Durango & Silverton Converting To Wood Pellets?

coloradorailroads Oct 7, 2006

  1. coloradorailroads

    coloradorailroads TrainBoard Member

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    That, I think, is the real issue. When you're in Durango, you may be passed by SUVs--some of them named Durango for a reason, you may hear a cell phone go off, and you may even talk about a funny e-mail. But stray into the yard and shops, stand in front of a big, black, steaming monster, smell the smoke, the oil, the steam...and you're back in the 1920s. The railroad is an historic landmark. It is open to the public, which means it's a chance for one and all, big and little, to transcend time and see and feel and hear and smell what it was like back then, if only for a brief moment or two.

    We may not live in a vacuum, YoHo, but you're too eager to give up what is arguably the least of the offenders. I agree with what JCater said. A few coal-burning locos every 10,000 square miles are an insignificant drop in the bucket compared to industrial pollution. If you want to help save the planet, start with China and Mexico. The pollution from these countries is legendary, but such press doesn't generate the self-loathing that American "environmentalists" seek to create. But I digress. :zip: The point is that people are inclined to look at a big, black engine belching out coal smoke and think, "My god, what an environmental disaster!" :eek: We associate pollution with smoke, but the actual content of the smoke needs scientific analysis to determine how harmful it actually is. I've never needed to wear a breathing mask in Durango, but I see enough of them in pictures from Beijing and Mexico City.

    Being able to touch and smell history is one of the remaining reasons we go to visit historic sites. Take away these senses, and you take away our reason for going. You might as well buy a video and save the airfare.
     
  2. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Staff Member

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    The Cubres & Toltec is seen here provididing lots of smoke for the hard core to smell.:)
    [​IMG]
     
  3. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    No. It does not. Nothing is equal. Most of all, the "compromise" noted here, is not a compromise. It's one side being forced by another to do things their way. Or else. Often, at back breaking expense. Or not exist at all.

    The pollution that might be produced by an ALCo or two, pales in significance, to any impact the wineries mostly likely do create, just by their very presence.

    Boxcab E50
     
  4. coloradorailroads

    coloradorailroads TrainBoard Member

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    Brings tears to my eyes. What good memories! :teeth:
     
  5. taz

    taz TrainBoard Member

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    Besides the "political" and historical points that have been made, I wonder if converting from coal to wood pellets is even technically feasible/possible. There are a number of reasons that I can think of that could doom such a conversion if it were attempted. First and foremost on that list would be the pellets themselves and the associated BTU value verses that of coal. I've fired a coal burner using wood (not wood pellets) instead of coal and the difference in the BTU values of the fuels was significant...About 6 or 7 to 1 (6/7 tenders full of "seasoned oak" and/or walnut wood equalled about 1 tender full of coal). Another item that would have to be considered is moisture...Coal will "burn" if it gets wet (in fact, "hosing down" the coal in the tender to help eliminate dust is part of a fireman's duties) but I'd bet that the wood pellets would just disintegrate into an unburnable powder. And last, but not least, on that list would be the cost of the pellets verses a load of coal...

    BTW: Hemi, that wasn't a "coal cinder" that you got in your eye...It was a UFO (Unidentified Foreign Object)... :D
     
  6. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member

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    Great point! Northern Pacific's steam locos had some of the most enormous fireboxes in the history of steam locos. They were that large, due to the poor-quality coal provided by its online mines. The coal that other steamers burned either burned hotter or something else that allowed smaller fireboxes to make the same amount of steam. If D&SNG were required to switch to wood pellets, to make the same 36,000# of tractive effort, the firebox would need to be doubled or more in size to make up the difference.
    A UFO? Crap! I should have saved it, and called 1-800-876-5353, talked to Unsolved Mysteries, and get on TV! ;)
     
  7. coloradorailroads

    coloradorailroads TrainBoard Member

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    Good points about grate size and pellet practicality. I think I need to reiterate that they're not considering pellets for online use at this time. They're considering them just to keep the boilers warm overnight.
     
  8. taz

    taz TrainBoard Member

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    Do you know if the locomotives are "manned" when they're being kept warm overnight or are the "glasses full" and the fires banked?

    There's another possible solution here if this is what the wood pellets are being considered for and it might serve both purposes (i.e., keeping the boiler warm and cutting down coal smoke overnight [...although I fail to see why this is a problem overnight...If the fire tender "smokes it up", he/she is going to be the first one "smoked out" of the roundhouse... :eek:mg: ...And then it is a "training issue" with the fire tender). A small stationary boiler could be used which could be fueled by propane or some other fuel (that may be more "politically correct"). One of the benifits would also be that you could keep more than one locomotive hot overnight... :teeth:
     
  9. taz

    taz TrainBoard Member

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    Being on TV is way overrated... (no icon for rolling on the floor laughing my ass off so this will have to do... :teeth: )

    One of the things that you learn when you work a coal burner is that if you (the operation) put it out there that the particles are "coal cinders", folks will assume that everything is a coal cinder. Truth of the matter is that the particle could be anything with a coal cinder being just one possibility... ;)
     
  10. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    In steam days, they at least had an engine watchman on duty. If not a hostler. And some locomotoves had low water alarms installed.

    These days, I'd hope there's someone steam qualified, still keeping watch overnight. Just in case.

    :D

    Boxcab E50
     
  11. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Yup. Been there. Done that. It is overrated.

    Speaking of cinders- Another factor, the general public reacts to, is the plume from a stack. Most folks don't understand it's primarily just cooling water vapor. Stained with a bit of soot.

    :sad:

    Boxcab E50
     
  12. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    My understanding was that the blacker the plume,t he less efficent the engine and that in fact most tourist operators are specifically ineffecient cause Steam chasers want to see the big black cloud. a nice efficent engine doesn't make for drama.


    AS for my previous comments, I think my argument is being misconstrued. I'm not trying to suggest that there is specific merit in the NIMBY's in this case, There complaints are ridiculous and your right, the few steam engines around the country don't matter a hill a beans compared to the gas guzzling beasts on the road,


    but that doesn't mean it wouldn't be worth it to look at ways to reduce the pollutants anyway. This is an addative thing. Every single bit of pollution stacks, so every bit you don't produce retracts.

    Ignoring the foolish arguments of those who want to dry their clothes, what do we lose by making modifications to the engines to run cleaner? What do we gain?

    From my perspective, I'd like to see preseration organizations show environmental responsibility rather then just say, "We aren't the biggest polluters so leave us alone."

    And if the answer the the above is
    "We'd lose too much" Then so be it, you run with coal and don't look back.

    My main point of cours eis more global then that, any time I read a thread like this here about NIMBYs blocking some railroad something or other, it's inevitably presented as a black and white issue and given the nature of this site, I think we can guess which side we mainly fall on.
    The problem is that things are rarely black and white. in situations like this, right vs. wrong is rarely the condition to be met.

    We're all just a little too selfish me thinks and while my post here likely will do nothing to change that in anyone, it's still a frustrating fact of life. There was a time when we as a country were capable of evaluating the common good with some shred of accuracy. It's been a while.
     
  13. coloradorailroads

    coloradorailroads TrainBoard Member

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    Spoke with Paul Schranck

    I spoke with Paul Schranck, VP and GM of D&SNGRR. He's been very busy with the mudslides but he gave me a few minutes today.

    They will be using coal mixed with the hickory hardwood pellets to lessen the pollution. The roundhouse, he reminded me, is already fitted with scrubbers.

    His main ambition with doing this is to keep relations with the south Durango residents in good standing. He wants the railroad to be around for another 125 years and so he's working to keep the railroad from having to spend money on costly lawsuits over pollution. The argument that "we were here first" doesn't really wash, especially when it comes to a judges gavel.

    I can appreciate his position, although I wonder how much more the D&S is going to have to bow these south Durango residents. I believe there is a point where you just have to say that enough is enough. Nonetheless, Schranck believes this is tolerable. If we're looking on the bright side of life, I'd also have to say that if the residents get too pushy and it does come to a lawsuit, the railroad's record of cooperation and flexibility will go better with a judge who is looking to correct an injustice.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 10, 2006
  14. taz

    taz TrainBoard Member

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    YoHo (and anybody else), this post is not meant to "flame" you nor to detract from what you had to say. Rather, it is meant to address some of the issues that you've brought up and to try to explain some of why it may not be practical or in some cases, impossible.

    True and not true. While it is true that a lot of folks want to see the (locomotive) beast belch (a whole lot of black) smoke, most of the tourist railroad/railway operators discourage this as a regular operating practice. I would even go so far as to say that when a fireman routinely fires this way, it's not long before he/she is going to have to answer to someone (like the RFE/DSLE, etc.). I can also tell you that as a steam locomotive fireman, there are times when it can't be avoided but those are the exception rather than the rule. Personally, I like to fire with as clean of a stack as I can possibly get away with...The only exception is when I sand the flues or I'm told to "show off" (for some reason or another by someone who has the authority to tell me that).

    BTW: The color of the plume is more a measure of the fireman's abilities or the conditions that the engine is being operated under than a measure of the locomotive's efficiency. However, if the locomotive isn't functioning properly (not drafting properly, plugged grates, etc.), the amount of smoke it generates (as the fireman tries to compensate for this) may increase.

    Pollutants being what they are, it depends...The question is "What are you trying to solve and what technologies exist to help solve it?" One of the problems that you get with a steam locomotive that you don't get with something like a coal fired power plant is the problem of where are you going to put/mount XYZ. Somehow, someway, you're going to have to devise a method to attach whatever it is (smoke scrubber, catalytic converter, etc.) to the smokebox and/or frame without altering the locomotive so much that you destroy it (to include destroying the drafting characteristics of the locomotive/smokebox) or render parts of it inaccessible for maintenance. Space is usually at a premium on a steam locomotive and most of the components are already stripped down the bare minimum (from the builder). Coal fired power plants, on the other hand, don't usually have these types of limitations regarding space. Looking at a piece of equipment that is meant for and works on a coal fired power plant and trying to adapt that technology to a coal fired steam locomotive may prove to be cost prohibitive and there certainly isn't a market for it after you've developed it [read: no way to recoup your development time and money for a profit].

    Just to digress a little here, but have you ever wondered why the steam from a steam locomotive is just exhausted and isn't reused (...OK, in the case of a true Mallet [i.e., a locomotive with both high pressure and low pressure cylinders], it is but generally not more than once...) or recondensed after it is used? These technologies exist and have been used successfully in other types of applications (such as "steam ships") since the early 1900s. At one time or another, they where tried in railroad applications and in general it was found that adding the extra equipment (or piping) required didn't gain any significant performance increase or cure fuel or water consumption issues. In some cases (such as the "steam condenser"), the results proved to be more of a detriment to the locomotive. The steam that was recondensed was found to contain impurities, etc., that clogged up the condenser and rendered it pretty much useless after a period of time. This isn't to say that these technologies shouldn't be "looked at" again especially since a lot has changed in the last few decades but the expertise required to adapt them to a railroad application may no longer exist. That might change if steam ever come back into wide spread use or there is some really major technology breakthrough that can be easily adapted to existing steam locomotives...

    Good point!! You'll have to trust me on this but most tourist railroad/railway organizations are very cognizant of this issue and try to behave responsibly. Part of the problem here is that the smoke from a steam locomotive (either coal or oil) hasn't had that smoke analyzed to the extent that we've analyze what's coming out of smoke stack on a power plant or out of the tailpipe of your car. I've never seen a breakdown of just what is coming out of the stack on a coal burner although I have a fair idea (based in part from my high school chemistry classes...That was a long time ago ;))...My guess is that it is mostly carbon, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, water and/or water vapor, and probably some sulfur dioxide and a few other compounds. The question that I've always had (as a fireman) is how much and/or how does it rate when compared with (say) a diesel truck or bus? I don't have the answer...

    If you read the article in the Denver Post that is referenced in ColoradoRailroad's blog (http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_4387502), you'll see that the D&SNG is also thinking about/concerned with this issue.

    Yes, it has been a while. I think that you're probably right about us (as railfans) seeing this issue in "black and white". I think that a lot of that comes from the fact that we're feeling like we've got to defend this sacred treasure and that "the other side" has no ability or desire to work toward a compromise...As it is reported, it's either "their way or the hiway" and we (the railfans, etc.) aren't buying it. That's where the NIMBY tag seems to fit at least from my perspective. These folks (seem to) demand a solution to a problem that wouldn't be a problem if they had stopped long enough to consider what already existed there prior to deciding to live there (and all the while driving in their gas guzzling SUVs...Nothing like a little bit of the pot calling the kettle "black"). They're crying "FOUL" and running to court before even discussing what can and/or has already be done. All one hears is that "They should..." or other comments that blame someone else rather than trying to come up with solutions where they're willing to pitch in to help solve the problem/issues. How about spending some of the money that they're spending on lawyers on implementing a solution that will outlive both the lawyers and themselves. Wanna leave a mark on posterity? There it is...
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 11, 2006
  15. YoHo

    YoHo TrainBoard Supporter

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    taz, thanks for the well thought out reply, I don't think it was flaming at all.

    I agree, it's a failure on the NIMBY's to foster discussion that starts it, I just don't want to go down to their level if I can avoid it.
     
  16. John Barnhill

    John Barnhill TrainBoard Member

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    latest news article...

    Cleaner Than Coal? D&SNG Tries Burning Wood To Reduce Smoke
    The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad is looking to a Cortez business for a possible solution to the railroad's efforts to reduce smoke from idling engines.
    Doug Muscanell, who owns Muscanell Millworks, 20545 County Road U, with his wife, Karen Harbaugh, has donated about 20,000 pounds of wooden briquettes for the D&SNG to test as an alternative fuel for burning coal overnight.
    The briquettes - compressed sawdust - are made from the flooring manufacturer's waste bits of hickory, white oak, walnut and cherry woods. For Muscanell, the mill benefits by having a way to get rid of the waste. The railroad is interested in reducing smoke and smell from its overnight stoking methods that keep the locomotives warm and ready for the morning journey to Silverton.
    "The motive is being a good neighbor," said Paul Schranck, chief executive officer for the railroad. "The south-side residents recognized the problem, and we want to fix it."
    The experiment with the briquettes is part of a $40,000 study sponsored by the Region 9 Economic Development District to help mitigate the historic railroad's smoke. "It was a great opportunity for Region 9 to bridge the gap and find a solution," said Julie Levy, community development coordinator for Region 9. "The ultimate goal is to reduce smoke in the most cost-efficient way."
    The Cheyenne Wyoming-based consultants conducting the study, Wasatch Railroad Contractors, were in Durango between Aug27 and Sep02. Wasatch analyzed the railroad's smoke-reduction systems and performed combustion studies on one of the locomotives, No. 486.
    Part of the data-gathering process involved cutting a hole in the engine's smoke box and welding a large, bright red device called a "conditioner." Data on the engine's performance while on trips to Rockwood and Silverton was fed from the conditioner's six sensors to a laptop computer.
    During Wastach's time in Durango, Muscanell gave the contractors a brief and informal presentation on the possibility of using the briquettes.
    On Oct19, Wasatch will present its initial findings at the state Air Quality Commission meeting in Durango. "The report will be laid out with at least 30 different options to help mitigate smoke," said Wasatch CEO John Rimmasch. - Mary Jane Carroll, The Durango Herald
     
  17. JCater

    JCater TrainBoard Member

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    Wonder how gummed up the works will get from the wood? Seems like it burns at a lower temp, thus more residue? More cleaning, maintenance...etc. Glad to hear the DSNG takes the population's concerns seriously though...bad press can kill you quicker than lightening.
    John
     
  18. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    If this does come to pass, those outside of the RR, who promoted the idea, should pay for it in full.

    Boxcab E50
     
  19. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member

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    That's the best idea I have heard all day.
    'You want better air, you pay for it.'
    We all know that will fly like a lead blimp.:mad:
     
  20. taz

    taz TrainBoard Member

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    Excellent point!!! "Going down" to anyone's level while attempting to come up with a compromise should be avoided at all costs. What you usually find with these types of NIMBY issues is that there is generally more "middle of the road" (compromise oriented) folks than there are "polarized" folks ("My way or the hiway..."). Usually, when it comes down to the decision making process, the compromise oriented folks (on both sides of the issue) tend to prevail. Here's hoping for a compromise that both sides can point to with pride as a "win/win"...

    It shouldn't "hurt" the locomotives too much unless they're kept warm for a period of days before being used (like a week or more). According to the article (referenced above), there isn't any "glue" (or other "bonding agent") holding these "Presto-Logs" together so the only "gunk" that should be produced from burning them would be about the same as burning a log in your fireplace.

    One of the great things about coal burning locomotives is that they are generally somewhat "self-cleaning" with regards to soot build up. How? Remember the UFOs (...OK, OK...Coal cinders... ;))? Unlike an oil burner where the flues must be "sanded" every so often to remove soot, the action of the cinders (and ash, etc.) traveling through the flues tends to clean out some of the soot (which is then either exhausted out of the locomotive or trapped in a screen mess between the front tube sheet and the smoke stack...They then fall to the bottom of the smokebox, which can be cleaned out by removing a plug). This isn't to say that you won't get plugged flues in a coal burner...That can happen (...but that's a discussion better left for another day... :)).

    John, that's a very interesting article in that it mentions all of the folks (agencies, etc.) involved. Man, would I love to be a fly on the wall at that meeting (Air Quality Commission on the 19th of October)...

    BTW: The "advertised" BTU values are as follows:
    Coal: about 13,000 BTU/pound
    Waste-wood pellets: 8,300 BTU/pound
     

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