How was the fire restarted on full scale coal fired locomotives? - myLargescale.com > Community > Forums


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Old 06-23-2020, 07:51 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default How was the fire restarted on full scale coal fired locomotives?

I have seen the videos of workers brushing the tubes and shoveling ash out of the smoke box on full scale locomotives. Was is the coal fire totally extinguished? Was the fire just banked? When the coal fire is totally extinguished and the firebox is cold how did they restart the fire? Paper, kindling and charcoal? I canít imagine the firemen had to crawl in there and do that
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Old 06-23-2020, 08:20 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I think it depended on whether the loco was going to be used again in a little while.


If it was then they would bank the fires. This meant that the loco could be started up very quickly. It also meant that somebody had to check on the loco every so often. He needed to be sure the crown sheet was under water, adding more if needed, and the fire was fed.


If the loco was allowed to cool down for inspecting or what have you, then a new fire needed to be laid. It started (in the 19th century however) with building a wood fire. When that got hot enough they started to add coal. Finally the fire was all coal.



Starting a loco from cold was a lengthy process. I did see one loco started by tossing in wood and then oil soaked rags. The rags caught easily and lasted long enough to get the wood fire burning. Even with this it took about 1 1/2 hours to start to raise steam.


Just my experience.
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Old 06-23-2020, 09:02 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Rufus, in real life they follow the procedure taken from our locomotives and they extinguish the fire at the end of the run, only to start from scratch the next day;-)... This is what a large part of the fun is about! Nobody crawls, the fire is started from the cab through the fire door. On every NG line that I have visited or the video thereof I have seen, they tend to the locomotives at the crack of dawn in order to start the fire. Yes, paper, wood, etc are used to start the fire, but there is enough draft in full-size locomotives to turn to coal pretty soon (I think charcoal as an intermediate medium is unique to our scales and 3/5/7inch perhaps even up to 15inch). But the entire process of building proper fire and raising steam takes hours. In good old days when steam was omnipresent, on some lines they banked the fire keeping the hot coals ready for the next day. This I believe contributed to many engine shed fires that we read about now... No insurance company would allow this these days, I believe. Best wishes from Indoors, Zubi
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Old 06-23-2020, 09:16 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Did they let the tubes totally cool down before brushing? What about for shoveling the fly ash out of the smoke box? I did not think they could do that job with just the fire banked
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Old 06-23-2020, 01:33 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Some great historic videos on youtube give you a sense of what this work was really like in a world where health and safety wasn't top of anyone's agenda.






Robert

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Old 06-23-2020, 02:13 PM   #6 (permalink)
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The Durango and Silverton NGRR in south west Colorado keeps their locos hot overnight using wood pellets in order to cut down on pollution. When they kill the fire to do maintenance of the boiler, it takes several hours to get a proper fire going again, not something you would want to do every day.
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Old 06-23-2020, 04:05 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Winn, I am surprised to hear that. I visited D&S in 1997 and saw two engines under steam then, 473 snd 476 if memory serves right, but I was there only for a couple of days and access to the yard was restricted. Wood pellets would require constant attention throughout the night, as they would last maybe 15 minutes with the fire burning... I hear that they are converting 473 to oil, what a shame..., well, that will require a turn of the knob to light the fire. Most time in the company of sleeping, simmering beasts I spent at HSB, it is an unforgettable experience to see the locomotives empty the firebox, get refuelled and go to sleep. Best wishes from Indoors, Zubi
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Old 06-23-2020, 04:07 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by placitassteam View Post
The Durango and Silverton NGRR in south west Colorado keeps their locos hot overnight using wood pellets in order to cut down on pollution. When they kill the fire to do maintenance of the boiler, it takes several hours to get a proper fire going again, not something you would want to do every day.
I recall the East Broad Top used to keep the fire going overnight on the tourist summer weekends, as it was less thermal shock to the boiler and quicker to get the loco going in the morning. That was in the days of the tourist line, about 10-15 years ago. They had to employ a "night watchman" to make sure things were under control.
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Old 06-23-2020, 05:07 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Directly relates to one of the major reasons steam fell to the diesels. The labor to keep them going. Night watchmen to tend banked fires, needing several hours or more on big engines like the Big Boy to get them going from stone cold after major work ect. Its one of the big puzzle pieces to what led to the downfall of steam. Oil firing on the D&S is to easy minds and reduce their liablity after the wildfires last year. Oil firing is much less prone to sparks up the stack when the engine is working. Along with buying some diesels to use when fire danger is high, in all a smart move to keep $$ coming in running trains, vs shutting down during dry spells due to fire danger.
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Old 06-23-2020, 08:36 PM   #10 (permalink)
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Many decades ago, I spent several summers and Christmases firing (and occasionally driving) an oil-burning Pacific Coast Shay. While there isn't anywhere near the physical exertion involved in firing and maintaining a coal-fired loco, oil firing is more than just a "turn the knob" discipline.

The Shay ran only on weekends, so Saturday morning started real early, as it was at least 1 1/2 - 2 hours to get the engine up to a minimum working pressure -- usually 90 psi so you could run the air pump -- from dead cold. We weren't pulling more than a few cars on (mostly) level track, a negligible load for a Shay, so normal working pressure was kept around 150 - 160 psi.

At the end of the day on Saturday, we'd add plenty of water and run the pressure up to where the first pop valve would release, 185 psi, and then we'd shut off the oil and park the loco in the engine house for the night.

The Sunday guys would still have enough on the clock to run the blower and the atomizer, about 50 psi or so, when they got in and re-lit the fire. I should add that flues were very rarely brushed; if the fireman was running a clean fire, there was very little soot. Nonetheless, usually once a day you'd get a handful of sand and throw it through the firebox door while the engine was running, that was supposed to scour out the tubes.

Oil firing is "cleaner" than coal, but in reality, it's just a different kind of dirty. Bad enough that the wife would make you change clothes out in the garage. Fun!
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