IT used to be the universal custom, that, when an engine arrived from a trip, the fire was drawn, and the engine put into the round-house for ten or twelve hours before another run was undertaken. During this period of inaction, the boiler partly cooled down. When the engine was wanted again, a new fire was started in time to raise steam. The system of long runs, introduced on many roads, has changed this; and engines are now generally kept hot, unless they have to cooled down for washing out, or repairs. When an engine comes in off a trip, the fire is cleaned from clinker and dead cinders, and the clean fire banked. It is found that this plan keeps the temperature of the boiler more uniform than is possible with the cooling-down practice, and that the fire-box sheets are not so liable to crack, or the tubes to become leaky.

Where it is still the habit to draw the fire at the end of each trip, a supply of good wood is kept on hand for raising steam. To raise steam from a cold boiler, some theorists recommend the starting of a fire mild enough to raise the temperature about twenty degrees an hour. The exigencies of railroad service prevent this slow method from being practicable, and the ordinary practice is to raise steam as promptly as possible when it is wanted.

The first consideration before starting a fire in a locomotive, is to ascertain that the boiler contains the proper quantity of water. The men who attend to the starting of fires should be instructed not to depend upon the water-glass for the level of the water, but to see that it runs out of the gauge-cocks. I have known several cases where boilers were burned through those firing up being deceived by a false show of water in the glass, and starting the fire when the boiler was empty. If the boiler has been filled with water through the feed-pipes by the round-house hose, care should be taken to see that the check-valves are not stuck up. Where there is sand in the water, it frequently happens, that, in filling up with a hose, all the valves get sanded, and do not close properly. When there is steam on the boiler, this source of danger will generally be indicated at once by the steam and water blowing back into the tank; but, where the boiler is cold, the water flows back so silently and slowly, that the crown-sheet may be dry before the peril is discovered.

The water being found or made right, the next consideration is the grates. Before throwing in the wood, all loose clinkers left upon the grates should be cleaned off: care should be taken, to see that the grates are in good condition, and connected with the shaker levers. This is also the time to see that no accumulation of cinders is left on the brick arch, the water-table, or in the combustion chamber, should the engine be provided with either of these appliances. In starting the fire, it is considered the best plan to put enough wood in the fire-box to raise sufficient steam to operate the blower before the fire needs replenishing. To do the job in a clean, workman-like manner, the fire should be started from below: otherwise every part of the cab will be veneered with soot and dust, and the bright work tarnished.

On most roads, the engineer and fireman are required to be at their engine from fifteen minutes to half an hour before train-time. A good fireman will reach the engine in time to perform his preliminary duties deliberately and well. He will have the dust brushed off from the cab-furnishing, and from the conspicuous parts of the engine, the deck swept clean, the coal watered, and the oil-cans ready for the engineer. His fire is attended to, and its make-up regulated, — the kind of coal used, the train to be pulled, and the character of the road on the start. With an easy or down grade, for a mile or two on the start, the fire does not need to be so well made up as when the start is made on a heavy pull. But every intelligent fireman gets to understand in a few weeks just what kind of a fire is needed. It is the capability of perceiving this and other matters promptly, that distinguishes a good from an indifferent fireman. When a young fireman possesses these "true workman" perceptions, and is of an industrious, aspiring disposition, anxious to become master of his calling, he will prove a reliable help to the engineer; and his careful attention to the work will insure comfort and success on every trip. There must be a certain amount of work done on the engine, to get a train along; and, if the fireman can not do his part efficiently, it will fall upon the engineer, who must get it done somehow.

An important duty, which is never neglected by first-class firemen, before taking the engine away from the round-house, is that of looking to the grates, and seeing that the ash-pan is clean. When grates get burned, in nine cases out of ten it happens through neglecting the ash-pan. Some varieties of bituminous coal have an inveterate tendency to burn the grates. Such coal usually contains an excess of sulphur, which has a strong affinity for iron, and at certain temperatures unites with the surface of the grates, forming a sulphuret of iron. Neglecting the ash-pan, and letting hot ashes accumulate, prepares the way for bad coal to act on the grates. Keeping the ash-pan clear of hot ashes is the best thing that can be done to save grates, since that prevents the iron from becoming hot enough to combine with sulphur.

Before starting out, the fireman ought to ascertain that all the supplies necessary for the trip are in the boxes ; that the requisite flags, lanterns, and other signals are on hand, and that all the lamps are trimmed. He should also know to a certainty that all his fire-irons are on the tender, that the latter is full of water, and that the sand-box is full of sand.

These look like numerous duties as preliminary to starting, but they are all necessary; and the fireman who attends to them all with the greatest regularity, will be valued accordingly. Nearly all firemen are ambitious to become engineers. The best method they can pursue, to show that they are deserving of promotion, is to perform their own duties regularly and well. A first-class fireman will save his wages each trip over expenditure made by the mediocre fireman: a persistently bad fireman should be sent to another calling without delay. Few railroad companies can afford the extravagance of a set of bad firemen.

Try the water. That is the most important call upon the engineer when he first enters the cab. If the engine has a glass water-gauge, he should ascertain by gauge-cocks if the water-level shown in the glass be correct. A water-glass is a great convenience on the road, but it should only be relied on as an auxiliary to the gauge-cocks. Many engineers have come to grief through reposing too implicit confidence in the water-glass. Engineer Williams was considered one of the most reliable men on the A. & B. road. With an express train he started out on time one morning; and he had run only two miles when the boiler went up in the air, with fatal results to both occupants of the cab. An examination of the wreck showed unmistakable evidence of overheated sheets. Circumstantial evidence indicated that the glass had deceived the engineer by a false water-level. When he pulled out, the fire-box sheets, which were of copper, became weakened by the heat, so that the crown-sheet gave way ; the re-action of the released steam tearing the boiler to pieces. Numerous less serious accidents originating from the same cause might be cited.

An engineer who has a proper interest in his work, and thoroughly appreciates the importance of it, will reach his engine in time to perform the duties of getting her ready for the road leisurely, without rush or hurry. Although a good fireman may relieve the engineer of many preliminary duties, the engineer himself should be certain that the necessary supplies and tools are on the engine, and that water is in the tank, and the sand-box filled.

Oiling the machinery is such an important part of an engineer’s work, and the success of a fast run is so dependent upon this being properly done, that it should never be performed hurriedly. Although practice with short stoppages at stations may have got an engineer into the way of rushing round an engine, and oiling at express-speed, it is no reason why the first oiling of the trip should not be carefully and deliberately attended to when there is an opportunity. In addition to filling oil-cups, lubricators, and oil-boxes, this is a good time to complete the inspection, which assures the engineer at every thing about the engine is in proper running order. When any thing in the way of repairs has been done to the engine since she came off the last trip, special attention has generally to be given to the parts worked at. New wheels require close care with the packing of the boxes; rod-brasses reduced entail an additional supply of oil to the pins for the first few miles; guides closed should insure a free supply of oil till it is found that the cross-heads run cool.

While oiling, the engineer should bear in mind that it is of paramount importance that the rubbing-surfaces receive lubrication sufficient to keep them from heating; but, while making sure that no bearings shall run dry, lavish pouring of oil should be avoided. There are still too many cases to be noticed, of men pouring oil on the machinery without seeming to comprehend the exact wants. We are constantly seeing cases where oil-cups waste their measure of oil through neglect in adjusting the feeders. A steady supply, equal to the requirements, is what a well-regulated cup provides. With the ordinary quality of mineral oil, six drops will lubricate the back end of a main rod for one mile when the engine is pulling a load. This applies to eight-wheel engines on passenger service. Heavier small-wheeled engines will require a quarter more oil. Guides can be kept moist with five drops of oil to the mile. A dry, sandy road will require a more liberal supply. With good feeders, properly attended to, the supply can equal the demand with close accuracy. An oil-cup which runs out the oil faster than it is needed, wastes stores, besmears every thing with a coating of grease, and is likely to leave the rubbing-surfaces to suffer by running dry before it can be replenished. A cup in that condition also advertises the engineer to be incompetent.

Before moving the engine out of the house, the cylinder-cocks should be opened so that water, or the steam condensed in warming the pipes and steam-chest, may escape. After ringing the bell, and giving workmen employed about the engine time to get out of the way, the throttle should be opened a little, and the engine moved out slowly and carefully. If there is a sufficient pressure of steam in the boiler, and the engine refuses to move, something is wrong. Never force an engine. Any work which may have been performed upon it while in the house will probably indicate the nature of the defect. The most common cause of stalling engines in the house is a miscalculation of the piston-travel, permitting it to push against the cylinder-head. Sometimes, however, the setting of the valves is at fault. I knew a case where the machinist connected the backing-up eccentric-strap with the top of the link, and the mistake was not discovered till they attempted to move the engine out of the house. Another blunder, the result of gross carelessness, was where a cold chisel was left in the steam-chest. But a more representative case was that which happened to Engineer Amos, on the B. & C. road. His engine had the piston-packing set up; and the following morning, when he tried to take it out of the house, it would not pass a certain point. Thinking that the packing was set up rather tight, he backed for a start, determined to make it go over on the run. He succeeded, too, but a hammer which had been left in the cylinder went out through the cover.

While running from the round-house to the train, is a good time to carefully watch the working of the various parts of the engine. Should any defects exist, they are better to be detected now than after the engine is out with a train. The brakes can be tested conveniently at this time, and the working of the water-pumps tried. All these matters are regularly attended to by the successful engineer: they are habitually neglected by the unlucky man, and misfortune never loses sight of him.

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