Friday, May 4, 2012

Sepia Saturday Part 2: Pokey Smokey

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.



This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt shows people preparing to ride a miniature train.  I immediately thought of our beloved local mini, the Pokey Smokey.  However, it doesn't fit with my emphasis on personal family history.  But who can resist that cute train with its iconic whistle?  So I wrote two posts this week.

There is no telling how many photos like the prompt have been taken of Pokey Smokey.



Pokey Smokey is a crowd-pleasing attraction in Portsmouth, Virginia.  It is a scale replica of the 1863 C. P. Huntington steam locomotive, which incidentally was the inspiration for the appearance of “The Little Engine That Could.”  The original was a gift to the City by members of the Jaycees.  A conductor shoveled coal and blew a steam whistle for the 5-minute ride around Portsmouth City Park.  

Pokey Smokey is so well-loved that when the first one was deemed unsafe after 41 years of service, a new one was commissioned.  It runs on gas instead of coal, but the whistle is the same.

The original Pokey Smokey was sold at auction and is now bringing joy to visitors in Carthage, North Carolina, with 900 feet of track, a tunnel, a bridge, and a depot.  

Take a ride vicariously through one of these YouTube videos.  The first shows Pokey Smokey II in Portsmouth.  It’s a short video.  The second is a LONG YouTube video of the original Pokey Smokey in its new home in North Carolina, but you’ll quickly see how Pokey Smokey got its name.  (Frankly, I can’t watch the whole thing – it’s way too long.)



Get your ticket punched and hop aboard the Sepia Saturday train.



17 comments:

  1. Fantastic. Not very far away from where I live (20 minutes by car) is the Romney Hythe and Dymchurch Light Railway
    http://www.rhdr.org.uk/pages/history.html

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  2. Inteesting post; great videos.

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  3. Hi Wendy ... this is so cool! I want to ride on it.

    Kathy

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  4. How fun! I love to ride on trains:) Thanks, Wendy!

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  5. Those little trains are sure cute!

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  6. Yes. It's pretty pokey. But so darn cute.
    Nancy

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  7. But I bet one of your family members had rides on it at some time or other!

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  8. Love the Pokey Smokey. What a great name. I am addicted to genealogy too. Do you have Family Tree Maker? It is worth the money.
    QMM

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    Replies
    1. Yes, indeed, I have FTM and membership to Ancestry as well.

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  9. Indeed, who can resist it? Certainly not me.

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  10. We like riding on trains. We like watching others riding on trains. I don't think it can be explained.

    I took a ride on an old train that runs from Carson City, Nevada to Virginia City. There were people stopped along the way to take photos of the train passing. And on our return trip there were people at the freeway excited to watch the train cross the bridge. We all waved at each other.

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  11. I wonder if the Pokey Smokey goes to the Petticoat Junction?

    Lots of Train folks in our family!

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  12. I regret I lived for many years just over the river from "Porchmuth" and never went to see Pokey. A great connection to the theme.

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  13. I just had to hear its whistle!! I just had to!!
    :)~
    HUGZ

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  14. Thank you! for the second video! I was there in 1964 at Portsmouth City Park in Portsmouth VA; I was 8 years old. My dad worked for the Norfolk & Western RR as an engineer so he thought this would be a real eye opener for his 2 daughters. A ride cost 25cents and he allowed us one ride. The steam and cinders would be all over us at the end, but we didn't care! The 2nd train isn't half as much fun! But thank you so much for the memory!

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  15. This is the one and only Pokey Smokey. I have an intimate relationship with this live steam engine and I am so excited to know that is still running and being loved. I remember seeing commercials on TV for this train ride that the Portsmouth Virginia, (my place of birth), Jaycees purchased, installed and operated in the city park in 1963, the year I was born. I remember seeing these commercials when I was 3 to 4 years old and begging my parents to go.

    As a child I was captivated by the little coal fired locomotive. Little did I know that by the time I was an early teen my grandfather, Oscar A Bathe, would become the sole engineer of my childhood fascination and that I would spend two exciting summers at the throttle of this wonderful machine, literally living out my childhood fantasy.

    For two summers, every Saturday all day and every Sunday after church for the rest of the day, my grandfather taught me to do everything. From polishing the brass and greasing and oiling all of the fittings and mechanisms to the detailed two hour long firing up process that woke up the little engine and brought it back to life.

    I say "brought it back to life" because once it was steamed up and ready to go to work, it was like a living thing. It wasn't like a car where you can drive for hundreds of miles on just a tank of gas and not much else. This little machine required constant attention to its needs. Opening and closing valves that kept the boiler water level constant and a valve to blow a variable amount of steam up the stack to draw more or less air through the fire box to stoke the fire. You had to keep feeding it coal and tending the fire on the run and in between runs. Most importantly I had to learn to listen to and feel for what the little engine was telling me it needed.

    And then there was the whistle. My grandfather had installed a whistle that belonged on a larger sized loco. It had a deeper throaty sound and he was very proud of it. There were several whistle posts along the engines course. He taught me the different types of whistle signals and when and why they were used. Most importantly, he taught me (with much practice) to articulate the whistle's tone by using great finesse in pulling on the cord that opened the whistle valve. This was not easily done as the valve wanted to either be fully open or closed and not much in between. If you were deliberate and steady, you could learn to crack the valve just a little bit to get it going and make the whistle moan out a melodic increase and decrease in pitch as you executed the appropriate sequence required. He was very proud of me when I was able to master this skill. He explained to me that every engineer had his own style and that they could recognize each other by their whistle technique.

    My grandfather was a stern but patient teacher. I still remember the first day that he told me that he thought I was ready to take the throttle. He sat in the seat next to me and instructed me one last time as we took our passengers on the usual three trips around the circuit. When we were done, he tied a bandanna around my neck and gave me an engineers hat and said "she's all yours". For the rest of that summer and the one to follow she was mine. Though I have done many exciting things since those days, (biked down a volcano in Hawaii, flown a WWII fighter to name a couple), nothing compares to the exhilaration and pure joy of becoming friends with and running a little live steam locomotive named Pokey Smokey.

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=557584550999604&set=a.338838212874240.77234.100002441938799&type=1&theater

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  16. This is my grandfather Oscar A Bathe & Pokey Smokey. This picture has hung on the hutch door on my computer desk, just as you see it here, since I started my alarm business 14 years ago. I remember seeing commercials on TV for this train ride that the Portsmouth Virginia, (my place of birth), Jaycees purchased, installed and operated in the city park in 1963, the year I was born. I remember seeing these commercials when I was 3 to 4 years old and begging my parents to go.

    As a child I was captivated by the little coal fired locomotive. Little did I know that by the time I was an early teen my grandfather would become the sole engineer of my childhood fascination and that I would spend two exciting summers at the throttle of this wonderful machine, literally living out my childhood fantasy.

    For two summers, every Saturday all day and every Sunday after church for the rest of the day, my grandfather taught me to do everything. From polishing the brass and greasing and oiling all of the fittings and mechanisms to the detailed two hour long firing up process that woke up the little engine and brought it back to life.

    I say "brought it back to life" because once it was steamed up and ready to go to work, it was like a living thing. It wasn't like a car where you can drive for hundreds of miles on just a tank of gas and not much else. This little machine required constant attention to its needs. Opening and closing valves that kept the boiler water level constant and a valve to blow a variable amount of steam up the stack to draw more or less air through the fire box to stoke the fire. You had to keep feeding it coal and tending the fire on the run and in between runs. Most importantly I had to learn to listen to and feel for what the little engine was telling me it needed.

    And then there was the whistle. My grandfather had installed a whistle that belonged on a larger sized loco. It had a deeper throaty sound and he was very proud of it. There were several whistle posts along the engines course. He taught me the different types of whistle signals and when and why they were used. Most importantly, he taught me (with much practice) to articulate the whistle's tone by using great finesse in pulling on the cord that opened the whistle valve. This was not easily done as the valve wanted to either be fully open or closed and not much in between. If you were deliberate and steady, you could learn to crack the valve just a little bit to get it going and make the whistle moan out a melodic increase and decrease in pitch as you executed the appropriate sequence required. He was very proud of me when I was able to master this skill. He explained to me that every engineer had his own style and that they could recognize each other by their whistle technique.

    My grandfather was a stern but patient teacher. I still remember the first day that he told me that he thought I was ready to take the throttle. He sat in the seat next to me and instructed me one last time as we took our passengers on the usual three trips around the circuit. When we were done, he tied a bandanna around my neck and gave me an engineers hat and said "she's all yours". For the rest of that summer and the one to follow she was mine. Though I have done many exciting things since those days, (biked down a volcano in Hawaii, flown a WWII fighter to name a couple), nothing compares to the exhilaration and pure joy of becoming friends with and running a little live steam locomotive named Pokey Smokey.

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=557584550999604&set=a.338838212874240.77234.100002441938799&type=1&theater

    ReplyDelete