The engineer of a steam train held a position of importance almost equal to that of the brakeman. He not only ran his loco, he was also required to service and maintain it whilst it was “on the road”. The skill of the engineer with the throttle in his hand had to match that of the brakeman with his hickey.
The hostler prepares an engine each day for service. This usually includes starting the fire, greasing and oiling all lubrication points on a steam locomotive. This was traditionally the starting point for a person coming onto the engine crew. Hostlers tank up the loco with fuel and water, sand and lubricants and assure that all required tools and flagging equipment are provided on the locomotive.
The fireman was required to keep a lookout on his side of the train. He maintains the steam pressure in the boiler. To do this the fireman carefully regulates the fire, and adds water to the boiler as needed. Water is added through the use of an injector or feed water pump. Firing involves caring for the boiler, and making sure there is always sufficient steam for the engineer to use. When proficient, a fireman concentrates on efficient operation to conserve fuel, water and extend the life of the engine.
The engineer is responsible for ensuring that the engine is fit for operation before and during any movement of the locomotive. He is responsible for its over the road upkeep, oiling and proper operation of the locomotive to be most fuel efficient and easy on the machinery. The engineer controls the operation of the locomotive but the brakeman controls the movement of the train, and both are responsible for its safe operation. The steam whistle, headlight, throttle, air brakes, reverse lever, and fireman are usually under the direct control of the engineer.
The disconnects that were often used to transport the big logs were fragile. They had to be `treated gently. Careful starts and smooth stops had to be second nature to the engineer who handled disconnects. Every engineer had to know in intimate detail the gradients on every inch of the rails. 500 tons of logs out of control on a 2% downhill grade can turn into a major league disaster in seconds.