mirra looked of and watched in fascination of the little 0-6-0 Beagle hurry about. Sakura and Duke continued to talk and while doing so Duke helped Sakura stow her bags for the trip North. After every thing was said and done Sakura picked up her daughter, who wanted to stay and watch the little switcher do its work. Together they walked out side onto the and towards the head end of the train. Mirra still was struggling to watch the Beagle on the other side of the train.
Back at the Roundhouse the C-18s were put away and they steamed quietly. A.J. eased Comanche onto the Turntable. The wooden frame groaned under the weight of the locomotive as she steamed and hissed. And with great skill nearly perfectly centered Comanche on the Turntable. A few Railroaders came up and took their positions and began to slowly rotate the Comanche, pushing hard and the soles of their boots digging into the ground outside the turntable pit. Soon enough Comanche was facing the Roundhouse and A.J. leaned out of the cab window, sitting on the sill. He pulled the whistle cord and let out three short blasts. Carefully then he cracked the throttle and gently backed the K-28 off the Turntable and towards his awaiting train.