Go Back  PPRuNe Forums > PPRuNe Social > Jet Blast
Reload this Page >

lighting the fire - steam loco

Jet Blast Topics that don't fit the other forums. Rules of Engagement apply.

lighting the fire - steam loco

Old 30th Mar 2021, 17:17
  #1 (permalink)  
Thread Starter
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Location: Berkshire, UK
Posts: 747
lighting the fire - steam loco

On YouTube there is a number of videos showing various activities associated with getting a steam engine tested and ready for traffic duty. Some show the process for lighting the fire and getting steam up for safety valve setting or hot leak testing. One thing that I see in a number of videos is taking two goes at getting the fire lit. It seems as if it is a deliberate action rather than a failure to keep it alight as coal is added. A small fire is lit using something burning on a shovel tipped into the firebox and then coal is added. Invariably this smothers the flames. Some wood is then added and then this is lit using some parafin soaked rags set on fire on a shovel and put into the firebox. After this the fire takes and stays alight as more coal is carefully put into the fire so give a good spread across the grate.

Is there something I am missing? I would have expected to see the initial lighting being the parafin soaked rags put into a good stack of timber and then, once that is roaring away, the coal being carefully added to cover the grate and the fire kept going.

Videos are generally associated with the NYMR.......

Rans6......................

rans6andrew is offline  
Old 30th Mar 2021, 17:48
  #2 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: Surrey
Age: 64
Posts: 180
My dad worked as a fireman before joining the RAF for national service.I'll ask him about this when I speak to him later this evening.
ex82watcher is offline  
Old 30th Mar 2021, 17:51
  #3 (permalink)  
Tabs please !
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Biffins Bridge
Posts: 726
A bed of coal goes on first then scrap wood and then paraffin soaked rags. Care has to be taken if the box is warm as the paraffin may vaporise and create an explosive atmosphere. In that scenario, it's best to have one burning rag thrown in first and then throw in others which will then catch.

The fire can go out if the ash pan is full and the dampers are blocked. Time is usually important first thing in the morning so the pan is emptied after the fire is lit and the driver has oiled up under the frames. The dampers are then fully open for a long time which can see the pressure whizzing round the clock if there's a decent fire in the box.
B Fraser is online now  
Old 30th Mar 2021, 18:47
  #4 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: Surrey
Age: 64
Posts: 180
Have just spoken to my dad,he was a fireman from 1951 to 1953,with LMS working from Monument Lane in Birmingham.He said that he used to use only balled-up newspaper and sticks for fire-lighting,no paraffin-soaked rags.
ex82watcher is offline  
Old 30th Mar 2021, 20:56
  #5 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Beyond the Blue Horizon
Age: 61
Posts: 890
My Grandfather was also a fireman and indeed engine driver. He said fire lighting was done by the lower grades as he had done before becoming a fireman ie cleaners. You had to do cleaner before passing to fireman. If you could, you would use hot fire to light a cold loco ie pass a shovel full off hot coal from an already warm engine. H&S would now have a fit, but common practice, and load with timber and coal..
It is quite appropriate that you brought this up this evening as my Grandfather had a family tradition of having a bottle of White Burgundy upon seeing his first Swallow at home in spring which we did this evening, and suitably imbibed. He got this from being a fireman on the Pullman trains from Leeds to London. In the spring of 1938 they came back from London on the Yorkshire Pullman and a young gentleman came passed the locomotive and proffered the Evening Standard and a good chunk of Burgundy with the said tale, and how it had been an excellent trip north. Due deference was shown to the young man, but the driver upon his departure put the ES to the fire, and offered the wine to my Grandfather as he was a "Tetley's Man". My Grandfather took the wine home and drank it from his cellar when the Swallows showed up in the North at his home - wine would have been corked!! . He precured wine through out the war by buying in before it got scarce (Grandma was not happy) as it cost a lot at "discounted rates" of money. He never drank wine other than that, and only that evening of the first Swallow. The tradition has passed on as a welcoming of summer to many friends and family, though many may not observer it as we do, ie first glass out doors (it can be very cold or I may not even be in the country so left to Mrs Mac) but he would be pleased to see it carried on by all, and what better excuse do you need for White Burgundy ( there is an actual village but I hesitate to drive the price up further by recommending it Therefore may I wish you all a wonderful summer where ever you maybe, or given the global reach of this site a kind winter.
Cheers
Mr Mac
Mr Mac is online now  
Old 31st Mar 2021, 00:38
  #6 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Kelowna Wine Country
Posts: 459
Mr Mac,

Love it.

I worked on the Ffestiniog as fireman my 18th Summer hols. Lived with Bill and Mrs Hoole in the cottage at the end of the Cob. We used only newspaper and kindling to get the fire going. Getting up so early was a shock to the young system.

After lighting the fire we would oil up the underpinnings. Every day I would be absolutely covered in oil and grease but Bill would still be as clean as we started. I asked him why one day as we were going in for breakfast.

""Well," he said, "you see, you clean your way out but I clean my way in." Words I have repeated to my kids so often.
ChrisVJ is offline  
Old 31st Mar 2021, 10:41
  #7 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jun 2016
Location: Norfolk
Posts: 315
I remember the crew on a steam engine cooking their bacon and eggs on the coal shovel.
57mm is offline  
Old 31st Mar 2021, 10:48
  #8 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Location: A place in the sun
Age: 80
Posts: 1,039
Like this?
Bergerie1 is offline  
Old 31st Mar 2021, 11:00
  #9 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 12
Aside from lighting the fire the secret seems to be to only very slowly heat it up. In order to avoid any metal fatigue. One method seems to be to fill in already hot water to shorten the time. Otherwise it might take more than a night to bring some cold engine up carefully. In the old days they were typically kept warmed up all the time whenever in permanent use.
Less Hair is offline  
Old 31st Mar 2021, 12:04
  #10 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Beyond the Blue Horizon
Age: 61
Posts: 890
Less Hair
My Grandfather said the preservation people would face difficulties with locos due to them cooling down so often instead of being slightly warm between large services. He said it was old technology and required gentle handling to a degree. However in the steam engines defence he did refer to the drivers seats on the then new Diesel engines as the “wonder seat” as you used to wonder what would happen next !! He did say with spanner, hammer you could generally get a steam engine out of the way if you were having issues, not so with a diesel. His steam engines were A1,3,4, and B1 8F, 9F Back 5 and std 5 with diesel being Deltic,40,45,47 from memory. I got to ride on a 9F when 7 years old not long before he retired, it terrified.me especially the tunnels as we were double heading 😊
Cheers
Mr Mac
Mr Mac is online now  
Old 31st Mar 2021, 12:53
  #11 (permalink)  
Tabs please !
 
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Biffins Bridge
Posts: 726
The issue is the different rates of expansion of different metals or grades of steel. A warming fire at the front of the box under the arch lit in the late afternoon the day before will slowly bring the loco up to a reasonable temperature. If the loco is in daily use then never drop the fire at the end of the day. Shut everything up after the boiler has been filled way over the top of the glass as the loss of water through leaks and contraction is surprising. A level that is out of sight at the end of the day may be an inch or two in the morning. Just enough to light up on. It also helps to partially cap the chimney to reduce overnight heat loss so in the morning, there may still be 20lb on the clock.

I don't know about filling the boiler with hot water but filling through the top of a gauge glass takes a very long time. There's also the question of where that water comes from in sufficient quantity.
B Fraser is online now  
Old 31st Mar 2021, 22:10
  #12 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Out in the sticks in DE56
Age: 83
Posts: 556
Originally Posted by ChrisVJ View Post
Mr Mac,

Love it.

I worked on the Ffestiniog as fireman my 18th Summer hols. Lived with Bill and Mrs Hoole in the cottage at the end of the Cob. We used only newspaper and kindling to get the fire going. Getting up so early was a shock to the young system.

After lighting the fire we would oil up the underpinnings. Every day I would be absolutely covered in oil and grease but Bill would still be as clean as we started. I asked him why one day as we were going in for breakfast.

""Well," he said, "you see, you clean your way out but I clean my way in." Words I have repeated to my kids so often.
Quite a few of Bill's contemporaries had two sets of overalls: one for prepping, t'other for driving. (or firing as the case may be)
jimtherev is offline  
Old 1st Apr 2021, 13:31
  #13 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: south of Cirencester, north of Lyneham
Age: 74
Posts: 1,256
Harold Gasson's book 'Firing Days' describes the procedure at Didcot. You had three cube cages, about 12 inches per side, of spar wood nailed together, all stuffed with waste soaked in paraffin - presumably used sponge cloths that were too dirty and oily for anything else! - two in the box surrounded by small coal, and the third one lit and placed on top. (What he doesn't say is where these came from!) The coal was gradually added by the steam raiser, which was apparently a specific job, until the pressure got to about 40 lbs/sq.inch, when it was the fireman's job to get it up to full pressure. But they had to wash out the boiler every few days to get rid of scale. It was helpful to swap engines between some sub-sheds - Ruabon had hard water which scaled things up, while Bala had peaty water which was somewhat acidic. So swapping engines over reduced the scale on one and gave a protective coating of scale to the other, plus reducing the amount of work needed washing out!
radeng is offline  
Old 1st Apr 2021, 22:27
  #14 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Out in the sticks in DE56
Age: 83
Posts: 556
Originally Posted by radeng View Post
You had three cube cages, about 12 inches per side, of spar wood nailed together, all stuffed with waste soaked in paraffin - presumably used sponge cloths that were too dirty and oily for anything else! - two in the box surrounded by small coal, and the third one lit and placed on top. (What he doesn't say is where these came from!)
Usually it was shed cleaners or (on a quiet day) aforementioned steam raisers who made them out of scrap. A sought-after overtime job... quite light work compared to climbing over and under locos to clean and service ashpans and such.
jimtherev is offline  
Old 2nd Apr 2021, 11:01
  #15 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 12
I don't know about filling the boiler with hot water but filling through the top of a gauge glass takes a very long time. There's also the question of where that water comes from in sufficient quantity.
This used to be a pretty standard procedure in Germany back then. Typically another active steam locomotive donated the hot water. Idle steam engines would be kept heated by "Ruhefeuer" over night and guarded all the time by lower ranking engineers, so called "Kesselwärter".
Less Hair is offline  
Old 2nd Apr 2021, 15:08
  #16 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Bradfield CO11 2XD
Age: 79
Posts: 97
6024 King Edward 1

I used to be on the main line support crew of 6024 and occasionally was allowed to light up the loco.Usually a small fire to pre heat the loco overnight before bringing the loco up to pressure and doing a fitness to run exam the next day prior to hauling a Railtour the day after.The Firebox of a King is 11' 6" long and a small fire about 3 - 4 feet long was all that was needed to start with.A thin bed of coal topped by scrap wood lit up with oily paraffin rags to start with then gradually built up with more coal sufficient to keep the fire alight all night.

Colin.
KING6024 is offline  
Old 2nd Apr 2021, 18:40
  #17 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: UK
Posts: 5,217
In 1960 I was visiting my parents in Choma, then Northern Rhodesia, when I was invited by a Scottish driver to accompany him on a trip to Pemba and back in the cab of a steam engine. The 'steam engine' was a Beyer Garratt 4-6-2--2-6-4 locomotive running on 3 ft. 6 ins. narrow gauge.



That picture was taken a Choma ten years later so it may be the same one.

There was an Italian fireman on the footplate plus a few natives who rode in the tender. There job was to shovel the coal forward to the footplate so that the fireman could feed the appetite of the engine pulling what seemed to be a mile of double bogied trucks. The firebox resembled a stage curtain inasmuch as when the fireman swung a shovel of coal towards the furnace he trod on a pedal that opened the doors and he released it as he withdrew. Without this facility the heat would have been unbearable in a tropical climate.

We arrived at Pemba and we all transferred to another identical engine to return to Choma. We set off with another mile of trucks into the night. After a time I was asked if I would like to fire it. Seemed a good wheeze, the resident fireman didn't seemed to overwork himself, so I got started. The was a bit of a delay, quite a long one, actually, whilst I got the hang of operating the door without spilling the coal over the floor. Luigi had lots of patience as he cleared it up.

Once in the swing it was apparent that this was hard work! At one time I hit something on the footplate which caused me to lose my balance and I ended up in a heap on the footplate. Looking up and back I could see three sets of teeth dancing in the night sky; it was the tender crew killing themselves laughing.

At that stage I was let off and the regular crew took over. I found out subsequently the Choma to Pemba was downhill with empty's and my way was uphill with loads of copper bars
Fareastdriver is online now  
Old 3rd Apr 2021, 11:38
  #18 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: May 2001
Location: south of Cirencester, north of Lyneham
Age: 74
Posts: 1,256
The firebox resembled a stage curtain inasmuch as when the fireman swung a shovel of coal towards the furnace he trod on a pedal that opened the doors and he released it as he withdrew
Did not the Bulleid Pacifics have something similar?
radeng is offline  
Old 3rd Apr 2021, 11:48
  #19 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Bradfield CO11 2XD
Age: 79
Posts: 97
Originally Posted by radeng View Post
Did not the Bulleid Pacifics have something similar?
That rings a bell,many moons ago I was lucky enough to spend a day on the footplate of Taw Valley and saw that in use.
KING6024 is offline  
Old 3rd Apr 2021, 13:34
  #20 (permalink)  
 
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: Hertfordshire
Posts: 447
As a boy in the '40s I thought those Rhodesian Railways' Beyer-Garratts always looked top-heavy, compared to the LMS standard gauge B-Gs which I thought looked right.
However some 30 years later in Delhi railway museum I saw the version built for the Indian Railways' 5'6" gauge and that really did look right!
Allan Lupton is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy - Privacy Statement - Terms of Service - Do Not Sell My Personal Information -

Copyright © 2021 MH Sub I, LLC dba Internet Brands. All rights reserved. Use of this site indicates your consent to the Terms of Use.