"The Iron Dragon" and a day of time travel. Last weekend Tsunami and I met my parents for a very unusual weekend that begins in the hidden mountain town of McCloud; right next to the majestic, silently sleeping, snow covered volcano called Mount Shasta, in Northern California. The day begins at 8:00 AM with the wail of a steam whistle as the thumping and roaring, fire breathing, ninety year old – produced 1914 - Number 18 Steam Engine pulls into town. Beyond a doubt, everyone in town is now wide awake! “All aboarrrrd” shouts the conductor as the fifty or so passengers climb aboard the two passenger cars, and one open-air, two lever viewing car attached to the vintage steamer. Then we begin a ten and a half hour, fifteen mile per hour tour of scenic beauty – snow capped mountains, grass and flower covered valleys, and the streams and lakes that surround this historic gold-rush and timber community, 60 miles into the back country - all the while trailing what is beyond a doubt one of the most dramatic, exciting pieces of equipment ever produced. I have never been a “train guy”, but now I understand why the arrival of the steam engine in turn-of-the-century, rural America, was a big event: Even by today’s standards steam engines are flat-out exciting! When the engineer throttles up, the engine’s 1500 HP thumps can be heard echoing throughout the valleys for miles. When the whistle blows one’s bones nearly rattle, and when the engineer vents a full head of steam [out the sides], the thirty foot fir and pine trees that line the rails bend and sway violently over as if hit by a passing storm. A direct hit would surely knock a person right off their feet and down the road a way. I kept noticing that most people had a grin plastered on their face all day…including me. Also, at times it felt like a day spent in 1914. The sense of "a time" was very pronounced for me. Unfortunately, this snorting and roaring, squealing and clacking, thumping and chugging, fire breathing, smoke belching, steam spewing, oily iron monster is surely an environmental disaster on wheels, but since it only runs two days a year I decided to splurge and have a good time. We steamed about 14,000 gallons of water during the trip - with three or four water stops. We had to stop once so that they could grease the engine bearings. We were burning diesel and oil - a modern approximation of the nearly tar mixture once used: Bunker C. This thing qualitifes as the defintion of bad technology. What a difference 100 years can make. The same company that does this – The McCloud Railroad - also runs a tremendously popular dinner train [standard engines] - a three hour ride filled with the finest dining and a dramatic Shasta Mountain sunset. They have done this for nine years: The first year they had 1400 passengers, the next year, 2500, the next, 18000! Very, very cool! Here is a picture taken by Tsu at one of our stops with a “high speed pass” made for the cameras.