OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – A long way from its old home in a Pennsylvania coal pit, a steam locomotive affectionately named ‘Sadie’ advances along an Oklahoma sidetrack on a sunny spring morning.
The Lehigh Valley Coal Company never intended for this engine to leave the quarry during its working life starting in May of 1931.
Oklahoma Railway Museum President Eric Dilbeck says, “It stayed in the yard pretty much its whole life toodling back and forth at five to 10 miles per hour.”
But since it was restored in 2011, Sadie has traveled the country offering novices like me an opportunity to man the controls, that is under the careful watch of Mr. Dilbeck.
It’s pretty simple once you get the hang of it, push the Johnson bar to go forward, pull back the throttle handle to go, and give a couple of quick toots to remind careless observers that Sadie is on her way.
“It’s a very unique experience,” offers Dilbeck. “Most people don’t get to experience steam power, much less a train ride these days.”
Sadie wintered at the ORM shop, so before she starts barnstorming across the country her owners and the museum let regular folks like me and Tom Bishop take the controls.
“My wife got me this present,” Bishop tells us. “This is my tenth year of being retired.”
While she’s here, Sadie is the only working steam engine in the state and, definitely, the only one that let’s lubbers like us anywhere near the throttle.
At train shows across the United States she gathers crowds just for a look.
A lucky few can climb on to experience history for themselves.
The Oklahoma Railway Museum is still offering the public a chance to man the controls of the Lehigh Coal Company No. 126.
For reservations, go to the ORM website here.