I find the statements in this post & the one by Baob May a great slur
on the many thousands of enginemen around the world who worked on steam
in their particular country. As a fireman in the last 8 years of
regular steam in NSW I have had first hand experience, & enough
practice to have an idea of what I am talking about. During that time,
& following the demise of regular workings I also worked several tour
trains, during the 1970's.
It is easy to make statements such as this, based upon the theory of
steam locomotive driving & fireing. The reality is that in so many
cases the reality & theory were poles apart. Many engines did not have
the amount of attention that the preserved one of today have, in fact I
would suggest that they may have had the same amount over a year that
the preserved ones get after each trip.
Yes, the theory of fireing stated, that blowing off was a waste of
steam & water, as was the emittion of black smoke considered poor
firing practice. However, with some engines, it was remarkable to get
them towards a full head of steam, let alone blowing off. Many
elements were at play when working on steam, not the least coal
quality, & even water quality played a large part.
Likewise the statement Stuff liike the heavy deposits from steam are
something only seen on locos that use a lot (abusive lot) of water
conditioning chemicals and just came in from a run where the loco was
basically abused by the road crew
Another offensive remark, how can a crew abuse an engine when
prevailing water conditions are not in the control of enginemen.
Depots in bad water areas had additives to protect the internals of the
boiler, but often at great expense of the external condition of the
engine. I would suggest that not only are the comments a slur, but
totally slap at the face of ignorance in reality. Or perhaps it may
well be to the benefit of the writers, to understand that different
conditions operate in different countries.
Likewise different conditions operate in the same country, one only has
to look at China today & view the steam situation there. In most
railroads the crews take a lot of pride in their engines but others
look worse than anything I can remember here in NSW. Crews have their
own engines in many cases, & its part of their employment conditons to
clean them during breaks in work. This I have witnessed at
Pingdingshan, Meihekou, Tiefa At Daban there were cleaners doing the
duties, of wiping down the engines following being coaled.
Having read this sort of thing I wonder what real experience the
writers have had in the real world of locomotive operation.
I would share with you some examples, that I was involved in, on 3
different lines radiating out of Sydney. & one of them was not an
uncommon plite on some engines.
Working out of Broadmeadow depot one had the benefit of the best
steaming coal supplied to locomotives, one problem however often
croppped up with garratts, & that was obtaining sufficient ash bed on
the grate area. Being such a volatile coal, if you had small dusty
coal it was impossible, & it was not uncommon for an engine to "stick
up" owing to a black bed of unburnt coal.
When starting out of Broadmeadow with a full load, there was a need
with these engines to have an intense fire, to ensure all parts of the
firebox was hot, for the standing start, on the heavy grade. It was
not uncommon to stop mid way where there was a levelling out of the
grade, to blow up before proceeding on. In fact it was rare day indeed
that no train did not stop to blow up.
A consequence of the Northern coal on garratts meant that you almost
certainly had a good deal of black smoke, for without it, you would not
make the grade. On one occassion I had a tender full of very powdery
coal, good on the hills, but very smoky, However on the last leg of
steaming before reaching Gosford, as I began to build the fire up, the
driver opened the regulator very sharply, & without any any warning to
At the particular spot, all decent drivers, would check with you to
ensure everything was ok, especially with the quality of coal we had.
This bloke didn't, as a consequence, he lifted all of the front half of
the fire out the stack, despite asking him 5 times to stop & get things
in order, he refused, & finally we stopped after the air pump stopped
for lack of steam, & we had no lights as the dynamo also stopped.
Checking then there was no water in sight in the gauge glasses & we
stopped there for around 30minutes getting steam & water to continue. I
copped a huge amount of abuse from him, but he copped the final blame
owing to his refusal to stop. Instead of 5 minutes lost time after the
first request, & we would have up the time lost.
The 2nd time was during what was called steams indian summer on the
south from sydney. The regular driver I was rostered with was a driver
not a drover like the afore mentioned one. On this particular night we
had a 36 cl on the intial opening of the regulator to start our train
from Enfield yard a roar came from the firebox, upon hearing this, we
got the fitters to check it out, & they advised that there may be some
problem with the elements, but the engine was ok to continue.
Despite this problem we encountered no problems until we reached the
2nd watering point & where the fire was cleaned. After leaving that
location thee engine died on us, no mater what we did, we could not
make steam with the injectors going, both of us took turns in fireing &
working both injectors, to try & keep going, after about 15 miles
whilst I was fireing the engine blew off, & I was given the thumbs up &
felt quite proud until, my driver said look at the water. The amount
showing in the gauge was below half full, & a visual showed the
injector had dropped off, & none was getting to the boiler, upon
resetting the injector the steam dropped very quickly, & we then
proceeded on a stop start situation. Alternating steam getting & water
getting in momentum.
The 3rd occassion was working another garratt over the blue mountains
on a tour train. The coal on the engine was from a mine near Sydney,
good steaming, heavier, & with a higher ash content than northern. On
the main 1/33 grade, a good head of steam at around 80% of boiler
pressure was maintained with a low to medium level of smoke working
against one injector. This was sufficient steam for the train as it
was relatively short, but owing to the load being the full goods load
for a garrat, close attention was needed on the steam & water.
There were several spots where the 2 injectors were required, & that
required the stoke to be turned up, to feed more coal, thus black smoke
These are a very small smaple of my experiences, & no doubt others
would have had more dramatic ones. Engines ex workshops that were in
pristine condition, were hard not to stop them from blowing off.
Re colours: One thing to note regarding black. Black is not a colour,
black is what is deemed as being devoid of any colour. Check out
graphic, & media points in this regard.
NSWGR railways, generally used what was called "Engine Black" from
Eveleigh & Cardif workshops, this was also used in depots such as
Enfield when they painted engines after vaious workshop type overhauls,
& tone ups Broadmeadow, usually only painted the smokeboxes on engines
they overhauled & toned up. Chullora used a different paint, which
was more in keeping with a commercial gloss paint.
Engine black, was a very thin paint, especially designed for steam
loco's. The one big exception to this was on 3823 when it received a
class 3 overhaul at Enfield. Upon near completion, there was no engine
black in store to paint before being released for sevice. The DLE
Enfield obtained permission to purchase locally sufficient DULUX High
Gloss enamel paint, which was sprayed on very generously. The engine
looked pristine, the best I have ever seen painted.
Whe we think of weathering steam loco's, the thrust of the weathering,
is very dependant on the region where the engine worked, & in many
cases the service it/they received. Water stains, were very evident,
from areas, where steam leaks came from, regulator glands, safety
valves, whistles, compressor exhausts, injector clack valves & spindle
assemblies. Ash was in evidence in the areas from the ash pans. Many
tenders had water leaks from the under the main tender walls & ran down
over the frame.
There was often a wash mark over the tenders, even those with overflow
holes, as they often could not cope with the amount of water coming out
of the column. Now before there is another slur on this, about the
waste & ineficient enginemen, many coloumns were very difficult to open
& close, especially those that did not have a lot of use. drains holes
also were often blocked with coal that had manged to get washed down,
or fall off the tender when in transit. Rust was common in the corners
& on the edges of the tank filling area. As a result of coal, & cinder
build up in this region the absorbed & held in the water, not just from
the overflow of the tender being filled, but from the deck hose being
used to wet the coal in transit.
The wash over tenders, etc. was very evident of garrats, as water
overflow was unavoidable woing to the need to fill both tanks. The
balancing act of the water going through the expansion hoses, mostly
could not cope with the amount of flow from the column. This meant a
lot of patience, in watering these engines, when on a grade, with the
water tank leading, a slow flow allowed the both tanks to fill at a
nice rate. Usually the driver would check the tender & see how the
flow was comming through, if the hatch was open, you could get a better
flow, but could waste more water. It was very common to see water
washing out of the front tank after a fill, & this left a distinctive
Another point of weathering that was often seen was, coal wash down the
side of the tender. All depots that had the large coal stages, & were
in proximity to residential houses, were required to have water running
over the coal as tenders were filled. Thus there was a a sludge like
overflow og water, & fine coal from the top of the tender down. One
other thing often missed is, coal peieces stuck in the tender had
rails, also coal spilt on the back of the tender.
What about some cinders, on the front beam left over from the smokebox