The Disneyland Railroad: Why We Need a Blowdown
Tuesday, my brother-in-law, Stuart, and I had the opportunity/privilege of getting a Tender Ride on Engine 1 of the Disneyland Railroad, the C.K. Holliday. We got to talk to the engineer and the fireman, see the train controls, and learn a great deal (as much as one can in 20 minutes, anyway) about the operations of a steam train, particularly one at Disneyland.
One of the things Barbara, the engineer, and Jacob, the fireman, explained to us was the importance of the steam pressure and maintaining it at the proper levels. One of the main parts of that is doing a blowdown at the Frontierland Station as needed.
Blowing down the boiler several times a day is a critical procedure for the safe operation of a steam locomotive. According to Steve DeGaetano, author of Welcome Aboard the Disneyland Railroad, there can be up to 12 pounds of dissolved sediments to every 500 gallons of water, not to mention the residue from the several pounds of the anti-foaming and anti-corrosion chemicals that are added to the water several times a day. This sediment can build up inside the boiler. If the sediment is allowed to build up, the result could be a boiler explosion. Opening the blowdown allows this sediment to be jettisoned from the boiler, in dramatic fashion.
We didn’t get to see that (they don’t allow tender rides if they’re going to do a blowdown), but if you’ve ever been near the Frontierland/New Orleans Square station, you’ve probably seen it happen—and heard it. If you’ve been near that station and heard a sudden loud hiss, and then saw a jet of white steam come from the left side of the engine, that was a blowdown. They blow out the sediment, and then refill with fresh water to continue the run.
Barbara and Jacob told us that they do these blowdowns about once an hour, or every 2-3 trips around. However, if they are dealing with hard water, then they have to do it every time. The more minerals and impurities are in the water, the more often they have to blowdown the boiler and refill it with fresh water.
That got me to thinking about the pressure in our own lives. We are always under pressure. From work. From home. From friends. From other organizations we may be part of. Even from ourselves. When that happens, we may want to just push through and keep going. We don’t have time to stop and do anything else.
But when we do that, the sediment builds up in our hearts. The impurities get in when we don’t take time to flush them out. And we risk an explosion. We blow up at our spouses. We become passive-aggressive with our coworkers. We become resentful of the demands of others. And we avoid church and other believers because we feel like we have to keep struggling to keep our lives together. The harder the circumstances, the more often we need the blowdown.
God knows this. That’s why He created the Sabbath. Not to force rules or legalism on us, but to make sure we’re taken care of. “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.” (Mark 2:27) One of my favorite verses in the Gospels comes just before the feeding of the 5,000.
“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” (Mark 6:31-32)
In the midst of busyness, look at what Jesus says, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” He says the same thing now. At the very times when we’re at our most harried, He says, come away with Me.
Scripture repeatedly reminds us of the dangers of not taking time to “blowdown” our boilers and clean out the sediment. We do that when we spend time with God. We also do it when we spend time with other believers.
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:25)
Sometimes it’s even just needing some time “away from it all”. A massage. A vacation (short or long). Maybe even a game or a funny movie. As Milton Berle said, “Laughter is an instant vacation.”
When we get too much sediment in our system and haven’t taken time to blowdown the boilers we risk trouble. But once we’ve done that blowdown, we have to refill with something.
“Jesus answered, ‘Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’ (John 4:13-14)
“Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” (Ephesians 5:18)
When it’s hardest to find time to do this, when we most don’t want to do it, that’s exactly when we most need to. Keep running without clearing out the bad stuff and going back to the fresh water of life, and the boiler will explode.
Next time you hear that blowdown or see the steam, ask yourself, “Am I running too hard, too long, without doing that myself?” If you have, then make some time to spend some time resting with God, and meeting with other believers. It’s far better in the long run, because it’s how you were designed to operate.