The Last Run

by Mike Hemming

Cold iron, a week without being run, the big diesels will be hard to start. But they will start, all preparations made, the Throttleman nods to the oiler. The oiler starts to spin the big chrome plated exhaust valve wheel. The Throttleman, rolling the engine hard with air watches the oiler, when the valve is about half open he grasps the cold throttle lever to send fuel to the cylinders. At that second, he realizes in a flash that it's the last time he will do this. But intent on procedures, he snaps back and completes the start, with all its rattling, crashing, vibrating sounds. As that engine settles out to 550 rpm warm-up speed, they both move to the other engine. There they repeat the motions that result in another series of diesel starting noises. Done, they give each other satisfied half smiles.

Their eyes quickly scan the gauge boards looking for a reason to shut back down if needed. The gauges give the okay, it's a good start on both of the mighty 1600 horsepower engines. Both then look around the engine room for possible problems and finding no oil or water leaks, give each other a quick grin signaling all is well.

After watching the temperatures come up to operating levels, the Throttleman gives over control to the eager electricians in maneuvering room. They will apply the generated kilovolts to turning the main motors for heading into homeport for some repairs, rest and relaxation. The Throttleman will be out in a week after arrival in homeport.

He will be leaving this hot crashing noisy place of power, his work place for the last 4 years. His home, his bunk is only 40 feet aft of this, is a short commute in any world. Four years ago he was the junior man when he came aboard, but time and advancement made this place his. For the last year, he has been the boss in here putting his stamp on the machines as much as one man can do that. His time here was mostly a joy and sometimes a pain in the butt. All in all, the hard work was met with approval and well run machinery.

Some time later, maneuvering watch over, the signal 'stop engines' is given. His hand now grasps the hot to touch throttle lever and pushes it firmly down. The great engine losing the power to even turn its self over, slows to a stop. This action is far quieter than its roaring, rattling start. His action repeated on the other engine a moment later silences the pounding diesel din. Valves are spun shut, fuel and lube oil levels checked and logged in.

His last shutdown, a finality he doesn't realize at the time.

Nor will he ever think much about it for a long time. But then one day...