A Locomotive Taking on Water
Like a human being, the big steam locomotive must "eat"
and "drink" to be strong and capable of performing its
work. It has an unquenchable thirst and a ravenous appetite when
it is busy. It consumes large quantities of coal or fuel oil and
water. The heat generated by the fuel turns the water into steam,
and the steam enables the engine to pull great loads at high speeds.
Freight locomotives pulling heavy loads, usually consume more
fuel and water for each mile of travel than are consumed by passenger
locomotives. Of course, the quantities consumed depend upon the
size of the locomotive, the train load, the speed, and other factors.
The railroads use from one-fifth to one-fourth of all the coal
mined in the United States, and most of this is consumed in locomotives.
Loaded 55 tons to a car, the coal required to run the railroads
in a single year would form three solid trainloads each reaching
from New York to San Francisco, and a fourth train reaching from
New York to Salt Lake city.
It is estimated that around 100,000 mine workers are employed
throughout the year to keep the locomotives of this country supplied
with coal. Other thousands of workers are kept busy producing
fuel oils, and many more are employed to quench the thirst of
the powerful engines.
The railroads of the United States use enormous quantities
of water for locomotives and other purposes. It is estimated that
the railroads consume around 80 billion cubic feet of water each
year. This is enough to fill a reservoir 1,000 feet wide, 10 feet
deep and 1,515 miles long.
Attached to the rear of every steam locomotive is a "tender."
The tender is the locomotive's "dinner pail and thermos bottle"
combined. Without the tender the locomotive would be of little
use. The tender has a compartment for coal or oil and a compartment
The great majority of steam locomotives burn coal for fuel,
but in some parts of the country where oil is plentiful and coal
is scarce, the railroads operate many oil-burning locomotives.
Oil is also used for fuel in Diesel-electric locomotives employed
in passenger and freight service.
Before a steam locomotive starts on its run its tender is filled
with fuel and water. At certain points along the railroads fresh
supplies of fuel and water may be taken on.
In this picture the locomotive fireman is seen filling the
tender tank with water. The water comes through an underground
pipe from a big water tank located somewhere in the terminal.
The vertical pipe which carries the water to the side of the locomotive
is called a water column or standpipe, and the water is conveyed
into the tender by means of a spout.
When the locomotive stops for water, the fireman moves the
spout into position over the tender and opens the valve which
releases the water into the tank of the tender. At many points
on the railroad a water tank or a water column and the coaling
station are located side by side so that coal and water can be
taken on at the same time. A modern coal-and-water station can
load a tender with 24 tons of coal and 15,000 gallons of water
in as little as four minutes. Many tenders are large enough to
carry sufficient coal (or oil) and water to enable the engine
to run for hundreds of miles without replenishing the supply.
When a locomotive stops for fuel and water, while out on the
road, it is the locomotive fireman's job to see that the tender
is filled. The fireman also "feeds" the engine with
fuel and water from the tender.
Some locomotives are equipped with mechanical stokers, which
convey coal from the tender into the firebox of the locomotive.
On locomotives which are not equipped with mechanical stokers
the fireman shovels the coal from the tender into the firebox.
He also watches the water gauge. If it indicates that the engine
needs more water, he turns the valve that transfers water from
the tender tank into the engine's boiler.
The fireman has many other duties, such as checking the signals
with the engineer, reading train orders, oiling and otherwise
attending to the locomotive and helping to keep it in good condition
while it is out on its run. The locomotive fireman's job is a
training ground for that of locomotive engineer.
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