Trains.com

If the mechanical stoker quits..

6109 views
39 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    February 2003
  • From: Guelph, Ontario
  • 4,783 posts
If the mechanical stoker quits..
Posted by Ulrich on Friday, June 30, 2023 11:02 PM

If the mechanical stoker quit did the fireman have to hand fire the locomotive? Was it even possible to hand fire a large locomotive like an articulated?

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 9,554 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Saturday, July 1, 2023 2:08 PM

He sure did, for a time anyway.  Frequently the head-end brakeman had to pitch in but depending on the size of the locomotive it might not have been practical for very long.

I believe when the first articulateds began use here prior to WW1 two firemen were standard crew to keep them hot, again depending on size. 

  • Member since
    February 2003
  • From: Guelph, Ontario
  • 4,783 posts
Posted by Ulrich on Saturday, July 1, 2023 2:37 PM

I was reading today that the Mikado was probably the largest locomotive that could be hand fired for any extended time. A fireman could shovel 5000 lbs of coal per hour..larger locomotives with more voracious appetites required two fireman or a mechanical stoker. Shovelling that much coal per hour on a 12 hour shift.. those guys earned their pay, and they had no need for gym memberships. 

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: US
  • 24,905 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, July 1, 2023 7:18 PM

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

              

  • Member since
    September 2011
  • 6,395 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Saturday, July 1, 2023 8:19 PM

The 2-6-6-0 mallets on the Denver & Salt Lake were hand fired, and before the Moffat tunnel, that was up to 11,600' altitude.  When avalanches burried the engine on the high pass, firemen left the digging out of the snow to the rest of the crew.

Edit: Mechanical stokers were added in 1912

  • Member since
    March 2003
  • From: Central Iowa
  • 6,823 posts
Posted by jeffhergert on Saturday, July 1, 2023 9:27 PM

There was a story about a Rock Island fireman who had to hand fire a 4-8-4 when the stocker stopped working.  It was one of Classic Trains' "The way it was" stories, but no longer seems to be generally available on the website.  

As I remember, it was on a passenger special for Thomas Dewey, 1948 presidential candidate.

Jeff

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 21,295 posts
Posted by Overmod on Sunday, July 2, 2023 7:46 AM

What I recall reading was that, if the stoker failed, the crew would move the train to the nearest location where it could be tied down, and then cut off and run light engine to wherever inspection and repsir could be made.

If that were undesirable, for example with a passenger train, I'd expect operation would involve periodic slowing or stopping for a 'blow-up' of steam pressure.  Modern locomotives require accurate placement of the coal, and even an experienced fireman probably won't get 5000#/hr precisely where it needs to go without holes...

  • Member since
    December 2007
  • From: Georgia USA SW of Atlanta
  • 11,817 posts
Posted by blue streak 1 on Sunday, July 2, 2023 2:53 PM

If fireman knew how to run engine at least partially then Engineer could take his turn?  If brakie used how do two firing at same time not get into one another's way.?

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: US
  • 24,905 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Sunday, July 2, 2023 2:58 PM

blue streak 1
If fireman knew how to run engine at least partially then Engineer could take his turn?  If brakie used how do two firing at same time not get into one another's way.?

You aren't getting ANY engineer that qualified himself up to Engineer from a shovel wielding Fireman to pick the shovel up again.

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

              

  • Member since
    December 2007
  • From: Georgia USA SW of Atlanta
  • 11,817 posts
Posted by blue streak 1 on Sunday, July 2, 2023 3:28 PM

The fire box door is above the mechanical stoker screw drive what distance?  The firebox door needs to be open almost full time to hand fire.  How different will the hand firing coal bed look than mechanical?  How much draft is lost with fire door open? Does fire stay lifted off grate? How often does fireman have to use poker to modify coal bed?   

  • Member since
    September 2011
  • 6,395 posts
Posted by MidlandMike on Sunday, July 2, 2023 9:45 PM

Did passenger trains have head end brakemen in the cab?  I thought the brakemen/trainmen rode in the coaches.

  • Member since
    June 2002
  • 566 posts
Posted by drgwcs on Sunday, July 2, 2023 11:12 PM

MidlandMike

The 2-6-6-0 mallets on the Denver & Salt Lake were hand fired, and before the Moffat tunnel, that was up to 11,600' altitude.  When avalanches burried the engine on the high pass, firemen left the digging out of the snow to the rest of the crew.

Edit: Mechanical stokers were added in 1912

 

Those Salt Lake Mallets were pocket sized relatively and not much bigger than a large consolidation or small Mikado so were kind of an exception but we can be sure it was a huge job firing them up Rollins pass. 

  • Member since
    May 2012
  • 4,972 posts
Posted by rcdrye on Monday, July 3, 2023 6:26 AM

The largest locomotives built to be hand-fired were Virginian's AA mallets of 1910.  The story is that the Virginian actively recruited left-handed firemen so that a second fireman could be assigned for the climb to Clark's Gap.  The AA's that survived into the 1920s did receive mechanical stokers.

  • Member since
    October 2014
  • 1,103 posts
Posted by Gramp on Monday, July 3, 2023 10:00 AM

A fireman of that era must have really been a man of steel.

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 9,554 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Monday, July 3, 2023 11:23 AM

BaltACD
You aren't getting ANY engineer that qualified himself up to Engineer from a shovel wielding Fireman to pick the shovel up again.

It really depended on the man.  From everything I've read yes, there were some engineers who remembered what it was like on the way up and didn't mind helping the fireman if he needed to take a breather and there were others who acted like kings and wouldn't get off the "throne." 

  • Member since
    January 2019
  • From: Henrico, VA
  • 9,554 posts
Posted by Flintlock76 on Monday, July 3, 2023 11:31 AM

MidlandMike

Did passenger trains have head end brakemen in the cab?  I thought the brakemen/trainmen rode in the coaches.

 

That's an "it depends" situation.  Some would have head-end brakemen, some wouldn't, and that applied to both passenger and freight trains.  

Just a note, the left-side cab on a Camelback locomotive was for a head-end brakeman if one was called for.  Some have mistakenly called it a fireman's cab but no, he was back by the tender and firebox. A head-end brakeman would have just been in the fireman's way if he was in the back.

  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 13,766 posts
Posted by wjstix on Wednesday, July 5, 2023 12:54 PM

IIRC the Missabe's first Yellowstones were built to be hand-fired. The railroad tried using two firemen when they first arrived, but they couldn't keep the steam up so they retrofitted stokers.

Stix
  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: US
  • 24,905 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, July 5, 2023 3:03 PM

Flintlock76
 
BaltACD
You aren't getting ANY engineer that qualified himself up to Engineer from a shovel wielding Fireman to pick the shovel up again. 

It really depended on the man.  From everything I've read yes, there were some engineers who remembered what it was like on the way up and didn't mind helping the fireman if he needed to take a breather and there were others who acted like kings and wouldn't get off the "throne." 

There were many more Kings of the Throttle Box than there wasn't.  They had paid their 'dues' with a shovel during their early years and were bound and determined that the 'newbies' that were their Firemen would do the same.

Additionally Fireman and Engineer did not belong to the same labor organization 'back in the day' and there was that element of competition.  Later on those organizations merged into the Engineers organization we have today.  Today's BLET will sell out any other craft they can for a few dollars when it comes to contract negotiations.

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

              

  • Member since
    August 2003
  • From: Collinwood, Ohio, USA
  • 16,220 posts
Posted by gmpullman on Wednesday, July 5, 2023 3:19 PM

I fired on a locomotive that was equipped with a Duplex stoker. Some 'old timers' recounted how the most often occurring problem was a rock or a length of pipe or carelessly tossed fire rake that would get jammed or wrapped around the tender trough auger.

The stoker could be reversed to try to unjam the problem but if the drive shaft or universal was broken, no such luck.

However there was a plate that could be lifted in the cab floor that covered the 'distribution' hopper of the Duplex. This is where the horizontal auger dropped the coal whereby it could then be picked up by the twin, vertical augers.

The horizontal gearbox could be disengaged and the vertical 'elevator screws' could sometimes continue to be employed and the fireman then only had to shovel from the coal boards and dump the coal into the distribution plate for the vertical augers to pick it up and the steam jets to then distribute it over the fire.

Still a lot of work but not quite as much as completely hand-bombing, plus the firebox door could be kept closed for longer periods (the back-inside corners usually still had to be hand 'dressed'.

If the right or left vertical auger became jammed one or the other could be disengaged and the remaining working one used.

Good Luck, Ed

  • Member since
    March 2003
  • From: Central Iowa
  • 6,823 posts
Posted by jeffhergert on Wednesday, July 5, 2023 4:01 PM

BaltACD

 

 
 

Additionally Fireman and Engineer did not belong to the same labor organization 'back in the day' and there was that element of competition.  Later on those organizations merged into the Engineers organization we have today.  Today's BLET will sell out any other craft they can for a few dollars when it comes to contract negotiations.

 

The fireman did not join the B of LE.  They merged into the UTU, now SMART-TD.  The trainmen hold the fireman (engineer training) contract.

BLET member.

  • Member since
    May 2003
  • From: US
  • 24,905 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Wednesday, July 5, 2023 5:35 PM

jeffhergert
 
BaltACD 

Additionally Fireman and Engineer did not belong to the same labor organization 'back in the day' and there was that element of competition.  Later on those organizations merged into the Engineers organization we have today.  Today's BLET will sell out any other craft they can for a few dollars when it comes to contract negotiations. 

The fireman did not join the B of LE.  They merged into the UTU, now SMART-TD.  The trainmen hold the fireman (engineer training) contract.

BLET member.

Thank you for the correction.  Hard to keep up with the progressions of crafts that aren't your own.

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

              

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 21,295 posts
Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, July 5, 2023 7:10 PM

BaltACD
Additionally Fireman and Engineer did not belong to the same labor organization 'back in the day' and there was that element of competition.

You're forgetting the Debs firemen's organization had become the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen (after about 1907, but many 'made' engineers had often stayed in the Brotherhood before that).  I would certainly expect that engineers in this organization would be more inclined to support their firemen.

The BLF&E was one of the original unions amalgamating into the UTU in 1969, which might explain in part why the locomotive-engineer training remains in that union.

  • Member since
    May 2019
  • 1,314 posts
Posted by BEAUSABRE on Monday, July 10, 2023 6:14 AM

deleted

  • Member since
    May 2019
  • 1,314 posts
Posted by BEAUSABRE on Monday, July 10, 2023 6:16 AM

BaltACD
There were many more Kings of the Throttle Box than there wasn't.  They had paid their 'dues' with a shovel during their early years and were bound and determined that the 'newbies' that were their Firemen would do the same.

And your basis for this claim is what? 

  • Member since
    February 2005
  • 2,320 posts
Posted by timz on Monday, July 10, 2023 12:23 PM

wjstix
IIRC the Missabe's first Yellowstones were built to be hand-fired.

That wouldn't even be legal in 1941, would it? Aside from the impracticality.

The article about the second DM&IR order

https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=mdp.39015013029791&view=1up&seq=433

says they had stokers and were "practically identical in design" to the first order.

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 21,295 posts
Posted by Overmod on Monday, July 10, 2023 1:40 PM

timz
wjstix
IIRC the Missabe's first Yellowstones were built to be hand-fired.

That wouldn't even be legal in 1941, would it? Aside from the impracticality.

I can't offhand think of any Super-Power engine, let alone a deep-firebox articulated, that would have been built for hand-firing.  If there is a source that actually shows evidence that DM&IR had a 2-8-8-4 designed for hand bombing, I'd like to see and read it.

And as timz noted, after 1937 it would not have been legal to run without a stoker anyway...

  • Member since
    November 2008
  • 1,864 posts
Posted by Leo_Ames on Monday, July 10, 2023 8:05 PM

They applied mechanical stokers in the mid 20's to their older articulateds that struggled to be kept fed with two fireman on the job, so regardless of any law I can't imagine that they ever considered going without a mechanical stoker on a Yellowstone years later.

And I don't know about the Missabe's Yellowstones, but some other giant modern articulateds like Northern Pacific's own Yellowstones got oversize MB stokers since more conventional units couldn't even keep up with the desired firing rate. That certainly suggests that there wasn't much room for serious consideration of hand firing such a giant.

Heck, I don't even know if a human being could build up enough steam by hand firing to even use the whistle when the firebox has 145 square feet of grate area...

The only modern mainline steamers in North America that I can think of that were built without a mechanical stoker were CPR's F1 Jubilees.

  • Member since
    June 2022
  • 64 posts
Posted by Pneudyne on Monday, July 10, 2023 11:08 PM
The second (1943) batch of 10 of the DMIR 2-8-8-4 type was described in both Railway Mechanical Engineer (RME) 1943 July and Railway Age (RA) 1943 June 05.  These locomotives were fitted with Standard MB stokers.  They were said to be practically identical to the eight of the first batch (1941), which evidently escaped RME or RA coverage.  A reasonable working hypothesis is that the first batch were also fitted with Standard MB stokers.
 
 
Cheers,
  • Member since
    February 2002
  • From: Mpls/St.Paul
  • 13,766 posts
Posted by wjstix on Thursday, July 13, 2023 1:54 PM

My mistake. I rechecked Franklin King's "Locomotives of the Duluth Missabe and Iron Range" book, and it was the WW1-era Duluth Missabe & Northern 2-8-8-2s that were delivered without stokers. At first they were assigned two firemen. All had stokers added by 1925, and continued to work well into the 1950s.

Stix
  • Member since
    February 2005
  • From: Vancouver Island, BC
  • 23,321 posts
Posted by selector on Saturday, July 15, 2023 4:28 PM

Ulrich

.. A fireman could shovel 5000 lbs of coal per hour...

 

???  I read that a fireman on the Pennsy was required to be capable of shoveling 8000 lbs a shift.  Whether that is correct or not, 5K/hr works out to about 20K-40K/shift, depending on the route and shift length and on the work required of the engine...quite beyond credibility.

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy