What happens when boiling water meets freezing air?
The Winter Steam Festival, that’s what.
The 2019 edition of the Winter Steam Festival will be held Saturday through Monday, Dec. 28-30, at the Golden Spike National Historical Park, 32 miles west of Brigham City. The event offers rangers at the park a chance to really show what a steam locomotive can do.
“In the summertime we run the locomotives, but it’s pretty warm outside,” said Lucas Hugie, park ranger at Golden Spike. “So because of the temperature, you don’t see a lot of steam. But in the winter, when the air is cold and dense, you see all that steam coming off.”
Hugie said it’s an impressive site to see a Victorian-era locomotive belching great quantities of steam into a clear-blue winter sky.
The winter months are also a good time to visit Golden Spike, according to Hugie. Crowds are usually sparse — they get maybe a dozen visitors a day — compared to the 9,000 or more people a month during the summer.
“November through January is pretty slow,” he said. “Except for these three days.”
Still, Hugie says even a typical day at the steam festival is a little less than a busy Saturday in the summer.
“So, it’s busy, but not as chaotic as, say, the Fourth of July at the park,” he said.
The year 2019 marks the 150th anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad. Hugie estimates that back on May 10 of this year, the sesquicentennial drew more than 23,000 people to Promontory Summit, the site of the driving of the golden spike to complete the railroad.
Among the activities offered during the festival will be a couple of ranger programs. One program, led by Hugie, will address a winter theme. He’ll be talking about snow removal in the Sierra Nevada mountains for the Central Pacific.
“I’ll go through the types of plows, and how they did snow removal then and now,” Hugie said.
Another ranger will give a presentation on how Central Pacific named its locomotives.
“The Union Pacific just gave its locomotives numbers,” Hugie said. “But the Central Pacific named them, and one of our rangers researched those names.”
Other activities will be weather-dependent — as well as volunteer/staff dependent — according to Hugie. They’ll be giving rides on a handcar, which involves visitors pumping a handle to make the car move.
They’ll also have a two-stroke, gas-powered speeder offering rides — “For people who don’t want to work out for the ride,” Hugie said.
The star of the show — a steam-belching period locomotive — will make appearances at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Golden Spike has two working locomotives — the Jupiter and the No. 119 — but Hugie said they only bring one of them out for Winter Steam Festival. The Jupiter will be the locomotive demonstrating its steam-creating capabilities this year.
“We alternate every year,” Hugie said. “I like the Jupiter because it’s our wood-burning locomotive, so it smells better. Like burning wood. The other one is coal-fired, so it smells like sulphur.”
All of the above events will be held Saturday and Sunday, Hugie said. On Monday, the park will be open — and the Jupiter will run its normal times of 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. — but none of the other activities will be offered.
There is no food available at the park, but visitors are welcome to bring food with them. Hugie said they’ll have portable heaters in the picnic area, to take a bit of the chill off.
Admission to the park is $10 per vehicle. For more information, visit www.nps.gov/gosp, or call 435-471-2209, ext. 429.