Some of our most successful engineers, the men who pull our most important trains daily on time, attribute their good fortune in avoiding delays, to training they received in youth, while running or firing worn-out engines that could only be kept going by constant attention and labor. In such cases men must resort to innumerable makeshifts to get over the road; they have frequently to dissect the machinery to remedy defects; they learn in the impressive school of experience how a broken-down engine can best be taken home, and how breaking down can best be prevented. Firemen and young engineers, generally feel aggrieved at being assigned to run on worn-out engines, — the scrap heaps as they are called: but the man who has not passed through this ordeal has missed a Golconda of experience; his potentialities are petrified without reaching action.

Among a certain class of seafaring men, the captain of a ship who fails from any cause to bring his vessel safely into port, is regarded as disgraced; and, therefore, a true sailor will use superhuman efforts to prevent his ship from becoming derelict, often preferring to follow it to the bottom rather than abandon his trust. In many instances the sentiments and traditions of seamen teach railroad men valuable lessons. The sacrifice of life is not desired or expected of engineers in their care of the vessel they command; but every engineer worthy of the name will spare no personal exertion, will shrink from no hardship, that will be necessary to prevent his charge from becoming derelict. Once I heard a hoary engineer, who had become gray on the footboard, make the proud boast, "My engine never was towed in." His calm words conveyed an eloquent sermon on care and perseverance. He had been in many hard straits, he had been in collisions, he had been ditched with engines, but had always managed to get them home without assistance.

What the beating pulse is as an aid to the physician in diagnosing diseases, the sound of the exhaust is to the engineer as a means of enabling him to distinguish between perfective and defective working of the locomotive The ability to detect a slight derangement by the sound of the exhaust, can only be acquired by practice in watching those steam-notes day after day, as they play their tune of labor through the smokestack. When the steam-ports are even, and the valves correctly set, with tight piston-packing, and valves free from leaks, the notes of the exhaust will sound forth in regular succession in sharp, ringing, clear tones, every puff seeming to cut the steam clean off at the top of the stack. There is a long array of defects represented in the journey from this case of apparently perfect steam performance, to that where the exhaust steam escapes as an unbroken roar mixed with uncertain, wheezy coughs.

The deterioration of piston-packing, and the rounding of valve-seats, which produce an asthmatic exhaust, may be followed in their downward course if the engineer gets into the habit of listening to the exhaust, and marking its changes. It is very important that he should do so. The man whose ear from long practice has become sensitive to a false tone of the exhaust, needs not to make experiments, by applying steam to the engine while it stands in various positions, in order to find out where a blow comes from, — whether it is in the pistons or in the valves.

Leaning out of the cab-window, he watches the crank as it revolves, and compares the noise made by the blowing steam with the crank position. When pulling on a heavy grade is an excellent time for noting imperfections in the working of valves and pistons; for the movements are comparatively slow, while the pressure of steam on the working-parts is so heavy that any leak sounds prominently forth. The observing engineer perceives that the four sounds of the exhaust, due to each revolution of the drivers, occur a few inches before the crank reaches, first, the forward center, second, the bottom quarter, third, the back center, fourth, the top quarter. The first and third position exhausts emit the steam from the forward and back strokes of the right-hand piston: the second and fourth exhausts are due to discharges of the steam that has been propelling the left-hand piston. With these facts impressed upon his mind, he will understand, that if an intermittent blow, occurs during the periods when the crank is traveling from the forward center to the bottom quarter, or from the back center to the top quarter, the chances will be that the right-hand piston needs to be examined. For the greatest pressure of steam follows the piston just after the beginning of each stroke, and that is the time a blow will assert itself. Should the blow occur while the right-hand crank is moving from the bottom quarter to the back center, or from the top quarter to the forward center, it will indicate that the left-hand piston is at fault. For at these periods the left-hand cylinder is receiving its greatest pressure of steam.

It is generally understood that an intermittent or recurring blow belongs to the pistons, and that a constant blow comes from the valves. But sometimes the valves blow intermittently, being tight at certain points of the travel, and leaky at other points. To distinguish between the character of these blows is sometimes a little difficult except to the thoroughly practiced ear. The sound of the blow can be heard best when the door is open, and the novice should not fail to listen for it under that condition. The valve blow is a sort of wheeze, with the suggestion of a whistle in it: the piston makes a clean, honest blow, which would break into a distinct roar if enough steam could get through. But a whistling sound in the exhaust is, by no means, a certain indication of the valves blowing through; for sometimes the nozzles get clogged up with a gummy substance from the lubricating oils, and a distinct whistling exhaust results therefrom. With a watchful ear, the progress of degeneration in the valves can be noted day, after day; for it is a decay which goes on by degrees, the inevitable slow destruction that friction inflicts upon rubbing surfaces. Pistons are more erratic in their calls for attention. With them it is quite common for a stalwart blow to start out without any warning, the cause generally being broken packing rings. The various kinds of steam packing seem more liable to have broken rings than the old-fashioned spring packing, but they generally run longer with less attention.

The habit of closely watching the exhaust is likely to prove serviceable in more ways than in keeping the engineer posted on the condition of the steam-distribution gear. Its sound often acts as a danger alarm, which should never go unheeded. Many an engine has gone home on one side, and not a few have been towed in cold, through accidents to the valve-gear, which could have been prevented had the engineer attended to the warning voice of a false exhaust. The nuts work off an eccentric-strap bolt; and it drops out, letting the strap open far enough to cause an uneven valve-travel. If the engineer hears this, and stops immediately to examine the machinery, he is likely to detect the defect before the strap breaks. Again, one side of a valve yoke may have snapped, leaving the other side to bear the load; or bolts belonging to different parts of the links or eccentric-straps may be working out, — so that the uniformity of the valve-travel is affected; and the same result may be produced by the eccentrics getting loose. Young engineers, to whom these pages are addressed, should make up their minds that an engine never exhausts an irregular note without something being the matter which does not admit of running to a station before being examined. It may only be an eccentric slipped a little way, a mishap that is not calculated to result disastrously; but, on the other hand, it is probably something of a more dangerous character.

Engineer Joy of the D. & E. road went in with a broken eccentric-strap. Questioning him about the accident brought out the fact, that, in starting from a station, he heard the engine make two or three curious exhausts; but he was running on a time-order, and did not wish to cause delay by stopping to examine the engine. But he had not gone half a mile when he found it necessary to stop and disconnect the engine, and by doing so held an express train forty minutes.

A representative case of neglecting a plain warning happened on an Illinois road some time ago. John Thomas was pulling a freight train up a grade, when, to use his own words, "The engine began to exhaust in the funniest way you ever heard. She would get on to three legs for an engine length or so, then she would work as square and true as she ever did, but only for a few turns, when she got to limping again." This runner knew that something was wrong, and he determined to examine the engine at the next stopping point. But delays in such a case are full of peril. When he got over the grade, and shut off steam, there was a tumultuous rattling of the reverse-lever, succeeded by a fearful pounding about the machinery; a tearing up of road-bed sent a shower of sand and gravel over the train; then a scream from escaping steam and water drowned all other noises, and the engine was enveloped in a cloud of blinding vapor. The forward bolt of one of the eccentric-strap rods had worked out, and allowed the end of the rod to drop on the track. Then it doubled up, and tore away the whole side of the motion; and part of a broken eccentric-strap knocked a hole in the fire-box. Here was the progress towards destruction. A small pin got lost, which permitted the nut of an important bolt to unscrew itself; then this bolt, with many a warning jar and jerk, escaped from its place in the link; and the conditions for a first-class break-down had come round.

Whenever locomotive engineers congregate in the round-house, in the lodge or division room, a fruitful theme of conversation and discussion is the valve-motion, Curious opinions are often heard expressed upon this complex subject. There are comparatively few men who understand it properly: but it has a fascination which attracts all alike, the wise and the ignorant; and the man who is altogether uncertain about the true meaning of lap and lead, expansion and compression, is generally more loquacious on valve-motion than the engineer who has made the subject an industrious study.

However well each may understand his business, in one respect all engineers are in perfect harmony; that is, in hating to encounter trouble with the valve-gear on the road. The valves being the lungs of the machine, any injury. or defect to their connections strikes at a vital organ. With a good valve-motion, and valves properly set, the steam is distributed so that nearly an equal amount is admitted through each part in regular rotation; the release taking place in even succession. This makes the exhaust notes uniform in pitch and period. A sudden departure from this uniformity indicates that something is wrong with the valve-motion. It should be the signal to stop, and institute a searching examination. In doing so, avoid jumping at conclusions regarding the cause of the irregularity, and coolly examine, separately, each part whose motion influences the valve-travel.

Fred Bemis missed his luck by jumping too readily at conclusions. Something happened to his engine; and he stopped by compulsion, and found it would not move either way. He felt certain that both eccentrics on one side had slipped; and, considering himself equal to setting any number of eccentrics, he got down, and fixed them in what he supposed was the proper position. But, on trying to move the engine, he found it still refused to go. He kept working at those eccentrics without result till his water got low, and he was compelled to dump the fire; the consequence being, that the engine went cold, and was towed home. When an examination was made, it was found that a broken valve-yoke was the cause of trouble.

When any thing goes wrong with the valve-motion, the first point of investigation is, to find out which side is at fault. This can be ascertained by opening the cylinder-cocks, and giving the engine steam. With the reverse-lever in forward motion, the forward cylinder-cocks should show steam when the crank-pins are traveling below the axle, and the back cocks should blow when the pins make their similar revolution above the axle. Any departure from this method of steam distribution will make one side work against the other. When the engineer has satisfied himself on which side the defect lies, he will do well to thoroughly examine the eccentrics with their straps and rods, the links with their hangers and saddles, the rocker box and arms with all the bolts and pins connecting these articles. What might be regarded as a trifling defect, sometimes makes an engine lame. I have known a loose valve-stem key put an engine badly out of square. Eccentric-rods, slipping, often produce this effect. When the eccentrics are found in the proper position, the rocker-box secure in the shaft, and all the bolts, pins, and keys in good order, and in their proper positions, the fault may be looked for in the steam-chest.

With engines where keys are not used to secure the eccentrics to the shaft, their slipping on the road is a common occurrence. Eccentric-strap oil-passages getting stopped up, or neglect in not oiling these straps or the valves, puts an unnecessary tension on the eccentrics, which often results in their slipping on the shaft. Engineers ought to mark the proper position for eccentrics on the shaft; so that, when slipping happens, it can be adjusted without the delay that often occurs in calculating the right position. When the crank-pin is on the forward center, the body of the go-ahead eccentric is above the axle, and the body of the back-up eccentric is below the axle, each of the eccentrics being advanced about z of the revolution from the right angle position towards the crank-pin; or, to state it more accurately, the center of the eccentric is advanced a horizontal distance to equal the lap and lead of the valve. If the valve had neither lap nor lead, the eccentrics would stand exactly at right angles to the crank. As it is, both of them have a tendency to hug the crank; the eccentric which regulates the distribution of steam following the crank. Every engineer should familiarize himself with the correct position of eccentrics, so that, when trouble happens with the valve-gear on the road, he will experience no difficulty in grappling with the mishap.

The slipping of one eccentric is a trifling matter, which can be quickly remedied if the set screws are in a position where they can be reached conveniently. If it is a go-ahead eccentric, set the engine on the center of the disabled side,— no matter which center—put the reverse-lever in the back notch of the quadrant, and scratch a line with a knife on the valve-stem close to the gland. Then put the lever in the forward notch, and move the slipped eccentric till the line appears in the point where it was made. Fasten the set screws, and the engine will be found true enough to proceed with the train. Care must be taken in moving the eccentric to see that the full part is not placed in the same position as the other one, or they will both be set for back motion. A back-up eccentric slipped, while the go-ahead one remains intact, can be adjusted in a similar way; the scratch on the valve-stem being made with the engine in full forward motion, and the adjustment of the eccentric done in full back motion. The philosophy of this method is, that the valve is in nearly the same position at the beginning of the stroke for the forward or back motion; and the position of the eccentric, which has not moved, is used to find the proper place for the one which slipped. Should the unusual circumstance of both eccentrics on one side slipping overtake an engineer, he will have to pursue a different method of adjustment. The most systematic plan is to place the engine on the forward center, and set the go-ahead eccentric above the axle, and the back-up eccentric below the axle. With the reverse-lever in the forward notch, advance the top eccentric till the front cylinder-cock shows steam, which can be ascertained by blocking the wheels, and slightly opening the throttle. That will put the go-ahead eccentric near enough to the proper position for running. For the back-up eccentric, pull the reverse-lever into back motion, and turn the eccentric towards the crank-pin till steam appears at the front cylinder-cock; and that part of the motion will be right. Or the back-up eccentric can be set by the forward eccentric in the manner described where one eccentric has slipped.

Where slotted rods are used, they frequently slip, making the engine lame. The cause of trouble in such a case can be identified by moving the engine slowly, with the cylinder-cocks open. The disturbance to the regularity of the valve's motion, caused by a slipped rod, will admit steam prematurely on one end of the cylinder, while it delays the admission on the other end. The valve is made to travel more on one side of the exhaust center than on the other. Lengthening or shortening the valve-stem has a similar effect, but this makes the engine lame in both gears; while the slipping of an eccentric-rod only makes the engine lame in the motion that the rod belongs to. This is subject to a slight modification, however; for the back-motion eccentric being badly out of square, will affect the correctness of the forward motion, when the engine is working close hooked up. But in full motion it will not be perceptible.

If in moving the engine ahead slowly, with the cylinder-cocks open, it is found that steam is admitted to the cylinder before the piston has nearly reached the center or dead point, or that the back cylinder-cock does not show steam till after the piston has passed the back center, the eccentric-rod is too long. The rod being too short produces precisely an opposite effect. The steam arrives late on the back stroke, and ahead of time on the forward stroke. This is different from the action of the steam where an eccentric has slipped. In that case, there will be pre-admission of steam before the beginning of both strokes, or post-admission, that is, late arrival of steam, for both strokes. Take a go-ahead eccentric for example. If it slips backward on the shaft, its effect will be to delay the admission of steam till after the beginning of each stroke; and, if it slips forward, the result will be to accelerate the lead of the valve opening the steam-port before the piston has reached the commencement of each stroke.

When either of these accidents happens, the safest plan is to take down both straps and rods on the defective side. Some engineers leave the back-up eccentric Strap and rod on, when the forward strap or rod has broken; but it is a little risky under certain conditions. After getting the eccentric straps and rods down, drop the link-hanger away from the tumbling-shaft, disconnect the valve-stem, and tie the valve-rod to the hand-rail. Then set the valve in the middle of the, seat, so that it will cover both the steam-ports, and hold it in that position by pinching the stem with the gland, which is done by screwing up the gland obliquely. Take down the main rod, and block the cross-head securely at the back end of the guides. Good hardwood blocking prepared beforehand should be used for this purpose, and it ought to be fastened with a rope or marline. A neater plan for holding the cross-head in place is described by Frank C. Smith, in the Torch. He says; " Have the blacksmith make a hook out of a piece of inch and a half round iron; also a piece about fifteen inches long by one and a half thick, and four inches wide, with a hole through the center for the shank of the hook to pass through. This shank is threaded for a nut. Now, when it is necessary to block a piston, get it to the back end, pass the hook around the wrist of the cross-head, and the other end through the straight piece which bears against the yoke supporting the back end of the guides; run up a nut on the shank of the hook, hard against the crosspiece, and the piston is secured." The piston being properly fastened, it is a wise supplement to the work to tie the cylinder-cocks open, or to take them out altogether. The engine is now ready to proceed on one side.

Young engineers can not be too strongly impressed with the necessity for having the cross-head properly secured before trying to move the engine. I have repeatedly known of serious damage being caused by placing too much confidence in weak blocking. Taking out the cylinder-cocks is a wise security against accidents of this kind; for, should a little steam be passing through the valve, it has a port of escape without putting heavy pressure on the piston.

In regard to the method of securing the piston when one side of an engine is taken down, there is considerable diversity of opinion among engineers. Some men maintain that the proper and quick plan is, merely to move the piston to one end of the cylinder, pushing the valve in the same direction, so that the steam-port will be open at the end away from the piston. This will keep the cylinder full of steam, and hold the piston from moving. But, if by any accident the valve should be moved to the opposite end of the seat, steam would get to the wrong end of the cylinder, and the piston would certainly smash out the head. Another risky plan, practiced by men economical of work, is to place the valve on the center of the seat, and let the piston go without fastening. These slipshod methods do not pay.

This accident is very serious; but it need not disable the engine, although it will lessen the engineer's power to manage it freely. To get the engine going; calculate the position the links must stand in to pull the train, and cut pieces of wood to fit between the block and the top and bottom of the links, so that the latter may be kept in the required position. For forward motion, there will be short pieces in the top, and long pieces in the bottom. When back motion is needed, reverse the pieces of wood. A common plan is to use one piece of wood, working the engine in full gear.

The same treatment will keep an engine going when the tumbling-shaft arms, the reach-rod, the link-hanger, or the saddle-pin breaks. The failure of a link-hanger or saddle-pin will only necessitate the blocking of one side.

For a valve-stem broken, the eccentric-strap or link need not be interfered with. If the break is outside the steam-chest, take down the valve-stem rod, and set the valve on the middle of the seat; take down the main rod, and secure the piston as previously directed, With a valve-stem broken inside the chest, or a valve-yoke broken, a little additional work is necessary. The steam-chest cover must now come up, and the valve be secured in its proper place by pieces of wood, or any other material that will keep it from moving; and the stuffing-box must be closed, to prevent escape of steam through the space vacated by the valve-stem.

A broken rocker-shaft, or the fracture of the lower arm, entails the taking down of both eccentrics and the link, besides the main rod, and the securing of the valves and piston. The breaking of an upper rocker-arm is equivalent to a broken valve-stem, and requires the same treatment.

Accidents to the valve-seat, such as the breaking of a bridge, can be fixed for running the engine home on one side, by covering the ports, and stripping that side of the engine, just as had to be done for a broken valve-yoke. If a serious break in a bridge occurs, it is indicated by a tremendous blow through the exhaust port, out by the stack. A mishap of much less consequence than a broken bridge is a "cocked" valve, and the small mishap is very liable to be mistaken for the greater one. Where the yoke is tight fitted, or out of true with the line of the stem, some engines have a trick of raising the valve away from the seat, and holding it there. This generally happens going into a station; and, when steam is applied in starting out, an empty roar sounds through the stack. Moving the valve with the reverse-lever by quick jerks will generally reseat a cocked valve, but sometimes it gets stuck so fast that it has to be hammered out of the yoke.

When a locomotive shows the symptoms which indicate a broken valve, a broken bridge, or a cocked valve, the engineer should exhaust every means of testing the matter from the outside before he begins an interior inspection by raising the steam-chest cover. If jerking the valve with the reverse-lever, or moving the engine a little, will not stop the blow, he should disconnect the valve-stem, and shake the valve by that means.

When a valve breaks, disabling its side of the engine so badly that it can not be used, the valve should be taken out, and a piece of strong pine-plank secured over the ports.

A very serious and troublesome accident, which may come under the head of steam-distribution gear, is the breaking of a steam-chest, or of a steam-chest cover. It takes skillful management to get an engine along when this has happened. The most effectual way to restrain loss of steam when a chest or cover has broken, is to slack up the steam-pipe, and slip a piece of iron plate, lined with sheet-rubber, leather, canvas, or any other substance that will help to make a steam-tight joint, into the lower joint of the steam-pipe. If this is properly done, it ends the trouble, when the joints are tightened up. But the difficulties in the way of loosening steam-pipe joints in a hot smoke-box are often insurmountable, especially when the nuts and bolts are solid from corrosion, which is generally the case where they have not been touched for months. In such a case it is better to resort to the more clumsy contrivance of fitting pieces of wood into the openings to the steam-passage, and bracing them in place by means of the steam-chest bolts. A man of any ingenuity can generally, by this means, save himself the humiliation of being towed home, and yet avoid spending much time over the operation. When the engineer has succeeded in securing means for preventing the escape of steam, the main rod must be taken down, and the valve-stem rod disconnected from the rocker-arm. In this instance the piston needs no further attention, after the main rod has been disconnected; or there will be no ingress of steam to the cylinder to endanger its safety.

The breaking of a steam-pipe in the smoke-box is even a more harassing mishap than a bursted steam-chest or cover. The only remedy for this is the fastening of an iron plate to the top joint of the steam-pipe, thereby closing up the opening. A heavy plug of hard wood may be driven into the opening, and braced there for a short run; but such a stopper is hard to keep in place, owing to the shrinkage caused by the intense heat of the smoke-box.

An experienced engineer will most easily determine the existence of leaks between the valves and their seats when the engine is working, and the indications of that weakness have already been noticed. But it sometimes happens that a man wishes to test the condition of the valves when the engine is at rest. This can be most readily accomplished by placing the engine so that the rocker-arm stands in the vertical position. Open the smoke-box door so that the exhaust nozzles can be seen. Now block the wheels, and give the engine steam. If the valve blows, the steam will be seen issuing from the nozzle on the side under examination. As the tendency of a slide-valve is to wear the seat concave, it sometimes happens that a valve is tight on the center, yet leaky in other positions. Moving the valve with the reverse-lever as far as can be done without opening the steam-port, will sometimes demonstrate this. The cranks should be placed on the eighths positions when the valves are being tested.

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