AMC Films Reality Show Episode at OERM
When most folks think of how trains work, they might think “forward and backward.” Pretty easy, right? Not so much, as TV personalities Marcus Hunt and Ed Sanders of AMC‘s “Owner’s Manual” found out. They discovered just how challenging and potentially hazardous it is to operate a locomotive and drive a street car while filming an episode of their reality TV series at OERM.
The episode, which aired August 15 and August 22, took five days to shoot during December 2012 and April 2013. Museum-trained engineers Tom Clabaugh and J.R. Lowe trained Marcus and Ed on camera. They were also told to give the guys a hard time and Tom and J.R. did not disappoint. Volunteers David Arendes and Rich Spear also appeared on camera during a training session on coupling.
Our expert volunteers provided more supervision than may have been apparent in the finished episode, and safety was never actually compromised. In each half hour episode of “Owner’s Manual,” Sanders and Hunt attempt to operate machinery and technology with one man working strictly from the manual (Marcus) and the other using his instincts (Ed).
They argue their way through the situations (aerial stunt flying, locomotives, off-roading), but end up collaborating in an effort to succeed. Their first timed challenge at OERM involved getting streetcars on the trolley loop going different directions. Then they had to drive a street car into the barn in under five minutes. Marcus looked at the manual and quickly figured out how to start it. Marcus almost beat Ed to the barn, but he switched the track incorrectly and his streetcar drove onto the wrong track. Ed parked his streetcar in the barn and ran to help Marcus. With two seconds to spare, both cars were parked and Ed won the test (Tom rode with Marcus and JR rode with Ed for safety). The winner, Ed, got to be the engineer, and the loser, Marcus, became the conductor in the main challenge the next day:
To start up the Southern Pacific 3100 diesel locomotive, then pick up a freight car, a flat car, and a caboose; attach them all together, and drive the completed train into town in under three hours. The following day, Marcus boarded an electric switch engine and coupled it with the caboose. Shortly after, the caboose detached and started rolling down the track. “I’ve got a runaway caboose!” Marcus yelled. Ed chased after the caboose and hopped on it.
Over a radio, Marcus instructed Ed to pull a lever and turn the wheel on the back of the caboose to activate the brakes. Ed stopped the caboose just before the track ran out. (J.R. was hidden on the caboose at the hand break for safety.) Marcus realized he didn’t properly connect the air hose on the caboose, causing it to break loose. The mistake cost the pair 30 minutes. Marcus picked up the boxcar while Ed picked up the flat car. Ed failed to give Marcus the right of way on the track and their two cars almost collided, delaying them further. With only 30 minutes left, the guys finally picked up the 3100. Ed boarded the locomotive and was overwhelmed by “all these buttons and bells and whistles and the dials and gauges.” Marcus helped Ed figure out the switches and instructed him how to operate the layshaft.
The locomotive started up successfully and they started to drive the train into town. Marcus and Ed drove the 3100 to their final destination without further delays, but got there three minutes late. Tom informed them that they failed the challenge and, “I’m personally glad you didn’t make it.” Marcus said, “At least we got to drive trains.” Ed chastised Tom for giving them a hard time all day and said Tom must not have been hugged as a child. Ed gives Tom a hug and they all laugh.
Summing up his experience, Marcus said, “We had so much fun. Getting to engineer a 275,000-pound locomotive was bucket list stuff. You really gain an appreciation for the experts and the massive amount of knowledge and training that they go through before they can operate the trains. While I feel that Ed and I got a pretty good grasp on things, we’ll never be Tom and JR!” AMC Television contributed to this report.
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