RUNNING A FAST PASSENGER TRAIN.
MATERIALS for the following notes were
taken during a trip on the Pennsylvania Railroad:
The New York and Chicago limited express train, run on the Pennsylvania
system of railroads, passes over the distance of 912 miles between
the two cities in twenty-five hours and twenty-nine minutes, making
an average speed of 35.29 miles an hour. All the known resources
of mechanical science have been ransacked to produce appliances
for reducing delays, so that the highest possible percentage of
the time provided for the journey should be devoted to running.
Water for steam-making is collected, as the train runs along,
from troughs placed in the middle of the track; a system of absolute
block signals, controlled by vigilant train-dispatchers, provides
a clear line ; and stops are made only for the purpose of changing
the locomotives at the end of divisions. The lines over which
the train runs traverse a multitude of cities and towns, most
of them having the streets crossing the track on the level; and
a great many other railroads are crossed at grade. Therefore,
although the actual stops between Jersey City and Chicago are
only seven, a run exceeding ten miles without meeting with the
necessity of checking the speed is rare.
SPEED BETWEEN JERSEY CITY AND PHILADELPHIA.
The run of ninety miles from Jersey City to Philadelphia is made
at an average speed of 45 miles an hour, leaving an average of
34 miles an hour for the remainder of the journey. To keep on
time, some parts of the first division must be traversed at a
speed over 60 miles an hour, while 50 miles an hour must be maintained
over a considerable portion of the other divisions.
REQUISITES OF A HIGH-SPEED LOCOMOTIVE.
The first essential for a high-speed locomotive is the means of
generating steam freely as fast as it is used up by the cylinders.
The next consideration is properly designed steam-distribution
gear, and well-proportioned machinery, so that the heat energy
produced by the boiler may be converted into useful work in propelling
the engine with the least possible loss of power. To handle the
fast trains between New York and Philadelphia, the mechanical
talent of the Pennsylvania Railroad, aided by fifty years' inherited
experience, has produced the form of engine known as Class K.
This is an anthracite-coal-burning locomotive, with 1,205 square
feet of heating-surface to supply steam to cylinders 18 inches
by 24 inches, which turn two pairs of coupled drivers 78 inches
in diameter. The traction force of the engine is thus 18(squared) x 24/78
= 99.69 pounds for each pound of effective pressure per square
inch of the pistons. The valves are the plain slide, with 14 inch outside lap, no inside lap,
z inch lead in full gear, and
a full travel of 52 inches.
The steam-ports are 16w inches
long and 12 inches wide; while
the exhaust port, is 134 inches
wide, securing free emission of steam.
MAKING UP THE FIRE.
Locomotives belonging to this company are not permitted to cool
down, unless the fire has to be drawn that work may be done. At
the end of a trip, the fire is cleaned and banked to wait for
the next run. By getting to the round-house two hours before train-time,
we find our engine receiving the first work of preparation for
the trip. The fire is spread over the grates, and a fresh supply
of coal laid over the whole fire. To make an engine steam freely
with anthracite coal, it is very important that the fire should
be properly burned through before starting out. About two hours'
time is needed for this, so that the mass of coal will get properly
ignited without the aid of the blower. A fire that has to be forced
along with the blower never proves satisfactory.
GETTING READY FOR THE TRIP.
The engineer and fireman reach the round-house about half an hour
before train-time, and each proceeds to do his own line of work
preparing the engine for the run. The engineer attends to oiling
round, an important matter where ninety miles have to be
passed without stopping. Each bearing and rubbing surface is provided
with an oil-cup, with feed carefully regulated to supply the required
lubrication. Mechanical ingenuity has arranged excellent methods
for securing regular lubrication, but the care and skill of the
engineer are needed to keep them working properly. As he moves
round the engine, his trained eye detects the smallest defect;
and, as he examines every cup and, reservoir, the touch in time
that prevents delay is given wherever needed. At the same time
the machinery gets a final inspection, and the air-pump is started
going. Meanwhile, the fireman has been attending to his duties,
giving the fire its finishing touches, filling oil-cans, and brushing
the dust off the cab-fittings.
Now we back up to the train. The air-hose is coupled, two minutes'
fast pumping of the air-pump charges the car reservoirs with their
full pressure of air, and we are ready for the start. While waiting
for the signal, I look into the fire-box, and see a furnace 10
feet long and 42 inches wide filled up with coal to a depth of
10 inches. It takes about a ton and a half of coal to make this
fire ready for the road. The fire was level on the surface; but
the greatest depth was in the front, where the grates slope downward.
The fire-box alone gives a heating-surface of 120 square feet.
THE TRAIN TO BE PULLED.
The train consists of five Pullman sleeping-cars and one dining-car,
the six cars weighing 200 tons. The engine and tender, in working
order, weigh 74 tons, which gives a total weight of 274 tons to
be moved by the force exerted by the pistons.
As the signal is given to start, the engineer drops the links
full forward by means of the steam reverse gear, pulls the throttle
lever open, and the engine responds by moving forward. A sprinkling
of sand is dropped upon the rails, the throttle-valve is opened
a little wider, and with resounding exhausts the engine is working
into speed. From the start, the necessity of pushing forward,
and utilizing every second of time, is recognized. The train has
not moved more than its own length when a speed of ten miles an
hour is reached. The engineer now hooks back the links to cut
off at ten inches, pulls the throttle wide open, and "lets
her go." While waiting at the station, steam was kept down
to 130 pounds by the injector and heater. The injector was shut
off just before starting. When we got out about half a mile, the
steam-gauge began to point towards 140 the popping pressure; and
the engineer started the injector, and it was kept going continually
during the remainder of the trip. It is a No. 9 Sellers, and can
supply the boiler during the heaviest work without reaching the
limit of its capacity. There is a No. 8 injector on the fireman's
side, but it is never used to run by. The injector and air-pump
are two things about these engines that seldom need to be touched
on the road after they are set to work.
GETTING THE TRAIN OVER THE ROAD.
The first two miles out of Jersey City a grade of about 40 feet
is ascended, but the summit is reached in four minutes; then the
links are hooked up to the 8-inch cut-off, which is the ordinary
running-point with this train. Next mile is passed in 85 seconds,
but is finished by shutting off steam to let the engine roll over
a bridge. Here the valves are oiled, a duty which is repeated
three times during the trip. Although steam was shut off for only
about 300 yards, the speed was perceptibly reduced; and it took
a minute and a half to make the next mile. Three miles succeeding
that were traversed in 32 minutes,
one of them being run in 59 seconds; but again a demand for reduced
speed intervened in the shape of the street-crossings of Newark,
the city being approached by a sharp curve. Here the speed was
reduced to 12 miles an hour, and two miles were run at a rate
under 30 miles an hour. A spurt is again made; and the second
mile, after getting clear of the street-crossings, is passed in
63 seconds, the next mile in 61 seconds, when another reduction
of speed for Elizabeth streets and a railroad crossing takes place.
After passing this town, a speed of one mile in 57 seconds was
attained, several miles having been traversed in a minute each:
then came the watering-point, where the speed was reduced under
20 miles an hour. Thus it was through the whole trip, a
struggle to get up speed: then comes the necessity for dissipating
part of the power gained in raising the load to the required velocity.
The engine, maintained a speed of sixty miles an hour easily enough;
but it was a laborious proceeding, increasing the speed in a couple
of miles from a mile in two minutes to a mile in one minute. Several
heavy grades were ascended, one of them three miles long, which
reduced the speed, in the second two miles to 30 miles an hour,
although the links were dropped to ten inches cut-off. The highest
speed attained during the run was a mile in 55 seconds. The greatest
speed was reached with the links hooked back to cut-off at 7 inches.
It is well understood by engineers running these trains, that
high velocity can only be attained with the lever well notched
back. Sixty miles an hour is nearly the maximum speed these engines
will make cutting off at 8 inches, and the train is so heavy that
the amount of steam represented by that cut-off is needed to maintain
the speed on curves or slightly ascending grades. The fastest
running is done under the favorable conditions of a straight,
level track, or descending grade, where the engine can handle
the train at 6 or 7 inches cut-off. When running over 60 miles
an hour, if the lever be advanced a notch the speed will decrease;
for more steam gets into the cylinders than can be exhausted at
the high piston velocity, and back pressure ensues, which acts
as a brake upon the engine. Even with the big driving-wheels of
this locomotive, the piston-speed at 60 miles an hour is very
high. In traversing a mile in one minute, the wheels make 2582 revolutions, giving a piston-speed
of 1,034 feet.
HOW THE ENGINEER DID HIS WORK.
The engineer exhibited remarkable skill and intelligence in handling
the engine. The water was carried steady without any fluctuation,
which enabled the fireman to maintain the steam at an even pressure.
Where the speed had to be reduced, no more braking was done than
was absolutely necessary; and the brake was applied so gradually,
that it was hard to distinguish that the speed was not being reduced
merely through natural loss of inertia. Every time the steam was
shut off, the links were dropped, giving the valves full travel.
Many engineers do not recognize the urgent necessity for doing
this. They will shut off steam, and leave the engine running hooked
up, a practice which proves destructive to valves, their seats,
pistons, and cylinders. Take the case of this engine cutting off
at six inches of the stroke. As the piston moves from the point
of cut-off to the point of release, a partial vacuum is formed
in the cylinder; and, as soon as the valve opens the exhaust,
the hot, cinder-laden gases from the smoke-box rush in through
the nozzles to fill the void in the cylinder. During the return
stroke, compression begins about eight inches before the completion
of the stroke; and, as the compression is too great for the valve
to hold down, it is jerked violently away from its seat, causing
the clattering so well known where engines are running hooked
up after the steam is shut off. I have known several cases of
valves getting "cocked" from this cause alone.
QUALIFICATIONS THAT MAKE A SUCCESSFUL
The ability to manage his engine skillfully, so that its best
powers may be economically developed, is the first requisite of
a good engineer; but that qualification must be supplemented by
others scarcely less essential. Sagacity, sound judgment, judicious
self-reliance, are attributes which advance men in all callings;
and they are peculiarly valuable possessions for the man who presides
over the safety of a railway train. It would be hard to find a
business where capacity for suddenly adapting circumstances to
ends is likely to prove so useful as it is to an engineer. Some
men get along smoothly with engine and train so long as every
thing goes on regularly, trains on time, and engines in
perfect order. But let the least difficulty arise, and they succumb
like a house of cards. Imbecile, helpless creatures, they are
vanquished by the first cloud, of trouble. Their true vocation
is away from railways. Self-confidence is not always popular;
but the engineer who is perfectly satisfied with his own ability
to grapple successfully with every emergency, to overcome every
difficulty, and avoid every danger, is the individual who gets
trains promptly over the road. He who possesses adaptability for
railroading acquires a mastery of the work quickly, but mere affinity
for, the calling will not invest a man with the aggregation of
facts respecting the business which are requisite for meeting
the emergencies of train service. This must be acquired by industry
HOW THE FIRING WAS DONE.
The fireman's part of the work of getting the train over the road
was no less skillfully done than that of the engineer. During
the first seven miles of the trip, he did nothing for the fire
other than crack up some coal-lumps. All the coal burned was broken
down to pieces about the size of two bricks. When he seemed to
think the proper time had come, he glanced at the fire, then threw
in one shovelful of coal. To pitch coal upon the right spot in
a fire-box ten feet long, requires considerable skill when the
engine is swinging at a mile-a-minute speed; but this youth seemed
equal to the task. He did not pile in a load of coal, and then
climb up into the cab, to wait for it to burn, as is the practice
of the poor fireman. After he began to fire, he kept at it, About
every two minutes he got, in a shovelful of coal. When the engine
was working hard getting into speed, he varied his intervals of
firing; but he worked on a system, which was to keep up the body
of fire, and maintain the temperature as nearly even as possible.
He followed scientific methods, whether he understood any thing
about science or not. He never hesitated about the spot where
the coal was going, but pitched it in, and closed the door quickly,
waiting till the turn for the next installment came round. By
this means the steam never felt the chilling effect that results
from heavy-charge firing. The steam-gauge index kept pointing
at 135 as steadily as if it had been fastened there. About eight
miles from Philadelphia the fireman stopped putting in coal, and
in the remainder of the run he several times used the hoe to level
When we stopped at the station, about four inches of glowing
cinders covered the grates.
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