Filling a cold empty boiler

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Filling a cold empty boiler
Posted by Anonymous on Monday, September 22, 2003 5:39 PM
Something I've tried to find out for ages. When a steam loco had a cold and empty boiler, how was it filled with water before firing?
This has been bugging me for a long time.
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Filling a cold empty boiler
Posted by Anonymous on Monday, September 22, 2003 5:39 PM
Something I've tried to find out for ages. When a steam loco had a cold and empty boiler, how was it filled with water before firing?
This has been bugging me for a long time.
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 12:11 AM
http://www.sdrm.org/faqs/hostling.html
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 12:11 AM
http://www.sdrm.org/faqs/hostling.html
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 1:26 AM
I started reading the article but found it kinda long. I will have to finish it another day.

The museum at Pine Bluff, AR., heats the boiler up slowly over a day or two. I saw this happen one time when one of our museum workers/train crew hooked up the gas hose to the engine, turned it on, and lit it. The 819 uses fuel oil but at the museum they use the city gas to fire it and bring the temp up.
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 1:26 AM
I started reading the article but found it kinda long. I will have to finish it another day.

The museum at Pine Bluff, AR., heats the boiler up slowly over a day or two. I saw this happen one time when one of our museum workers/train crew hooked up the gas hose to the engine, turned it on, and lit it. The 819 uses fuel oil but at the museum they use the city gas to fire it and bring the temp up.
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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, September 27, 2003 11:00 PM
Phil's article is famous, and wonderfully correct -- but it isn't the way that good railroads did it in the glory years of steam...

You maintain an external boiler or water heater that uses 'house steam', with adequate *hot water* capacity to fill one or more locomotive boilers. When a locomotive comes in for service, you can drain its boiler water (after blowdown) into a tank, and afterward promptly open up for tube or other maintenance. Then refill the boiler from the high-temperature source. You can use any temperature of water in the initial part of the fill, to bring the boiler up to a warmer temperature, then fini***he fill with hot water or start bubbling house steam in.

After the advent of all-welded boilers (the first one IIRC was in 1937) it became possible to do this with supercritical water (above boiling temperature, and hence possessing immediate 'steam pressure') using locking connections in the piping. Of course, a boiler filled this way becomes the equivalent of a 'fireless cooker' of considerable size. The engine auxiliaries (such as stoker motor, steam jets, feedwater pump, generator, etc.) can be operated almost immediately after the flow of water into the boiler has started, and more to the point, the locomotive can be hostled under its own power as soon as the boiler has been filled to the glass. This makes more sense than just connecting the boiler to house steam through a low-mounted valve and allowing the steam to percolate through colder water, although that method would certainly work.

I believe that both NYC and N&W used this technique to advantage in fast turnaround and servicing. Experts, let's hear from you...

RME
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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, September 27, 2003 11:00 PM
Phil's article is famous, and wonderfully correct -- but it isn't the way that good railroads did it in the glory years of steam...

You maintain an external boiler or water heater that uses 'house steam', with adequate *hot water* capacity to fill one or more locomotive boilers. When a locomotive comes in for service, you can drain its boiler water (after blowdown) into a tank, and afterward promptly open up for tube or other maintenance. Then refill the boiler from the high-temperature source. You can use any temperature of water in the initial part of the fill, to bring the boiler up to a warmer temperature, then fini***he fill with hot water or start bubbling house steam in.

After the advent of all-welded boilers (the first one IIRC was in 1937) it became possible to do this with supercritical water (above boiling temperature, and hence possessing immediate 'steam pressure') using locking connections in the piping. Of course, a boiler filled this way becomes the equivalent of a 'fireless cooker' of considerable size. The engine auxiliaries (such as stoker motor, steam jets, feedwater pump, generator, etc.) can be operated almost immediately after the flow of water into the boiler has started, and more to the point, the locomotive can be hostled under its own power as soon as the boiler has been filled to the glass. This makes more sense than just connecting the boiler to house steam through a low-mounted valve and allowing the steam to percolate through colder water, although that method would certainly work.

I believe that both NYC and N&W used this technique to advantage in fast turnaround and servicing. Experts, let's hear from you...

RME
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, October 29, 2003 4:20 PM
Thanks guys. Sorry I'm a bit late with my thanks, but have not been on site for a while.
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, October 29, 2003 4:20 PM
Thanks guys. Sorry I'm a bit late with my thanks, but have not been on site for a while.
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Posted by DevinCamary on Wednesday, June 3, 2020 12:47 AM

Errrr sadly the link isn't working for me...

 

I've been wondering this too. I know there is a good reply, but where on the engine do the hoses attach to? That's the main thing I'm wondering. 

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Posted by Fr.Al on Wednesday, June 3, 2020 9:31 AM

See, I'm not the only one to respond to a 17 year old post. If I have to wait until 2037 for a response, do be it. I estimate I'm going to live until 2039. Why 2039? Because I figure inasmuch as my late wife had to put up with me for 33 years, I'll have to put up without her for 33 years. 14 down, 19 more to go.

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Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, June 3, 2020 10:26 PM

DevinCamary
Errrr sadly the link isn't working for me...

Try here, for example:

 

https://web.archive.org/web/20020606040936/Http://www.sdrm.org/faqs/hostling.html

This is a fairly famous article and was supposed to be translated over to the new PSRM Web site by May 2020, according to the Internet Archive.

I know there is a good reply, but where on the engine do the hoses attach to? That's the main thing I'm wondering.


There are fittings for washout and blowdown that can be used.  One of our Canadians will know where to find the diagrams for a Direct Steam System that shows the attach locations fairly well.

 

[/quote]

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Posted by SD70Dude on Thursday, June 4, 2020 6:22 PM

Overmod
DevinCamary
Errrr sadly the link isn't working for me...

Try here, for example:

https://web.archive.org/web/20020606040936/Http://www.sdrm.org/faqs/hostling.html

This is a fairly famous article and was supposed to be translated over to the new PSRM Web site by May 2020, according to the Internet Archive.

DevinCamary
I know there is a good reply, but where on the engine do the hoses attach to? That's the main thing I'm wondering.

There are fittings for washout and blowdown that can be used.  One of our Canadians will know where to find the diagrams for a Direct Steam System that shows the attach locations fairly well.

I'm too lazy to go looking for those instructions right now, but I can think of a few ways it could be done. 

There are washout plugs all over the boiler.  The blowdown valve is usually located in front of the firebox and underneath the boiler.  The engine he described has front and rear blowdowns (was this a SP thing?), I suspect the front one would be immediately behind the smokebox and also underneath the boiler.  Attach a suitable pipe fitting and valve, and presto, you are ready to fill the boiler. 

If the boiler is empty and you wish to fill it with liquid water no extra fittings or valves are needed.  Just take out one of the upper washout plugs and stick a hose in.  The plugs are several inches in diameter and can easily accomodate a fire hose.

If one was out in the field without extra pipe fittings or hoses and wished to 'boost' one locomotive from another, the train heating line would probably be the only option, if the locomotives involved were so equipped.

That truly is an excellent article, and their kerosene burner sounds like a great help when lighting up a cold engine, as he noted cold Bunker C will barely flow and would be very difficult to light.  My only limited experience on steam is with used motor oil, which is much thinner and can be started with a flaming rag as he described (used locomotive crankcase oil makes decent fuel, as it usually has a bit of diesel in it, which makes it light more easily, and contains no antifreeze or transmission oils). 

We run both the smokebox blower and atomizer (burner) on compressed air when lighting up, though a powerful fan atop the stack would also work, as he described. 

This is the engine I am referring to:

https://www.railpictures.net/photo/582887/

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

NDG
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Posted by NDG on Thursday, June 4, 2020 7:44 PM

Great Stuff.

Thank You.

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Posted by gmpullman on Friday, June 5, 2020 3:40 AM

Lots of "theories" here but from some of the "firing-up" days I'm familiar with none seem to make much sense to me.

Blowdown valve? Why try to back-fill there? Lots of the mud and scale collect there and if you try to close the valve, which most are a "swing-gate" valve it will not seat properly and you;ll have all your water back on the ground. Some of the blowdowns were piped to exhaust lines which would make it a pain to disconnect to feed water there.

Why remove a washout plug on a buttoned-up, ready-to-fire boiler and also risk not getting it reseated properly? (copper gasket) Again, no need. Once those washout plugs are snug, leave 'em alone until the next cleanout!

Fire hose?    With a dry boiler we would connect a garden hose (more like a 1" shop water hose) to the nipple at the top of the boiler right where the safety valves are. We put a Chicago fitting there for convenience.

 

There's a 3/4" nipple and globe valve there. You would use this nipple to install a test gauge when setting the safety valves or you make the connection here for the hydrostatic test pump.

Three of the engines I'm familiar with all had this nipple. 759, 2102 and 4070.

Turn on the water and go to lunch. About 45 minutes later the water was showing in the bottom of the glass. That's enough. Once everything gets hot that water level will reach about 5/8 of a glass. Crack a try-cock open to vent the air. The water volume of the boiler isn't really all that great. Firebox, flues, superheater tubes, combustion chamber all take up space. A fire hose certainly would be overkill, unless, perhaps on a Big Boy. 

 

 Boiler_Kessel by Edmund, on Flickr

 

There is an air connection at the inlet to the blower ring at the smokebox. You would tie an air line there to induce a draft. Sometimes we would use a big exhaust blower and rest it on top of the stack for draft. Then light oily rags and a few blocks of wood to burn until the coal began to ignite.

Only on a few occasions was there house steam available. Nice if you can get it.

Until the boiler heats up there are leaks seemingly everywhere. Once the needle is off the peg (of the steam gauge) things start to swell up and everything gets nice and tight.

The monthly inspection and repair report had to be "signed off" and displayed in the cab. The washout plugs had to be certified that they were replaced, tightened and not leaking. This form was notorized and countersigned. I can't imagine a boilermaker allowing any washout plugs to be removed in the field unless absolutely necessary.

Regards, Ed

 

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Posted by SD70Dude on Friday, June 5, 2020 11:23 AM

The engine I was referring to has Huron washout plugs, which do not have gaskets.  Our procedure is to get them arm tight (with about an 18'' long wrench) and then give a few taps on the end of the wrench with a 3 lb hammer.  I don't recall ever seeing a leaky plug over the last 8 years. 

We use a portable Honda pump with about a 2'' diameter hose (can't remember exactly, it might be 3'') to fill the boiler from our water storage cars, which are filled either with rainwater collected off the shop roof or municipal potable water that is trucked in (we are in a rural area, and the local well water is terrible).  This setup does not take long to fill the boiler.  I used the term "fire hose" because that is the approximate diameter of the hose we use, and most people are familiar with them. 

I should also note here that we sometimes fill the boiler directly from the water truck, which requires the use of even larger hoses in order to connect to the truck and keep up with its much larger pump, and minimize delay for the driver. 

Using the same hose, we will usually fill the tender as well.  Our tender holds 5000 gallons of water, which would take all day to fill using a smaller 1'' or garden hose. 

1392 has a small pipe with a Chicago fitting on the front of her steam dome, this is where we will connect the pressurizing pump when doing a hydro, as you described.

During my volunteering time we have never had access to an external source of hot water or steam. 

Greetings from Alberta

-an Articulate Malcontent

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Posted by Overmod on Friday, June 5, 2020 2:52 PM

Ed: surely you have material somewhere on the Direct Steam systems, or can find it.  These would obviously have reliably made and broken connections for highly supercritical water, including the necessary relief, drain, and purge valves to make the system properly safe.  The systems for T1 5550, while of course not 'historically accurate', allow both controlled preheat of boiler water and transfer of nominally 'high-pressure' overcritical water between both heated and passive storage.  These operations are greatly simplified on engines equipped with Cunningham circulation, where the jet pump can be worked on shop steam either to drain or refill.

Remember that 4014 is built so that natural draft alone allows sufficient firing to make up the drop in psi caused by 'keeping the locomotive hot' and the heat loss involved in mass flow and makeup from Ed blowing the whistle.  While there is comparatively little difficulty in rigging draft arrangements to pull flame or hot air through the combustion spaces in 'booting from cold' there is little engineering doubt that raising temperature in the water well outside the boiler volume is a far better way to bring the boiler up to operating temperature, let alone pressure, than heating the water across soot, a pipe, and scale while hot spots and differential expansion proceed largely if not wholly unobserved...

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Posted by selector on Saturday, June 6, 2020 3:09 PM

If one were to fill a boiler with a ready supply of heated water, say at 55 C, would that not be safer than using near-boiling (or hotter) water on an earlier boiler, say one manufactured pre-1910?  Could a pre-WW I boiler take water in large volumes placed into it over, say, 30 minutes if it had been heated to as much as 55-60 deg C?  I understand from the previous discussion that modern boilers would be able to withstand the 'shock' of having critical water temps imparted to all of the pressure and exchange surfaces and their fixings.

Secondly, if this could be done safely, and as the water level in the boiler rises, it will compress air already in the boiler.  I can appreciate from recent posts that one would not want air inside the boiler, not oxygenated air.  But, we have air in this boiler.  If one wanted to use the blower early to get fire into the tubes, could one not use the compressing air rising above the water in the boiler?  Or is the mass too little?  Help an artsy type get a handle on this...pls.

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, June 6, 2020 4:07 PM

selector
If one were to fill a boiler with a ready supply of heated water, say at 55 C, would that not be safer than using near-boiling (or hotter) water on an earlier boiler, say one manufactured pre-1910?

Yes, it would, and to an extent a good DSS would start with not only tempered water exchange but with additional increase 'tempered' in a way that didn't differentially stress the more 'sensitive' parts, specifically including the front tubesheet and the non-flexibled parts of the firebox.  (I note in passing that this implies multiple circulation arrangements, not just 'one big  pump forcing in overcritical water' as a "DSS" minimizing absolute dwell time might try to do...)

Could a pre-WW I boiler take water in large volumes placed into it over, say, 30 minutes if it had been heated to as much as 55-60 deg C?

Yes, and probably much more readily than it could take 'sufficient radiant and convective heat' to raise cold water to an equivalent temperature more slowly 'from outside the waterspaces'.

In all probability there is little if any danger of excessive thermal shock from using even normal safe 'domestic hot water' temperature in the initial fill (which would then be raised via external heat exchange in recirculated flow, for example by modulated steam injection at comparatively low pressure as in the early stages of fireless recharge, or closed exchange against a volume of full-working-pressure treated feedwater).

I understand from the previous discussion that modern boilers would be able to withstand the 'shock' of having critical water temps imparted to all of the pressure and exchange surfaces and their fixings.
i would not go nearly that far; in any case most discussions of modern practice do not cover what a railroad wanting most cost-effective service out of its locomotives might do.  An organization like the T1 Trust can, and would, treat its boiler like a very large and precise piece of jewelry (which, in a value per pound sense, it essentially actually is) and use the same care in starting it that a museum running something like a GM 201A would exercise.

My recommendation for 'booting' would in part provide ducting between the primary-air inlets and the stack, and use progressively hotter circulated air to do much of the 'prewarming' of the structure from cold (as well as, during idle storage, precluding condensation and ensuring continued desiccation, etc, to get around the issues of having to use CO2 or nitrogen).  This would then determine the permissible temperature range of actual first filling and subsequent increases, which quite easily might be made at adequate temperature to give early operation of auxiliaries correctly on steam -- of which more, later.

Secondly, if this could be done safely, and as the water level in the boiler rises, it will compress air already in the boiler.

Of course the DSS systems provided venting for the trapped air, with the assumption that a little extra sulfite or other deoxygenator of choice would quickly 'getter' any remaining oxygen content right along with the dissolved content 'thrashed in' during transfer.  But this raises a second issue, which is how hot water is prevented from 'flashing' when closer to boiling point -- for this of course the boiler has to be pressurized, and both actively and proportionally for best safety and economy.

The two 'best' contenders for pressurization in this context are CO2 (from 'politically correct' remediation sourcing) or the 'enriched nitrogen' air from an economic number of passes through a molecular-sieve arrangement.  As the sieve runs at an 'economical' pressure well above 60psi, neither the energy to compress the air or much of the heat of compression in the gas volume are detrimental to the operation -- the air would have had to be compressed to greater than desired 'finishing pressure' anyway -- so the required sieve infrastructure and the regulation involved can be comparatively cheap, both to blanket the boiler for the corresponding part of DSS charging and to provide gas-exchange on treated feedwater to limit its oxygenation going into and then being held in storage.

I can appreciate from recent posts that one would not want air inside the boiler, not oxygenated air.  But, we have air in this boiler.

For comparison look at what the 8055 people do with their boiler, which is of dimensions comparable to much excursion-engine service.  This is lagged and banked to a sufficient degree that 300psi can be held with only about 35kW of properly-passivated electric water-heater elements (in a chamber in parallel with the boiler volume itself, although there is no real compelling technical reason they could not be provided in the shell itself somewhere).  Here the working volume is fully occupied with steam; it follows fairly quickly that storage with water heated even comparatively slightly over 212F will fairly quickly allow purge of fixed gases particularly when an oxygen scavenger is present.  Use of supplemental nitrogen at typical pressure for something like what is used for long-distance coax can be used as blanket, or fill, or purge, if oxygen in air gets to be perceived as an issue.

If one wanted to use the blower early to get fire into the tubes, could one not use the compressing air rising above the water in the boiler?

No.  If for no other reason than the arrangements to do so would be far more cumbersome and expensive, to say nothing of the confusion and delay in using them, than the benefit derived from simply venting air at the top and using good dry shop air for lighting off.  There is also the fun involved with regulating the filling-rate speed relative to desired 'air blower' pressure (which is not even remotely related to mass flow in a steam blower arrangement) so you have converted what should be comparatively simple into a complex process requiring either careful regulation or a number of sensors (needing to be removed and stored afterward with the boiler now at positive steam pressure and corresponding temperature) to do something that is better done first with air circulation and then transfer at balanced critical pressure.

Always a fun thing to see people actually interested in and thinking about this stuff.  Porta would be delightfully encouraging in ways far more eloquent than mine.

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Posted by selector on Saturday, June 6, 2020 10:58 PM

Thanks very much for all that effort, Overmod.  Stick out tongue

I was aware that the air pressure inside a boiler being filled would increase, and that if the pressurized air were used to enable the blower, it would have to be constantly monitored and adjusted.  I wondered if the density of compressed air vs even 60 psi of steam was so little in comparison that the desired effect wasn't practicable.  I think you've explained that atmospheric air would not do, but that one or two specific gasses might, and I thank you for that.

As I was reading, I pictured heating elements because you mentioned water heaters, and I thought...why not?  They'd require a catenary and panotograph, but it wouldn't be nearly as efficient as traction motors, nor as cheap.  Still...kinda neat to think about it.

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Posted by gmpullman on Sunday, June 7, 2020 2:09 AM

selector
As I was reading, I pictured heating elements because you mentioned water heaters, and I thought...why not?

Sure, why not Whistling

 AAR_atomic-train by Edmund, on Flickr

Catenary? We don't need no stinking catenary!

Cheers, Ed

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, June 7, 2020 2:55 AM

selector
As I was reading, I pictured heating elements because you mentioned water heaters, and I thought...why not?  They'd require a catenary and panotograph, but it wouldn't be nearly as efficient as traction motors, nor as cheap.  Still...kinda neat to think about it.

It was done in at least one place, in a service I'd have thought would work reasonably well, in Switzerland during WWII.  (This came up quite recently in another thread in one of the Kalmbach forums, with detail and pictures)

The installation was predicated on the existence of near-free hydropower and scarcity of various factors to build straight-electric locomotives to use it.  This was a switch engine in intermittent duty, so there was a reasonable possibility that running the elements constantly would provide effective 'enough' overall heating if the elements couldn't be made to approximate combustion gas heating; the situation is also potentially that for a fireless cooker, where the elements would only have to heat the 'renaining' water to make up for heat abstracted to do work in the cylinders rather than keep boiling fresh cold feedwater as in a conventional boiler.  In the event, I have never seen the actual experiment described as anything but a failure.

The amount of resistance heating to do the job 'promptly' is staggering, especially by comparison with modern straight electrics.  Remember that 35kW I mentioned that could hold 300psi?  That's for an isolated and thoroughly lagged vessel.  Tap off even a little mass flow for auxiliaries and the required heat rate soars.  Remember also that we'd be retaining many of the inefficiencies of combustion-fired reciprocating (or turbine or turboelectric) power, down in the dismal single-digit regions even with quick power modulation even at high heating rate... so power would have to be too cheap to meter, the price of copper or other winding metal impossibly high, or some other improbable thing would need to happen just for the thing to become possible, and then you have much of the extra maintenance, and at least some of the danger, that dieselization so effectively ridded us of.

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