Odd Jobs: Locomotive engineer - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Odd Jobs: Locomotive engineer

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"Alright I'm going to open this and shut my damper door and it will stop smoking," said Leon Noel, locomotive engineer.

Noel is gearing up for another trip down a magical, heritage railway. 

"Welcome aboard the White Mountain Central Railroad for another fantastic New Hampshire day," said the conductor.

"I do jump a little bit from side to side," said Noel.

With a full head of steam, he's ready to leave the station at Clark's Trading Post. Here, passengers step back in time to an era when geared locomotives chugged along.

"Out of the thousand plus that they built, we only know of four that are left running in the world," said Noel.

In the 1950s, the Clark brothers, who started the old timey amusement park, developed a fascination with rescuing steam locomotives once used in logging and quarry operations. 

"They taught me everything I know about running a locomotive," said Noel. 

Noel joined the team in 1969. He was one of only two employees who were not members of the Clark clan.

"I came here for a summer job and I had so much fun I have not worked since," said Noel.

After 47 years, he's still on the job having a blast powering the dual steam engines along the 2.5-mile track, keeping a close eye on his pressures, water levels and speed.

"I know the engine inside and out. It's nothing more than water going crazy with the heat," said Noel.

Noel feeds the engine more than a half a cord of wood a day to keep the fire roaring at a sweltering 350 degrees. 

"It's hot," said Noel.

And the pistons aren't the only things under pressure.

"You're by yourself. You've got 175 tons and 300-plus people who are saying he's capable and you have to do your job," said Noel.

But his job isn't all business. Especially once the train crosses into Wolfman Territory. Noel has fun outrunning the notorious backwoods recluse who's supposedly protecting the mineral Unobtainium.

"He's tried to chase us away. He doesn't want anyone to get off the train. He gets very upset when we stop and he wants us to go back," said Noel.

The kids get a kick out of the role play, too.

"It was kind of strange because when the wolfman was on the motorcycle, he sort of disappeared in the woods. No one could see him," said Christopher DiPrima, 8.

Noel says it's kids like Christopher who make his job so rewarding, watching their faces light up as smoke and steam billows from the engine. He jokes to them he's the real-life Thomas the Tank Engine. 

"You hope that it sparks some interest in them so down the road they'll be mechanically inclined," said Noel. 

With only a handful of steam locomotion engineers left in the world, Noel is determined not to become a dying breed.

"I have so much to teach you and I'm so willing to because I don't want it to stop," said Noel.

Blowing the whistle on an Odd Job he never dreamed would turn into such a rare career.

"If the government knew how happy and how much fun I'm having, they'd tax me," said Noel. 

In an effort to keep kids interested in the profession, Clark's Trading Posts offers an "engineer for the day" program. It allows participants to ride along with the engineer stocking the fire and ringing the bell. 

Jennifer is always looking for Odd Jobs. If you have one or know someone who does send us an email to news@wcax.com

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