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Ralph on the Overland Express The Trials and Triumphs of a Young Engineer

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“All aboard.”

Ralph Fairbanks swung into the cab of No. 999 with the lever hooked up for forward motion, and placed a firm hand on the throttle.

It looked as though half the working force of the railroad, and every juvenile friend he had ever known in Stanley Junction, had come down to the little old depot that beautiful summer afternoon to especially celebrate the greatest event in his active railroad career.

Ralph was the youngest engineer in the service of the Great Northern, and there was full reason why he should center attention and interest on this the proudest moment of his life. No. 999 was the crack locomotive of the system, brand new and resplendent. Its headlight was a great glow of crystal, its metal bands and trimmings shone like burnished gold, and its cab was as spick and span and neat as the private office of the division superintendent himself.

No. 999 was out for a trial run—a record run, Ralph hoped to make it. One particular car attached to the rear of the long train was the main object of interest. It was a new car to the road, and its blazoned name suggested an importance out of the ordinary—“China & Japan Mail.”

This car had just come in over a branch section by a short cut from the north. If No. 999 could beat timetable routine half an hour and deliver the mail to the Overland Express at Bridgeport, two hundred miles distant, on time, it would create a new schedule, and meant a good contract for the Great Northern, besides a saving of three hours’ time over the former roundabout trip of the China & Japan Mail.

Ralph had exchanged jolly greetings with his friends up to now. In an instant, however, the sonorous, echoing “All aboard” from the conductor way down the train was a signal for duty, prompt and imperative. The pleasant depot scene faded from the sight and mind of the ambitious young railroader. He turned his strict attention now to the cab interior, as though the locomotive was a thing of life and intelligence.

“Let ’er go, Ralph!”

John Griscom, the oldest engineer on the road, off duty, but a privileged character on all occasions, stepped from the gossiping crowd of loungers at a little distance. He swung up into the cab with the expert airiness of long usage. His bluff, hearty face expressed admiration and satisfaction, as his rapid eye took in the cab layout.

“I’ll hold up the tender rail till we get to crossing,” announced Griscom. “Lad, this is front rank service all right, and I’m happy to say that you deserve it.”

“Thank you, Mr. Griscom,” answered Ralph, his face beaming at the handsome compliment. “I don’t forget, though, that you helped some.”

“Oh, so, so,” declared Griscom. “I say, Fogg, you’re named right.”

It was to Lemuel Fogg that Griscom spoke. Fogg was Ralph’s fireman on the present trip. He presented a decided contrast to the brisk, bright engineer of No. 999. He shoveled in the coal with a grim mutter, and slammed the fire door shut with a vicious and unnecessary bang....