Steam Locomotives

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Steam Locomotives

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Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 5, 2016, 6:46 am

My wife and I love Steam Locomotives . We don't know why but we think they are great. We also drive long distances to museums to see them.

I think johnthefireman has a lot of experience with them but he is the first person I have ever heard of who actually knows about them and has run one!

What is it like?

Are there some still running in your country?

Here in NY we have none running.

I believe the appreciation of Steam Locomotives is a gift from the gods; truely special. And the people or community around the Steam Locomotives seems special as well.

Maybe like tasting of a fine wine, you just have to have a special palate for the appreciation of Steam Locomotive.

Strange that young and old can appreciate them.......

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 5, 2016, 6:51 am

Don't get me started...

Although I have had a little bit of experience on preserved steam in UK, and still remember as a child riding behind steam engines to visit my grandparents up north, my main experience of steam has been in South Africa and Kenya.

In South Africa there are several clubs still running heritage steam on the main line, and there are dozens of steam locomotives either currently operating or out of service for relatively minor overhaul and repair. Fifteen years ago I joined one of the clubs and trained and qualified to drive and fire steam engines, although in the last year I have let my licences lapse as I can no longer get to South Africa often enough to keep them valid (you have to operate a steam engine at least once every six months, and pass a refresher exam every year). I learned a lot about operating, repairing and maintaining steam locos by working with old steam fitters and footplate crew.

In Kenya there are three steam locomotives currently operable (although one of them is down for repairs) but they don't run very often as we haven't got the commercial side of it organised; it costs money to run them, including things like track access charges, hire of coaches, fuel, etc. I'm a volunteer with the railway museum and am involved whenever steam does run.

I've never really been involved much with road steam engines (although our club in South Africa did maintain one for a local agricultural museum and I have operated that one) but in Nairobi I have helped a chap who has two old agricultural steam engines. He reckons that there are more of them lying around as scrap in isolated farms and barns. My wife has given me permission to have one if I can find one, so I'm on the lookout!

The allure of steam? Operating a steam engine is not like turning a key and switching it on or off. It's almost as if it is alive. You have to be patient, to nurture it, tend it, stay with it, understand it, feel it - and if you get it wrong it either dies or turns very nasty indeed. It's also a whole body experience being on the footplate of a steam locomotive at speed - the heat, the noise, the vibration, the swaying and jolting, the smells, the glow of the fire, the steam, the smoke, even the taste (of the smut which gets everywhere, and of course the bacon we cook on the shovel in the firebox). And it's hard physical work, not just shovelling the coal, but everything on a steam engine is big, heavy and usually difficult to shift, which is why a heavy hammer is one of the most important tools on the footplate.

Let me not write more general stuff. Hopefully there can be some more specific conversations on steam locomotives.

kesäkuu 5, 2016, 6:49 am

Many thanks. I have lots to learn.

What are heritage steam and preserved steam. Are there other types?

Isn't this hobby dangerous? Seriously. They used to blow up.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 5, 2016, 7:13 am

I think the words "preserved" and "heritage" are interchangeable. It's old stuff which has been preserved as part of our heritage. I suppose the other type would be steam that is still in normal commercial use, not as a tourist attraction or working museum exhibit. The remaining working steam locomotives in China are one example, although they are now on the way out. In South Africa a paper mill still used three steam locomotives because it was cheaper to keep using them than to buy diesels; that equation changed last year and they phased out the steam in 2015.

Yes, steam can be dangerous, like most things, but not if operated correctly. There are stringent safeguards, and operators are trained both in theory and practice.

The two main safety features on a boiler are the safety valves to release excess pressure (always more than one) and the safety devices connected with water in the boiler. Most steam engines have two devices to indicate the level of water in the boiler (usually sight glasses, occasionally a test cock), two devices to inject more water into the boiler (usually steam-powered injectors, occasionally a mechanical pump), and two or more fusible plugs or similar devices. These plugs are found in the crown plate, the top of the firebox. If the water level falls below the level of the top of the firebox, then the heat of the fire can melt the metal of the crown plate. A fusible plug is a hollow plug which is filled with a low-melting point metal, originally lead but now usually an alloy, which melts at a lower temperature than the steel or copper crown plate. So if the crown plate and plugs are exposed by low water level, the alloy melts first and so jets of high pressure steam spray into the firebox and extinguish the fire. "Dropping a plug" is one of the most embarrassing things that can happen to a fireman, but it can also be dangerous for the footplate crew - if the firehole door is open, the steam can blow hot coals onto the footplate which can injure the crew.

kesäkuu 5, 2016, 8:47 am

I grew up around steam locos, my father has been involved in various preservation groups since we emigrated to Australia over 45 years ago. I've lost touch with it all but he remains a passionate supporter of steam railways in his 80s. I am not aware of any serious incidents involving pressurised steam at any of the operations my father has been involved in, like so many things, it is the users who are the real danger, not the machines!

kesäkuu 5, 2016, 4:42 pm

4 > johnthefireman

Well, it sounds dangerous to, yes, interesting, yes, but dangerous to me...

I better stay outside the cab.

kesäkuu 5, 2016, 4:46 pm

I passed the Flying Scotsman yesterday on my way into London. I was really excited to finally see it in action. It's like it has a character all of its own. I'm not a train buff at all but there was a certain magic to it.

kesäkuu 7, 2016, 12:39 am

In April we commemorated ANZAC day, I guess equivalent to Veterans day in the U.S. For some reason they had a steam train heading out from the capital city to our satellite town, and we just happened to be driving next to it, we followed it for a good 3 or 4 miles, driving next to it, it was quite cool.

We're spoiled for Steam engine museums where I live, at least 4 steam trains within 40 minutes drive in different towns. One working steam train for rides just a couple of minutes from our house.

We have the last Fell engine in a museum just over the mountain range from where we live.

When we last(and first) visited the Featherston Fell museum we lived in another town in the same region and the young man who was volunteering as Museum curator thought the only reason we'd want to live there is because of the steam train, and was quite jealous.

kesäkuu 7, 2016, 9:32 pm

Have you heard of Puffing Billy? Enjoy:

kesäkuu 8, 2016, 10:25 am

JM Turner loved to take railway journeys and wrote often about them in his diaries.,_Steam_and_Speed_%E2%80%93_The_Great_Western_...

Anyone ever curious why it is so very many people still love steam locomotives in a time of space shuttles?