By Margaret Coel, Visit Amazon's Sam Speas Page, search results, Learn about Author Central, Sam Speas,
As the United States, carried alongside by means of the increasing rail approach, moved westward within the 19th century, few occupations appeared extra interesting or romantic than that of railroad engineer. And within the mountains and plains of the West, lengthy hours, backbreaking exertions, sour temperatures, and defective brakes have been the crucible within which the simplest of the early railroaders have been shaped: simply the main devoted and expert males handed the checks the narrow-gauge traces of Colorado meted out. In Goin' Railroading, Sam Speas tells the tale of his father, Sam Speas Sr., who left Missouri in 1883 to develop into an engineer in Colorado, and recounts his personal reports and people of his brothers and fellow railroaders at the Colorado and Southern Railway, from the golden period of the narrow-gauge strains in South Park to the ultimate days of steam energy at the entrance diversity and the arriving of the diesel engine.
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Additional resources for Goin' Railroading: Two Generations of Colorado Stories
In the winter they went sledding on Mapleton Hill. Two years after they met, Sam and Anna were married. On November 4, 1887, Sam passed the engineer's examinations and was promoted. Only those firemen selected by company officials were allowed to take the exams. Except for the requirement of three or four years experience as a fireman, selection was arbitrary. The officials simply chose those men they believed would make good engineers. For the firemen, selection was a risk. If they failed the exams, they were fired, unlike brakemen who could take the conductor's exams again and again and continue working as brakemen until they passed.
There were forty poles per mile, which meant that trains were traveling sixty miles per hour if they passed forty poles in one minute. Twenty poles meant that the speed was thirty miles per hour, eight poles meant twelve miles per hour. They also judged the speed by clocking the time between mileposts. Sixty seconds between posts meant sixty miles per hour, while 120 seconds meant thirty miles per hour. The narrow gauge locomotives that Sam fired in the Clear Creek District lumbered uphill at a top speed of fifteen miles per hour.
The conductor had charge of the train, but his authority stopped at the back of the tank. Without the engineer, the conductor had charge of a train going nowhere. From 1815, when Englishman Robert Stephenson invented the first steam locomotive, engineers were called "drivers" after the men who drove the horses on stagecoaches. Transplanted to the United States, the name was used until the Union Pacific built across the West.