• Newbie - quick question on Steam Engine Yard creep

  • Discussion of steam locomotives from all manufacturers and railroads
Discussion of steam locomotives from all manufacturers and railroads

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  by fendercat
Hi All,

I wanted to ask the forum if anyone has heard of incidents in yards where a poorly attended steam locomotive has started to "creep" on its own? Reason I am asking is my grandfather was a mechanic on the Erie and worked routinely with steam engines. He loved to tell my mom the story of an engine plowing into his parked car one day as it had started to creep on it's own while it was being brought to full steam. Is that far-fetched or in the realm of possibility?

Thanks for any insight!

  by Allen Hazen
Sorry, can't give you any informative details or references, but I think it is in the realm of possibility. Steam locomotives were regularly "shut down" (throttle closed, brakes set, engineer off duty) hot: with maybe not the full operating steam pressure in the boiler, but more than enough steam to move the locomotive. (Bringing a large volume of water in the boiler up to boiling point would be time consuming and expensive -- think of the fuel you'd have to burn! -- so this made good sense: if the locomotive was wanted the next day, getting it ready for operation would be much easier and quicker.). If the throttle wasn't perfectly shut (think about how hard you have to turn a tap to keep it from dripping!), st3am could leak into the pipes carrying steam to the cylinders. Not much steam, so you wouldn't get a dramatic start-up, but sometimes enough to get the locomotive moving, slowly. ... At a guess, there would have been fine print somewhere in the rule book about putting wheel chocks down to prevent... embarrassment... but I think incidents like the one your grandfather told about did happen from time to time.