The train's engineer is Mike Kenny, a 48-year-old former actor. He has worked for the Astros for five years. Previously he wore a 19th-century military uniform, playing a character called General Admission. He stood behind the outfield fence at the Astrodome and set off a cannon after every Houston homer. He runs the train a lot more often.
"What you have to do is try to anticipate the home run," he says. "This is a big locomotive, so it really doesn't jump to 60 miles an hour in a hurry. If I see a ball that looks like it's going out, I start to get the train moving right then. When I'm sure it's gone, I start ringing the bell and turning on the sound effects."
The big trip for the train is supposed to be at the end of the game. Kenny has the time to cover the entire length of the track. He can use all the whistles, 8,400 watts of speakers blasting out the sounds. In the new park, with all the built-in adventures, the built-in possibilities, the train is the built-in celebration. "The only thing," Kenny says, "is that we have to win."
Alas, that's the one part of the vision that's missing.
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