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Question about Camelback locomotives..

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Question about Camelback locomotives..
Posted by Ulrich on Saturday, January 2, 2021 8:19 AM

I've read that Camelbacks placed the crew in some danger as the cab straddled the boiler directly above the driving rods. Any debris on the rods or sometimes the rods themselves would come loose and penetrate the cab from below, with fatal consequences. But what about the danger of straddling the hot boiler itself? I've never read anything about how crews coped with a blazing hot boiler bisecting the cab. To me that would present the more imminent danger. A loss of footing for whatever reason could land a crew member against the hot boiler..or was there some protection to prevent that happening?

 

 

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Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, January 2, 2021 8:47 AM

The boilers on all steam locomotives have lagging along their length between the smoke box and the fire box.  The lagging is insulation so that the boiler doesn't loose the heat of the heated water that is in the boiler - only a relatively small portion of the the contents of the boiler are steam at any point in time.  Thus the engieers area of a camel back has the protection of the lagging from the heat of the boiler.  The firman by contrast has to contend with the heat of the firebox and opening the firebox doors from time to time both the add coal as well as observe the status of the fire - the engineers position on conventional steam engines was likely hotter than their location on camel backs.

Death by failed machienry on camel backs was the primary drawback.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Saturday, January 2, 2021 8:54 AM

BaltACD
Death by failed machienry on camel backs was the primary drawback.

It didn't happen very often, but it did happen.

Another major drawback of camels was the total lack of communication between the engineer and the fireman.  Of the Northeastern 'roads the only anthracite hauler that didn't go in for camelbacks was the PRR.  They purchased four just to try the concept out but didn't keep them long, they just didn't like the engineer and fireman being isolated from each other.  The Pennsy sold them to the Long Island Railroad, who didn't like them either.  What happened to them after that I don't know.

Camelbacks were never a popular locomotive for the crews who ran them.

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, January 2, 2021 9:28 AM

Some of the issue with machinery failure was that it was a deadly risk that was not really present on conventionally-cabbed power -- and one that might manifest, unavoidably, at any moment.

A concern actually remarked on was that if the engineer became incapacitated, no one might know for miles.  I read an account recently of a train that ran 20 miles and passed two stations with "a corpse at the throttle"

If you think a Camelback separates the crew, consider a Henderson quad or quint ... or something like the German cab-forward express engines of similar vintage.  Those used a perfectly valid maritime solution in the years before telephony or wireless on locomotives: speaking tubes.

Boiler lagging would only partly relieve the issue of heat (although it prevented 'roasting' from intermittent contact).  If you look up the issues of casing design in one of the Babcock & Wilcox books you will appreciate the issue when radiation from long-term thermal soak in the lagging cannot radiate effectively from the jacket surface.  The temperature in a cab even with windows open can go surprisingly high -- it is no surprise that you find accounts of Mother Hubbards operated for considerable distances by engineers 'hiking out' of the cab window, even to the extent of straddling the sill.  (As a fringe benefit that position cleared most of an engineer's body from the path of any incident rods or debris that might come flailing up, or many of the wooden-warship collateral damage from splinters that would follow Whistling)  

Dangerous... or amusing (at least in long retrospect)...  accidents could result from this -- EDIT: I see Wayne has quoted the exact instance of this I was thinking of!

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Saturday, January 2, 2021 10:14 AM

Overmod
 I read an account recently of a train that ran 20 miles and passed two stations with "a corpse at the throttle"

There was an incident similar to that on the old New York, Ontario & Western.  One of their camels ran past two stations where it was scheduled to stop, the fireman said to himself "What the hell..." and made his way to the engineer's cab.  The engineer was gone! Luckily the fireman was able to stop at the next station and send word down the line about what happened.

Turns out (since this was during the summer) the engineer liked to ride sitting on the cab's window sill, and fell out!  He was found pretty quickly, not badly injured.

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Posted by Ulrich on Saturday, January 2, 2021 1:04 PM

For some reason the "Camel" locomotive.. which had the cab mounted over top of the boiler (instead of straddling it) didn't catch on. According to Wikipedia B&O tried them as early as the 1840s. With the cab mounted over top the boiler I would think that some of the safety issues of the Camelbacks would have been avoided, and the crew would have had much better visibility as well. 

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Saturday, January 2, 2021 4:47 PM

Ulrich
According to Wikipedia B&O tried them as early as the 1840s.

Right, those were the "Winans Camels."  Long story short as far as locomotives go they were an evolutionary dead end for various reasons.

The B&O Museum tells the story:

http://www.borail.org/davis-camel.aspx

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, January 2, 2021 5:06 PM

Ulrich
For some reason the "Camel" locomotive.. which had the cab mounted over top of the boiler (instead of straddling it) didn't catch on. According to Wikipedia B&O tried them as early as the 1840s. With the cab mounted over top the boiler I would think that some of the safety issues of the Camelbacks would have been avoided, and the crew would have had much better visibility as well. 

You could have had the same result with the cab atop the Wootten firebox, in the position seen on the original engine so built, and kept the advantage of the engineer and fireman together (which was NOT the case for the Camels while firing was going on)  The answer to both was 'loading gage' -- even in North America, overhead clearances were limited.  As boiler diameter came into 'hog' size and driver diameter increased, there was no room for high-mounted cabs or 'wheelhouse' visibility all around.

With the coming of stack-train clearances, it would be possible, along with greatly increasing steam separation in a conventional cylindrical boiler, to provide clear-vision or wheelhouse cab design again.  These might have the same trouble as the cabs on the large late Virginian and GN GE locomotives: every tunnel might make you want to duck reflexively and you might not become inured to that...

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Posted by pennytrains on Saturday, January 2, 2021 7:36 PM

I've also heard of locos similar to the Winans being used as "inspection" locomotives for railroad officials.

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Sunday, January 3, 2021 12:26 AM

They clearly had lots of drawbacks, but I love camelbacks; they are so unique. Real contraptions. Ungainly beasts. But posessing a certain beauty.

I think no 6-drivered one was preserved, which is a damn shame.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Sunday, January 3, 2021 9:36 AM

pennytrains

I've also heard of locos similar to the Winans being used as "inspection" locomotives for railroad officials.

 

Kinda-sorta.  The inspection locomotives were typically built on 4-4-0 types, and looked like someone dropped a passenger car on one.  The "gallerys," for lack of a better term, ran alongside the boiler and back to the cab.  

 

Here's one that belonged to the Reading, a 4-4-2 in fact.  Imagine the party you could throw in this thing!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inspection_locomotive#/media/File:Inspection-locomotive.jpg

 

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Sunday, January 3, 2021 9:38 AM

Lithonia Operator
They clearly had lots of drawbacks, but I love camelbacks; they are so unique. Real contraptions. Ungainly beasts. But posessing a certain beauty.

Well, they do  look cool on a model train layout!  I've got two O gauge versions, one CNJ and one NYO&W.  

If the little guys in the cabs have any complaints they're not saying anything.

http://www.lionel.com/products/jersey-central-tmcc-4-6-0-camelback-772-6-28748/

Despite the drawbacks, the CNJ did get good service from their Camelbacks, especially the later production models.  Powerful, peppy, with good pick-up and acceleration, they lasted in service up until 1954. 

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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Sunday, January 3, 2021 4:33 PM

I'd seen photos all my life of them, but only realized a few years ago that they were passenger engines. I guess I should have known from the driving wheel size.

Being a fireman on one of those in winter must have been extra brutal. Cruel an unusual punishment.

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Sunday, January 3, 2021 6:06 PM

I can't speak to other 'roads and all circumstances, but on the CNJ it wouldn't be unusual to see a passenger Camelback pulling a local freight now and then. 

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Posted by pennytrains on Sunday, January 3, 2021 7:16 PM

Edison/Biograph caught a few on the LV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4OVeXqSL1k

 

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Posted by seppburgh2 on Sunday, January 3, 2021 9:36 PM
Of the Camel Backs that remain are: DL&W 4-4-0, Reading 0-4-0, CNJ 4-4-2,
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Posted by Lithonia Operator on Sunday, January 3, 2021 10:46 PM

seppburgh2
Of the Camel Backs that remain are: DL&W 4-4-0, Reading 0-4-0, CNJ 4-4-2,
 

And aren't those the only ones, period, still in existence?

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Monday, January 4, 2021 9:13 AM

Yep, them's the ones.

The CNJ one's in the B&O Museum in Baltimore, the DL&W one's in the Transportation Museum in St. Louis.  The Reading one's in Strasburg at this time but I understand it's been sold to another organization.  

There could have been one more, a CNJ 4-6-0.  At its retirement the CNJ offered to sell it to anyone interested, but there weren't any takers.  As they'd already donated the 4-4-2 they figured that was enough and sold it for scrap.

IF there'd been "Crowd Funding" back in those days it might have been a different story.  

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Monday, January 4, 2021 9:51 AM

pennytrains

Edison/Biograph caught a few on the LV: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4OVeXqSL1k

 

 

Thanks Becky!

Unless I miss my guess, the opening shots are at Elizabeth NJ, where the PRR crossed over the CNJ.  I'm not sure if the CNJ tracks are still there, but the PRR trackage survives as Amtrak's Northeast Corridor.

This footage is something that should have some serious restoration work done, it's priceless!

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Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, January 4, 2021 1:33 PM

Flintlock76

Yep, them's the ones.

The CNJ one's in the B&O Museum in Baltimore, the DL&W one's in the Transportation Museum in St. Louis.  The Reading one's in Strasburg at this time but I understand it's been sold to another organization.  

There could have been one more, a CNJ 4-6-0.  At its retirement the CNJ offered to sell it to anyone interested, but there weren't any takers.  As they'd already donated the 4-4-2 they figured that was enough and sold it for scrap.

IF there'd been "Crowd Funding" back in those days it might have been a different story.  

 

I think Trains ran a great feature article (and cover?)  on the CNJ 4-6-0 years ago. 

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Posted by Overmod on Monday, January 4, 2021 2:06 PM

charlie hebdo
I think Trains ran a great feature article (and cover?)  on the CNJ 4-6-0 years ago. 

They did -- early '70s, I think, with heavy coverage of the oh-so-nearly-saved 774, back then as famous a number to me as 759.

I remember an account in that issue of someone wanting to photograph what turned out to be the last run: he set his alarm, and when it went off ... it was raining heavily outside...

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Posted by pennytrains on Monday, January 4, 2021 6:35 PM

Flintlock76
This footage is something that should have some serious restoration work done, it's priceless!

If you can find it, there's a DVD set called "America's Railroads, The Steam Train Legacy" put out by Timeless Media Group that has these under the tilte "Early Steam Trains" and they're a lot cleaner than that YouTube version.

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Posted by Paul Milenkovic on Monday, January 4, 2021 6:37 PM

So these locomotives used slow-burning anthracite?

Conventional wisdom is that a large grate allows a low pounds-of-coal per square foot of grate giving less "carbon carryover" out the exhaust at high power, but at low power, drifting or just standing, a large grate that needed to be covered with a large quantity of coal had high standby coal use?

I thought I read this in the downloadable scan of the Ralph Johnson of Baldwin book that later in the steam era people figured out that, OK, make the grate large, you can control the standby burning of coal by setting dampers to control the amount of air?

So a Wooten firebox with a large grate and enormous combustion space could be efficient for bituminous coal, with the right kind of firebars and with dampers to restrict air when low burn rates are called for?

If GM "killed the electric car", what am I doing standing next to an EV-1, a half a block from the WSOR tracks?
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Posted by charlie hebdo on Monday, January 4, 2021 6:44 PM

Overmod

 

 
charlie hebdo
I think Trains ran a great feature article (and cover?)  on the CNJ 4-6-0 years ago. 

 

They did -- early '70s, I think, with heavy coverage of the oh-so-nearly-saved 774, back then as famous a number to me as 759.

 

I remember an account in that issue of someone wanting to photograph what turned out to be the last run: he set his alarm, and when it went off ... it was raining heavily outside...

 

Those were still great issues of trains. 

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Monday, January 4, 2021 7:07 PM

Paul Milenkovic
So a Wooten firebox with a large grate and enormous combustion space could be efficient for bituminous coal, with the right kind of firebars and with dampers to restrict air when low burn rates are called for?

As I understand it yes, you could burn bituminous coal in a Wooten firebox (after proper modifications) but not the other way 'round. 

In fact, toward the end of the steam era the CNJ was using bituminous coal in its Camelbacks, the lack of demand for anthracite in the post-war years caused that fuel source to dry up a bit.  Same with the Reading and the other anthracite 'roads. 

There still is a demand for anthracite, but it's nowhere near what it was.

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Posted by Erik_Mag on Monday, January 4, 2021 9:57 PM

Paul Milenkovic

So these locomotives used slow-burning anthracite?

From what I remember from Withuhn's book on steam locomotives, the Camelback's were designed to burn anthracite culm - the large grate area was to limit the amount of small pieces of coal from being levitated off the grates and ultimately blown out the stack. Burning stove grade anthracite would have been too expensive.

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Posted by 54light15 on Monday, January 4, 2021 10:29 PM

I did post something in the "old movies with trains" thread a while back about the John Ford movie, "The Long Grey Line" about West Point USMA and in that film is a camelback. It's the only one I've ever seen, so If you want to see one... 

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Posted by Flintlock76 on Tuesday, January 5, 2021 9:12 AM

54light15

I did post something in the "old movies with trains" thread a while back about the John Ford movie, "The Long Grey Line" about West Point USMA and in that film is a camelback. It's the only one I've ever seen, so If you want to see one... 

 

True.  For the World War One era segment of the movie a steam engine was needed, but the problem was the West Shore Line (NYC) ran through West Point (still does) and the NYC had none available, so a Jersey Central Camelback was used.  Most of the film crew had never seen one either!  

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Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Tuesday, January 5, 2021 10:06 AM

Most of Delaware & Hudson's 2-8-0's were built as double-cabbers.  Some of the later 2-8-0's were built with one cab but still had the Wooten firebox.

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, January 5, 2021 10:22 AM

Flintlock76
In fact, toward the end of the steam era the CNJ was using bituminous coal in its Camelbacks, the lack of demand for anthracite in the post-war years caused that fuel source to dry up a bit.

It was not so much the lack of demand as problems with mining and processing the coal cost-effectively.  While it is probable that natural gas and oil heat would have 'taken over' most of the home-heating market in time, it was still relatively expensive compared even to stoker-fed coal for many years.  I grew up with family in Wilkes-Barre/Kingston in the late '50s through the '70s, and the topic of what caused the anthracite-coal market to decline often came up ... sometimes a bit 'heatedly' to make a funny.

Of course after the EPA was created, anthracite had a short and definitive future, being an inherent high-sulfur fuel.  That was certainly not a bad thing.  

One of the unrecognized points of culm/slack burning comes by comparison to the Big Boys.  This material contains a great deal of fines mixed with slate and other rock that does not 'ash', and if hand-fired (as most anthracite-burning locomotives were) not all of this might in fact stay 'landed' on the grates to burn.  Carbon releases much more heat than the sum of the hydrocarbons in coal do, but it takes a higher temperature to light it off to get that heat.  Meanwhile carbon in solid form benefits from small particle size and good 'scrubbing' to keep combustion at the surface going, and of course the small 'reacting' particles are as luminous as those in luminous flame ... once they are lit.  

If you look at a 'normal' anthracite building-heat fire, you will note that most of the flame is blue or only weakly luminous.  In large part this is because the fire has been optimized for long life and low fuel burn, in other words minimizing the need to stoke or dress the fire for an extended service time.  This would be nifty for GPCS (it might require careful pyrometry and cellular-windbox modulation of primary steam, but it could be done) but is ridiculous on a locomotive.  Even with a large grate permitting a thin fire, you're going to be getting into blacksmith-smelting temperatures if you try heavily drafting such a thing.

What is needed is a step toward pulverized-coal firing, where the lightoff and combustion are in a levitated plume and not 'down in a flameholding bed' or whatever.  Sizing coal so that a relatively large volume of it would ignite and scrub off to smaller particle size in a bed, then preferentially levitate as extended luminous flame, offers much better removal of heat from the firebars and transfer of that heat production to where it can be radiantly coupled to water-heating surface.

There is still the issue that carbon particles that 'go out' in a reducing atmosphere, such as that characterizing a gas-producing furnace in the first place, may preferentially reignite as 'sparks' in the smokebox -- which causes problems if captured there -- or in the exhaust, where carbon particles can have an unpleasantly long 'burn time'.  This has implications for how you fire with fuel of different particle size -- especially when the fuel is least-cost acquired from mines, perhaps company mines in that era, like some solid-fuel analogue of Bunker C.

Strangely I have come across no accounts of what it was like to have to fire with this stuff.  Surely there are accounts, perhaps quite enchantingly worded, in sources like old Railroad Magazines that specifically mention how one shovels this kind of dirt-with-benefits for best effect ... perhaps in some of the fast express locomotives that ran effectively on this fuel.

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