Steam Locomotive Operation

Discussion of steam locomotives from all manufacturers and railroads

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Steam Locomotive Operation

Postby EMD567 » Sat Mar 26, 2011 7:03 pm

I have done some online searching, but I have not really come up with much, so I am going to post my request here. I am a conductor (and locomotive engineer), and I work for a Class I, but I am interested in how various devices work on a steam locomotive, as well as steam locomotive operation in general (from a steam locomotive engineer's perspective). I already have the book "Suggested Unit Course in Locomotive Firing."

Does anyone know of any good online sources of information in regards to steam locomotive operation? Scans of older documents in PDF format are welcomed as well.

Thanks.
Joseph
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Re: Steam Locomotive Operation

Postby trapper » Fri Apr 01, 2011 10:13 pm

While i dont know of any internet source, i would suggest trying to get your hands on some books on the subject.
A couple that i have that are good are: " Basic Steam Locomotive Maintenance " by D.C. Buell. ( my copy is a reprint by
Rail Heritage Publications , Box 544 Omaha , NE 68101)

"New Catechism of The Steam Engine" by N. Hawkins, ME. printed by Audel & Co.

If you have a r.r. museum that operates steam locomotives near you, i would ask if they have a libary that you could
use or if any of the members have books on the subject.

Used book stores are worth checking out when you can also, that is where i have found most of what i have.

Maybe also contact the NRLHS and see if they might have resources that you could use.....

Good luck on your search...

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Re: Steam Locomotive Operation

Postby #7470 » Fri Apr 01, 2011 10:59 pm

I highly recommend the 1925 Locomotive Cyclopedia. It's about 1500+ pages of all parts of a steam locomotive, how they work, their purpose and their maintenance and repair. I asked this same question a few years ago and someone on this site told me what I am telling you. It is extremely helpful and you will learn a great deal about steam locomotives from it, albeit expensive. I got mine for $100 on ebay and that was a steal. Don't buy the Train Shed editions because they sell individual parts of the book. Trust me when I say once you get your hands on it you'll want all 1500 pages right away. I just checked ebay and didn't find one listed but they are fairly common their so keep checking.
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Re: Steam Locomotive Operation

Postby Marty Feldner » Sat Apr 02, 2011 8:28 pm

Loco Cycs are considered the bibles; published at roughly 5-10 year intervals.

1906 and 1925 were reprinted by Newton K. Gregg, and 1941 by Kalmbach. They should be available, new or used. Also, the 1922 is available on CD from Raildriver.com as well as a reproduction of a 1947 book, "Firing the Steam Locomotive" published by the Reading RR.

Cycs are also available at some libraries.
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Re: Steam Locomotive Operation

Postby railfan365 » Sat May 14, 2011 7:09 pm

This seems to be a suitable forum for one of my curiosities: It seems that a fireman's work on most steam locomotives involves helping the engineer to keep track of temperature and pressure gauages, and manually operated valaves, that are spread too far across the bulkhead for the engineer to keep track of everything while safely driving the train. Why is this? Can't the controls either be automated, or placed within easy reach for one person?
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Re: Steam Locomotive Operation

Postby Eliphaz » Sun May 15, 2011 8:32 am

The fireman is not the engineer's assistant.
The fireman's job is to make steam. That means putting water in the boiler and putting fuel in the furnace.
The engineers job is to operate the engine. That means putting steam to the engine and applying brake to the wheels.
Those are two full time jobs. all the necessary controls for each job are convenient to their respective work stations.

Automation was in a rudimentary state prior to 1950, when the last steam locomotives were built, even in stationary power plants of the time, and were certainly not appropriate for the locomotive environment.
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Re: Steam Locomotive Operation

Postby johnthefireman » Tue May 17, 2011 2:19 am

As a fireman, I have to agree with Eliphaz. The fireman's basic job is to provide the steam that makes the locomotive work, and to do so he must manage fire, steam pressure and water. In South Africa (and elsewhere?) the fireman also had specific safety-related duties, including confirming signals with the driver, as many signals are difficult to sight due to the boiler. Every aspect of a steam locomotive needs pretty constant attention, and in practice one man would not be able to do so alone.

Remember also that right up until the end of steam, most coal-burning locomotives in many countries were hand-fired.
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Re: Steam Locomotive Operation

Postby Eliphaz » Tue May 17, 2011 12:50 pm

by the way, the book the OP referred to is available on line here
http://www.railarchive.net/firing
Thanks to Richard Leonard.
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Re: Steam Locomotive Operation

Postby railfan365 » Thu May 19, 2011 8:02 pm

Eliphaz wrote:by the way, the book the OP referred to is available on line here
http://www.railarchive.net/firing
Thanks to Richard Leonard.

Thanks for the information - a chance to get more insight into exactly how the engine crew on most steamers had to work. (It so happens that I've read about the oil burning tank engines formerly operated by BEDT that were among the few steamers set up for operating by an engineer only.).
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Re: Steam Locomotive Operation

Postby GSC » Thu Jul 14, 2011 3:07 pm

Sinclair's books, especially "Locomotive Engine Running And Management" are excellent. A bit dated, they are from the late 1800s, but fascinating and full of what you are looking for.

I agree with the above posts, that fireman and engineer were two separate jobs. Some duties could overlap, such as the fireman keeping a look out ahead from his side, and the engineer watching the pressure and water levels. Two sets of eyes are always better than one.
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Re: Steam Locomotive Operation

Postby Steffen » Wed Oct 12, 2011 12:43 am

If somebody needs a view over the horizon, I can recommend to get following books:

Dirk Schwarze - Die Dampflokomotive
Leopold Niederstrasser - Leitfaden für den Dampflokomotivdienst

The former books are in german, but give us a deep insight in german steam locomotives. The book of Dirk Schwarze more on the basis of the DRG and later DR in germanys east territories after WW" and later the former german democratic republic.
The later on is for the german federal railways and was a guess for some few engineers as a quick reference book.
Huge informations one can find in reading the old DV948 and DV947 of the german federal railways, which took over the publications from the Deutsche Reichbahn Gesellschaft before WW2 and added a few things.
Both are manualls for maintainance and service - thus have much information about the parts and how they had to be handled in service and repair, but also give informations on how to operate those things in common day task out on the track.

Funny I found the book of Brian Topping - the engine drivers manual
It's simply written for british locomotives, and the really divert from german engines by construction and operation. Brian does not go to deep into detail, so for a hobbiest the book is well done, but for a real engine driver or fireman the book lacks some detailed information - but: It's a nice to have and the read, especially because of the typical british common task. Like things on: If a bearing isn't in order, go get a fitter... We in Germany don't seek a fitter, we take it on our self and try to fix it... there is no service personel around anymore :wink:
But it's nice and I really like it, because of the easy reading.

How can get, Andre Chapelons book - Locomotive en vapeur is a manifest! I hunt for it since many days and even a reprint has the same content, originals are not required. Andre published all his inventions, ideas and findings in this book and it a steam locomotive tuning guide!
Here you find all the things, to make it bigger, stronger and faster. This is were it all starts and there are translations in english out there, but I wasn't able to get one for myself - still only lend one a few days for quick reading.

David Wardals Book "Red Devil and other tales from the age of steam" is also a must read. It's not so detailed in "how to" but... it decribes the task on how Red Devil was build and on what basis the locomotive was build, as it shows, why this exciting engine was death, before it came into real service.
David does not write the book as a technical handbook, even if many technical details and how the work together are included - as also some very good technical details and examinations were presented - it's more the story on Red Devil, a exciting story told by a man, who called himself the wizards apprentice - as he build in the tunings of Chapelon and Livio Dante Porta into a Class 25NC of the south african railways.
This is the engineers bedtime storiesbook!!!
Allways keep two-thrid level in gauge and a well set fire, that's how the engineer likes a fireman
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Re: Steam Locomotive Operation

Postby johnthefireman » Wed Oct 12, 2011 1:12 am

In my collection I have Topping, Wardale and Chapelon. I also have some old manuals from steam days:

"Handbook for railway steam locomotive enginemen" - British Transport Commission - an original UK manual from 1957.

"Handbook on the Steam Locomotive for enginemen and running shed staff" - a 1956 original from South African Railways.

"Locomotive Management: Cleaning, Driving, Maintenance: Section 1" by Jas T Hodgson, a 1996 reprint of a 1939 edition.

"2-10-0 Austerity Engine and Tender - brief description with hints on maintenance and repair" - Ministry of Supply, a 2005 reprint of a 1945 edition. An interesting and rare piece of history - an "owner's manual" for a steam engine. Very few (if any?) other steam locos came with such a manual - it was apparently assumed that the railway company which designed and/or built them would know how to run and maintain them. A War Department Austerity engine would be used by all sorts of different companies and the military, so presumably that's why it has a manual - the poor squaddies would have been lost without orders to follow!

Some of these might be available on out of print books websites.
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Re: Steam Locomotive Operation

Postby johnthefireman » Thu Mar 08, 2012 9:13 am

Just remembered an internet resource - a 1944 US Locomotive Firing Course - http://www.railarchive.net/firing/index.html
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