It’s not, really. I just wanted to tell you about it.
There are things in life you never think you will get the chance to do – things that don’t even cross your MIND as something you could conceivably do. And so, when you find yourself in the cab of a JA 1275, the second largest steam locomotive ever to drive on NZ track, and the driver shuffles aside and says “your turn”, you don’t think, your mind goes blank. You simply slide into the seat, put both hands on the reverse lever (you need them), pull the whistle, and before you know it, several hundred tons of train is entirely under your command.
To say it is the coolest thing I’ve ever done belittles all the other amazing things I’ve been able to experience, but it stands out as one of life’s “moments of win”. I drove a steam locomotive.
If I can drive a steam locomotive, I can do anything.
I came home with my heart on fire. A huge smile plastered across my face. I can do anything. I am Steff, locomotive driver. Do NOT mess with me.
I started volunteering with the local Mainline Steam society because my husband raves about it. He kept saying I should come down and help out and, truth be told, although I love my job, I do miss touching something tangible, working with my hands, feeling the satisfaction of a day’s physical labour. Plus, I’m still conducting research for my alternative history series set in 19th century London, and being close to actual, working steam locomotives gives me an insight into the time and the characters many other writers wouldn’t have.
There is no substitute for first-hand research, for getting your hands dirty.
The book I just finished writing contains a scene where two characters drive an early (very early) prototype for a steam locomotive. I realise now that I have to rewrite that scene. It’s right in all the big ways, and wrong in all the subtle nuances – it does not show the true experience of driving one of these beasts.
Research – it’s not all library books and talking to old people.
The moral of this experience, if I chose to draw one, is that what you do in life informs your business, and what you do in business informs your life. So make them both awesome. And steam locomotives are choice.