GETTING READY FOR THE ROAD.
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.
PRECAUTIONS AGAINST SCORCHING BOILERS.
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.
STARTING THE FIRE.
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.
FIREMANS FIRST DUTIES.
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
SAVING THE GRATES.
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
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.
ENGINEERS FIRST DUTIES.
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.
REACHING HIS ENGINE IN GOOD SEASON.
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
OILING THE MACHINERY.
Oiling the machinery is such an important part of an
engineers 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
QUANTITY OF OIL THAT DIFFERENT BEARINGS
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.
LEAVING THE ENGINE-HOUSE.
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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