Question for old hats who know steam engines inside and out

Jeepy84 Oct 21, 2017

  1. Jeepy84

    Jeepy84 TrainBoard Member

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    My family and I made the 7 hour drive down to Durbin, WVa this weekend to ride the Rocket. The Climax is in Cass for an overhaul so our train was powered by Hiesler No6. For anyone who has taken this trip, you know how the train coasts backwards down grade to the overnight cabeese, then hauls you back up to Durbin. The trip down was lovely, sunny in the upper 50s, leaves changed. The problem, and reason for this post occurred as soon as we set off on the return.

    What would cause a locomotive to blow soaking wet coal ash up and over the hapless shmucks in the open top flat car? I expected a little soot, some ash and cinders sure, but I haven't been that filthy since I changed out exchanger tubes at the Bradford refinery! Everyone was covered in a fine, gritty, black mist.

    Dad isn't so keen on doing Cass now unless I did out that what happened is a very odd occurrence, same with Kari my fiancee, as she had a new purse and the Nikon SLR I bought her for Christmas.

    Any light y'all can shed on this dark mystery mist of misery would be most appreciated. It is a very long drive home trying not to scratch an itch and get more black in the car let me tell you.

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  2. tracktoo

    tracktoo TrainBoard Member

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    Get in a closed car or at least one with a roof.:) And if you're going open air a set of glasses can come in handy as well as clothes that can get dirty. A long sleeve light cotton work shirt over your regular dress might get it done.

    When you look at how steam engines run you'll see what happens. The air to support the fire is drawn up through the fire grates, right through the fire where it supplies the oxygen as well as absorbs the fire's heat (and soot);), then is drawn directly from the firebox, lengthwise through the boiler tubes, heating the water to steam, and finally is exhausted up the stack. What assures that flow direction is the cylinder exhaust routed up into the stack which creates a draft (that chuff sound and rhythmic puffs out of the stack that is so much a part of a steam loco), assuring all of that happens as planned. Soot from the burning coal plus condensing steam is... what you have all over you.;)
     
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2017
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  3. Jeepy84

    Jeepy84 TrainBoard Member

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    So that's normal? Even the conductor, fireman and engineer we're concerned with how much and how wet it was

    I would've liked to have stayed and found out more, but my diabetic father needed to eat lunch and we had quite the drive to make.

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  4. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    The more too much fuel the more soot. The colder it is outside, the more the steam condenses, though if it isn't very hot when it comes out of the cylinders that helps it condense too.

    So, yeah, the fireman will be interested to learn that his fire is sooty, meaning he's using plenty to too much fuel, but might not be that hot nevertheless.

    Normal? If it was totally normal, they wouldn't have been so interested.
     
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  5. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Staff Member

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    Was not as bad but did get plenty dirty on the Cumbres & Toltec once. A little dryer in the mountains of southern Colorado so did not have the wet soot problem as much.
    [​IMG]
     
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  6. Jeepy84

    Jeepy84 TrainBoard Member

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    So since the first part of the trip requires very little power due to gravity, and then it sat while we all took pictures and stretched our legs, combined with the temps being only in the fifties, and a rich fuel/air mix, black rain should be expected. I wonder if the crew not being as familiar with No 6 as they are the Climax might've had something to do with it too. Anyway, it's good to know for future reference that that does happen as a somewhat normal occurrence after all. Once things warmed, the rain did stop after all, so your explanations do make sense. I guess I was thinking more like petroleum exhaust water, even an idling engine gets warm enough to vaporize that water fairly quickly.

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  7. Doug Gosha

    Doug Gosha TrainBoard Member

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    Wet ash out of the stack means the fire isn't hot enough, I think.

    :D

    Doug
     
  8. tracktoo

    tracktoo TrainBoard Member

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    The coal matters, the equipment matters, and the fireman's skill matters. Here's a real neat video I found that adds a lot of understanding.


     
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  9. fitz

    fitz Staff Member

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    The fireman's skill is definitely a contributor. If the engine had been sitting all night or for a long time, and the engineer did not open the cylinder cocks to blow the condensed moisture out, not only did it spew real wet stuff, but lucky the cylinders didn't get damaged.
     
  10. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I knew an old head Milwaukee Road engineer. He ran their "N" class Mallets. His name for this condition was "slobber stack". I cannot recall how he described what caused it, but it was the fireman's technique causing that issue.
     
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  11. Jeepy84

    Jeepy84 TrainBoard Member

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    This is what I felt happened, was wasn't any release from them at all, on either side. Though I'm not exactly certain where on a Heisler they are located. That'd be a randgust question, haha

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  12. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    One on each side, about half way between the front truck and the cab, poking out and up at a 45 degree angle.
     
  13. Jeepy84

    Jeepy84 TrainBoard Member

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    So right on the cylinders, that's what I assumed but I wasn't sure if maybe they were piped to a different location. There is a lot of plumbing on those things.

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  14. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    Oh, you meant the cylinder cocks. I thought you meant the cylinders.

    I believe so. When you're venting steam to blow water out, the last thing you want is to duct it through a long pipe where it can re-condense.
     
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  15. Jeepy84

    Jeepy84 TrainBoard Member

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    Yeah. Thank you for the replies everyone. I think from here I can sell it as a freak occurrence and we'll be better prepared in our dress for Cass next season regardless.

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  16. Hytec

    Hytec TrainBoard Member

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    There is also the case where the fireman over fills the boiler with water. When this occurs the water level is too close to the dry pipe entrance and the sloshing water can be sucked into the dry pipe, cooling the steam, which then runs through the cylinders, and blown out the stack as wet steam.
     
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  17. Jeepy84

    Jeepy84 TrainBoard Member

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    I didn't see any steam being vented from the cylinder cocks, but this is good to know as well. Would explain the duration of the issue. Perhaps it was a combination of both.

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  18. Znewbie

    Znewbie TrainBoard Member

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    I don't know what causes it, but it used to be much more commonplace than it is now. I still have vivid memories of my father taking me in my pushchair, in the late sixties, to the metal footbridge over our local railway junction to watch the rusting old steam locos shunting in the goods yard- and whenever one of the passed under the footbridge, I'd get wet soot and ash all over my legs (I was wearing shorts) which I found highly hilarious and more than a little bit awesome, but my mother was usually horrified, telling my dad off, while she tried to scrub my legs clean! :D
     
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  19. fitz

    fitz Staff Member

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    Znewby, welcome to Trainboard. You too have experienced the wetting down by a steam locomotive. I am guessing from some of the terms used, that you reside in Great Britain.
     
  20. acptulsa

    acptulsa TrainBoard Member

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    That used to be a reliable indicator. But since the rise of Thomas the Tank Engine, you never know any more.
     

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