The group of children stepped toward the massive steam engine inside the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and gawked.
Volunteer Richard Small, dressed as a conductor, explained that the 1890s-era Ruben Wells steam engine was used in Madison. For anyone who wants to know, Small can tell them that the train was 35 feet long and weighed 55 tons.
The trains held two 80,000-gallon tanks for water to be converted into steam, and it burned wood instead of coal, he said.
“That’s one of the questions I always ask them — why did they burn wood? Because it was cheaper and easier to get than coal,” he said.
In his post-retirement job as a volunteer at the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, Small is responsible for guiding visitors through the many exhibitions. One day he might be explaining how in ancient Egypt, the picture of an owl represents an “m” sound. The next, he could demonstrate an early 1900s printing press.