|Cumbres & Toltec train on Cumbres Pass. The white cloud is steam from the whistle.|
Ride one of these steam-powered trains, and you quickly understand why nineteenth-century people wore a lot of black. Once they put glass in the car windows, people then had a choice between no ventilation and breathing sooty smoke while wearing cinders too.
But maybe the fascination with steam comes from its being almost as understandable as animals.
Combine fire and water and you have steam, and then it works those big external pistons, and chuff chuff chuff, the locomotive goes down the track.
M. and I were driving up Colorado 17 on Saturday, and despite the two hours of rain at our nearby campsite the night before, she suddenly stiffened: "Is that a fire?"
No, it was the excursion train puffing away as it sat on the pass, one of the stops on its scenic interstate route.
To recreate nineteenth-century industry even better, find yourself in downtown Durango on a wintry day with a thermal inversion as that steam train leaves the station, filling street after street with coal smoke. Then multiply times fifty.