Eugene Hansen's whiting
Whiting, cooked on a locomotive engine by Eugene Hansen, en route from Ravenna to Linscott, Nebraska
Photo: Eugene Hansen

Eugene Hansen works two jobs. He�s a 60-hour-per-week locksmith in Alliance, Nebraska, who also drives trains for the Burlington, Northern, & Santa Fe between Alliance and Ravenna � for 60 hours more. So where could he possibly fit preparing Sunday dinner?

Easy, says Hansen. You just plop it in a Jerky bag or wrap it in tin foil, tuck it into any number of �Sweet Spots� on your locomotive, and get on down the line. Find your stove �on the water tank small door, on the compartment near the shutters, on the manifold, on top of the cylinders, in front of the turbocharger, on top of the turbocharger,� …also next to the headlight (presuming the headlight�s on) and �in the �Barbie� (not what it sounds like).

Gene has put his �Manifold Menus � online for all hungry travelers. �Anything you can heat up in a microwave can be heated up on the motor,” he declares. “Time and distance vary from type of food and location placed and position of throttle, also if under load or dynamic braking.� For non-engineers, he patiently translated that: �The harder the motor works, the hotter it gets.�

But, Gene, doesn�t engine-cooked food come out tasting like diesel fumes? �Does your pan affect the flavor of the food?� he fires back. Well, now that you mention it, maybe not. His instructions are pretty clear about what kinds of containers NOT to use (Have Ziploc/Will Melt). Hansen also seems to have gotten crosswise once with his spouse after taking her Tupperware onboard. With these few provisos, he bascially makes it look like a cinch: a very big, very loud, mobile version of crock-pot cooking. �I made a pot roast on the way home,� Gene says nonchalantly, three and a half hours last night, in a baggie with some mushrooms and carrots.

Hansen, age 47, and his wife have two grown children. Their daughter, a member of the Army Reserves in Fort Carson, Colorado, completed one tour of duty in Iraq and is preparing to leave for a second.

steak in the barbie

In thirty years of cooking on engines, mostly on his 268 mile route between Alliance and Ravenna, Nebraska, Hansen has experienced a few mishaps in the locomotive kitchen. �I�ve lost two steaks. They vibrated off,” he says. Moving parts in train motors, �don�t have internal oil.” Rather there�s an underpan and �sludge pump� underneath. �If anything falls in there, it�s sunk,� he warns. Frozen personal-pan pizzas are especially susceptible to vibration; Gene now knows to secure them to his cooking machinery with magnets.

Manifold Menus, with desserts and even salads, often gives cooking directions in distances as well as time. For example, to prepare a meal of whiting fish, he suggests: �(Ravenna to Linscott) 2 hours, medium to high throttle.�

A busy man, Hansen said it took him about a year to compile all the recipes and photos for his first cookbook, with everything from Cornish hens to burritos. But Gene isn�t done yet. �Be watching for Part Two!� he proclaims.

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