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Rails Away

(fiction, by Tom Carnegie)

Joseph Vant had been away from the shop all Friday afternoon, and though it was past closing time he thought that it might be a good idea to stop by the Model T Garage to make sure things had been buttoned up properly. That is after all one of the duties of a manager. He was surprised to find his young minion still in the shop, working on some project. "What are you working on, Butch?" "Oh, hello Joseph. I'm soldering a tube onto the gas cap of my model T" "Why in blazes are you doing that?" "You know how me and Beau Dremel like to drive around. Well, since I put the Roof head on my Torpedo, he can't keep up with me. After I pass him, he pulls right in behind me and I can't shake him. What I'm going to do is use this can of oil and through a piece of rubber tubing and a valve, set it up so I can run the oil into my gas tank and smoke him out. You see, when he starts tailing me, I'll open the valve and the oil will run from this can into the gas tank.

When it gets to the motor it should smoke like the devil himself! I'll mount this can somewhere above the tank level and gravity will flow it into the gas tank." Through all three times of explaining the procedure, Butch was somewhat violently shaking a quart sized sewing machine oil can in the vicinity of Joseph's nose. "Interesting idea Butch, but it won't work the way that you are doing it. You've soldered the tube into the breather hole of the gas cap, and it will cause a vacuum in the tank as the gas is used up when the valve is closed. Here's a suggestion. Why don't you braze a tube onto the exhaust pipe down a few inches from the manifold? Use steel line and make the line long enough that the rubber tubing that is running up to the valve on the can won't melt. Then when you turn on the valve, it will dump the oil right into the exhaust pipe. That should make plenty of smoke!" "I'll try it. Where have you been all afternoon?" "I've been at the town council meeting. They are trying to figure out the details of the ceremonial train ride into Crescent City.

It is really just going to be ceremonial too, as the gang on the Crescent City end hasn't gotten the track completed and won't get it completed before the Fourth of July. The plan at this point is to run the ceremonial train, full of ceremonial dignitaries to some ceremonial point just out of town and then when the hoopla dies down, back the train back into Baton Noir and hope no one notices. By the way, are you going to be much longer?" "I want to change my needle and seat. I bought a new one from the mail order catalog. It was cheaper than getting one from Ford." "May I take a look at it?" Butch fished around in his pocket for a few seconds then handed a small, perhaps one-inch long box to Joseph. Joseph removed the needle and seat and contemplated it for a minute or so. He then walked to the bench and opened a small drawer and removed a used Ford manufactured needle and seat. After a few more moments of contemplation he turned to Butch and said: "The hole in the new seat is about one-half the size of the original." "Well if that keeps it from leaking, then I'm happy."

Butch finished up installing the new needle and seat in his carb and Joseph locked the shop up. Monday would be the 4th of July, and Butch and Joseph decided it would be fun, since the shop would be closed, to drive out to the edge of town and watch "Engineer Ed" stop the train and back it back into town. The road paralleled the new tracks for some miles and Joseph had a good idea where they would begin the backtracking. He knew "Engineer Ed" pretty well and looked forward to poking a little good-natured fun at him. On Monday, Joseph and Butch skipped most of the 4th of July festivities and headed out to watch the train backtrack. After a bit the train came chugging up the grade. As the train got closer Joseph strained to spot "Engineer Ed". Much to his surprise "Engineer Ed" was not to be seen. Someone else whom Joseph didn't know was in the cabin with his hand on the throttle.

This mystery engineer was showing no signs of slowing down, much less stopping. As Butch and Joseph watched the train chug out of sight, a horrible thought crossed Joseph's mind. "That engineer doesn't know that the track is unfinished! Butch, do you have enough gas to get to Crescent City? We need to warn that train or else it could de-rail and someone might get hurt." "Maybe we could find a telephone and call Crescent City." "Most folks are going to be out watching the 4th of July ceremonies and besides, I don't know who has a phone this far out of town. Let's get going, time's a wasting!" The two men hopped into Butch's roadster and took off toward Crescent City as fast as the road would allow them to travel. In that part of the mountain, the road was twisty and winding, but as they headed toward the river it began to flatten and straighten out. When they hit the straight road, Butch pulled both levers down and they began to fairly fly. Just as the motor was really hitting its stride, it began to miss.

"vroop, vroop, vroop", went the motor. Butch throttled up and the motor smoothed out, but as soon as he put the power to it again and was up to speed, it would begin missing again. "OH MAN!" shouted Butch, "The carb is starving out." "It's that new needle and seat that you installed. Do you have the old one with you?" "No, and besides, it would take too long to change. The train's going to beat us as it is if we're not careful." Joseph thought for a moment as Butch continued to drive as fast as he could, which was around forty miles per hour. Suddenly an idea struck him. "Butch, do you have that piece of rubber hose that you showed me on Friday?" "Yes, it's in the tool box." "Good, stop and I'll hook it onto the tube that you soldered onto your gas cap and I'll blow into it and pressurize the gas tank while you drive.

That should keep the carburetor full." The tube was quickly attached and Joseph began to blow into it as Butch cranked the T up. Soon they were heading down the road going like sixty! As they neared Crescent City the road began to get nearer the railroad tracks. Joseph could see the train and desperately began waving to get their attention. Finally one of the dignitaries spotted Joseph's frantic waving and …. began to wave back! Soon all of the dignitaries were waving. The train continued on. The road took a bend and it was clear to Joseph and Butch that the train would beat them to town. Butch throttled up and continued into town listening and waiting for the sound of the destruction to come - but it never came. As they pulled into town, there was the train, complete with dignitaries and mystery engineer. Apparently the gandy dancers had been dancing all weekend and had gotten the track finished after all. Butch and Joseph felt a little silly, but felt a little better after Butch laid down a huge cloud of smoke in the middle of the Crescent City ceremonies as they sped out of town.

(end of story)

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