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ode to steam

i must have done something exceptional with our 1-pipe steam system, because i received this from a newly transplanted new yorker:

 To: Nicholas Bonhamcarter

Sent: Sun, Sep 27, 2009 1:01 pm

Subject: Steam Heat


I thought since it won't be too long before you turn on the boiler that you might appreciate this ode to steam heat that I wrote to Michele many years ago and she came upon during a bit of cleaning up.

The heat came on this morning. 

Dimly, and ignored, the first faint clicks and taps announced the coming like a conductor's baton on music stand metal. Next, a brilliant and insistent hiss moving up the register to a shrill squeal. Then more percussive clanging, chugging, and thumping. A panorama of images from the Age of Steam passed behind my sealed lids:  the twin twenty-one foot flywheels at Lowell's Mills, 12" wide leather belts driving power looms a quarter of a mile away; the 200 foot tall chimney belching smoke and sparks at dawn; the transcontinental railway growing like a vine from Omaha westward, and from Sacramento eastward;  the patient locomotives huffing in attendance as new steel tracks stretched ahead each day; fifteen pound hammers swinging overhead, three shifts, no stopping;  the last spike, the Golden Spike, driven 1087 miles west of Omaha, in Brigham City, Utah;  Andrew Russell's photograph of the engines, head to head, the victory of enterprise over nature. 

Now the smell and taste of steam, the faint movement of convection in the curtains, and the heat is on at last.  I am awake. <span style="color:#666666">

</span><span style="color:#666666">Best,</span>Charliethe author has had plenty of exposure to bad steam in n.y.c.


  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 22,972
    That's lovely

    Nick!  Wouldn't mind having a tenant who could write like that -- and he is right, there is something evocative about steam heat.  Even when it works right and doesn't clang and bang!  Just the slight tick of an expanding pipe is enough to do it -- very reassuring and psychologically warm (as well as physically!).
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
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