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new respect for the fireman

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  • From: somerset, nj
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new respect for the fireman
Posted by gregc on Monday, November 06, 2017 6:11 PM

i'm reading Firing the Steam Locomotive by the Reading Company, 1947

i didn't realize the fireman is responsible to maintaining the "head of steam" that the engineer requires and must work with the engineer to anticipate the steam requirements.   The means building up steam when approaching a grade or when speed will increase, as well as, decreasing steam when going down a grade or coming to a stop.

This involves maintaining the fire of proper depth, dealing with different grades and sizes of coal and preventing and dealing with problems, "clinkers", that may form on the grates.

i had thought that a fireman was just a strong back, but now i realize that a fireman must be constantly busy and requires a lot of knowledge about the burning of coal efficiently and understanding the steam requirements during a run.

 

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by BMMECNYC on Monday, November 06, 2017 6:26 PM

gregc

i'm reading Firing the Steam Locomotive by the Reading Company, 1947

i didn't realize the fireman is responsible to maintaining the "head of steam" that the engineer requires and must work with the engineer to anticipate the steam requirements.   The means building up steam when approaching a grade or when speed will increase, as well as, decreasing steam when going down a grade or coming to a stop.

This involves maintaining the fire of proper depth, dealing with different grades and sizes of coal and preventing and dealing with problems, "clinkers", that may form on the grates.

i had thought that a fireman was just a strong back, but now i realize that a fireman must be constantly busy and requires a lot of knowledge about the burning of coal efficiently and understanding the steam requirements during a run.

 

 

He also has to look out for obstructions, signals, misaligned switches people or animals on the track to the left of the locomotive.  You really cant see much around left hand corners from the engineers seat.

The fireman is also the one who has to climb up on the tender (at stops usually) and shovel coal forward so that it can be reached.  Stokerless steam locomotives are quite a bit of work.

Rule 108: In case of doubt or uncertainty, the safe course must be taken.
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Posted by BRAKIE on Monday, November 06, 2017 10:09 PM

My Grandfather(Mother's side) once said any fool that like a steam engine never fired one. OTH my other Grandfather liked them..Both started has firemen and worked their way into the coveted right hand seat. Even a mechanical stroker require hand tamping as needed.

The head brakeman would also watch the left side.

Larry

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Posted by selector on Tuesday, November 07, 2017 8:25 AM

They were also required to do their share of locomotive stop maintenance, such as tapping, oiling, and wiping.  I seem to recall that the expectation, and obligation, was for up to 8 tons of coal shoveled per shift on a steamer.  That's a lot of stooping, shoving the shovel under the chunks, lifting, pivoting, and then firing the laden shovel toward and into the firebox's clamshell opening.  About 300 times an hour or more.

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Posted by BRAKIE on Tuesday, November 07, 2017 5:48 PM

selector
That's a lot of stooping, shoving the shovel under the chunks, lifting, pivoting, and then firing the laden shovel toward and into the firebox's clamshell opening. About 300 times an hour or more.

Plus the need to step on the firebox door opening device before you could  sling that shovel full of chunky coal into the firebox..And if a engineer was a jerk he could work a fireman hard..

My Grandfather(Dad's side) was not the man to trifle with as a jerk engineer found out. Grandpa laid that engineer out on the tender deck with his shovel.

Larry

SSRy

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Posted by gregc on Tuesday, November 07, 2017 6:01 PM

the book, (again from 1947) discussed using a stoker, not shoeveling coal.   And while this reduces the effort required of a fireman, maintaining a fire still seems gruling and skillful.

what got me, was the fireman's responsibility to maintain the head of steam in anticipation of that the train will need.

i can't help but compare this to automated systems we take for granted today.

today we have thermostats that turn on our furnaces to maintain a relatively constant temperature in our homes.   imagine having to constantly turn the furnace on and off, to maintain temperature, which i think is hardly a comparison to what a fireman needs to do.

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by 1019x on Tuesday, November 07, 2017 6:57 PM

Greg,

I have had a little experience both running and firing steam on excursion trains. I actually found the firing a little more rewarding than running. It does take some skill to keep the pressure up close to the max all the time without loosing steam and making a lot of noise by popping the safety valve. Also adding water at just the right amount to keep the level high but not killing the pressure is no easy job either.

Charlie

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Posted by BRAKIE on Tuesday, November 07, 2017 7:37 PM

1019x
It does take some skill to keep the pressure up close to the max all the time without loosing steam and making a lot of noise by popping the safety valve.

My Grandpa (Dad's side) would be  quite happy to hear the safety vales lift simply because that told him she was easy to fire and he could maintain the needed steam pressure without needing hard work. A hard firer would be hard to maintain the needed steam pressure for maintaining track speed and any grades.

Larry

SSRy

Conductor

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