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Steam & Excursion > Are steam engines ever put on "blocks" ??


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Date: 02/05/19 07:21
Are steam engines ever put on "blocks" ??
Author: Narniaman

Pondering how steam locomotives are rebuilt and maintained, I started wondering about something. . . 

Are steam locomotives ever "put on blocks" to do a dynamic inspection/adjustment of their running gear, similar to how car tires might be dynamically balanced on the car? 

In other words, "block" up the locomotive so the driving wheels are an inch or two of the rails -- and then fire it up, and apply enough steam to get the running gear "moving"?? 

If not -- how is an inspection of the running gear -- while in motion -- done??

 



Date: 02/05/19 07:39
Re: Are steam engines ever put on "blocks" ??
Author: SR2

Yes, they are at times "put on blocks", check out DMIR Yellowstone #227, part of the Lake Superior Railroad Museum's
collection.  It is on blocks, and every twenty minutes, "runs" in place.  You can see it in motion on YouTube, just
search for DMIR 227 and you will find several videos of the locomotive in motion.
SR2



Date: 02/05/19 07:49
Re: Are steam engines ever put on "blocks" ??
Author: HotWater

Narniaman Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Pondering how steam locomotives are rebuilt and
> maintained, I started wondering about something. .
> . 
>
> Are steam locomotives ever "put on blocks" to do a
> dynamic inspection/adjustment of their running
> gear, similar to how car tires might be
> dynamically balanced on the car? 
>
> In other words, "block" up the locomotive so the
> driving wheels are an inch or two of the rails --
> and then fire it up, and apply enough steam to get
> the running gear "moving"?? 
>
> If not -- how is an inspection of the running gear
> -- while in motion -- done??
 
Inspections "while in motion" are very simply done by the Engineer and Fireman. It is not hard to hear and/or feel various knocks/pounds/clanks, etc. while in operation, from the cab..



Date: 02/05/19 08:07
Re: Are steam engines ever put on "blocks" ??
Author: hawkinsun

I've seen photos of steam locomotives put up on blocks or cribbing to support them while doing work to the running gear, but I can't imagine them running one in such an unstable condition.  However I have read that ALCO had a stationary dynomometer that locos. were in fact run on.    In one instance I read where they were running one of the Milwaukee Roads new Hiawatha F-7 4-6-4s up to 120 mph on the dyno.   I would have loved to have seen that, but at a distance.  Imagine if your boss said to get in there close, and give it a few squirts of oil ?

Craig Hanson
Vay, Idaho



Date: 02/05/19 08:15
Re: Are steam engines ever put on "blocks" ??
Author: HotWater

To add additional thoughts on running a locomotive "up on blocks", remember that doing such a thing would provide absolutely NO load on the running gear, since the machinery would not be pulling anything. Thus, everything would be just "loose".

Also, remember that the PRR had a very elaborate "Test Plant" at their Altoona Shops facility, where an engine, i.e. without tender, was placed on floor mounted wheels which would provide a given load on the engine. Some of the "tests" lasted for many hours, with specially selected Engineer and Fireman called for the "test". Both fuel and water usage was very carefully weighed/measured during the "tests".



Date: 02/05/19 08:21
Re: Are steam engines ever put on "blocks" ??
Author: czuleget

The Emma Nevada at the Orange Empire is on Blocks now under going its resoration. 



Date: 02/05/19 10:10
Re: Are steam engines ever put on "blocks" ??
Author: BigEmma

The L&N had a slip track ( a track oiled so the engine wouldn’t move uncontrolled) to run in and inspect the running gear after an overhaul.



Date: 02/05/19 10:57
Re: Are steam engines ever put on "blocks" ??
Author: LarryDoyle

Or, do like the Milwaukee did, and just couple two engines face to face and tell the engineers to open their throttles.  Steam vs. electric, or steam vs. steam.  Theres ample photo documentation published, as well as this film clip from the 1934 movie Danger Lights.

-Larry Doyle  (My namesake is the guy in the suit with Jean Arthur)

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Date: 02/05/19 13:21
Re: Are steam engines ever put on "blocks" ??
Author: exprail

Here is a photo from years ago when the University of Illinios, at Champaign would test various locomotives in a special engineering building on their campus.

exprail




Date: 02/05/19 13:42
Re: Are steam engines ever put on "blocks" ??
Author: LarryDoyle

exprail Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Here is a photo from years ago when the University
> of Illinios, at Champaign would test various
> locomotives in a special engineering building on
> their campus.
>
> exprail

Perdue had one, too. Hence their team nickname "Boilermakets".

-LD



Date: 02/05/19 14:08
Re: Are steam engines ever put on "blocks" ??
Author: wcamp1472

YES...YES YES!!

The PRR had the Altoona Test Plant....installed about 1906..
Where engines from Early Atlantics, Americans, Pacifics, all the way up to the Q2...even some non-PRR RRs’ locos were tested.
( I think Purdue Univ also had an earlier, smaller version, too)

The PRR Test Plant was equipped to test their locos, sans tenders, on a ‘traction dynamometer’.
The pit under the locos was equipped with ‘water brakes’.  
These were drive-wheel axle-sets powering the water brakes, one pair of brakes, ( one at each end of the axle) per axle, whether driven axles, or non-turning truck axles.

There was an overhead crane that positioned the water brakes precisely at the axle centers of the loco type being tested.
The water brakes had blind ( no flanges) drive wheels.  The engines’s wheels sat on the brakes’ tread test-axles.  
The brake wheels had a profile that reproduced the head of common rails, in use out in the road. The entry rails leading over the pit carried only the wheel flanges.  The dead test-engines were slowly pushed into position, and the Test Plant drawbars were connected to a physical weight-scale to measure and record drawbar pull in thousands of pounds: the true Traction Dynanometer.

Together with a driver axle tachometer, the two readings gave you the gross drawbar horse power generated.   
The water brakes were circular pressure chambers that contained a fixed set of copper disks and a driven, rotating set of copper disks.  The testing crews regulated the input water pressure to the brakes and manually squeezed to outlet valves down to apply a constant retarding force.  The cold water cooled the spine copper brakes,  The whole scheme was analogus to the common Diesel engine load-box testing devices.  Only here, instead of power being directly measurable in electric kilowatts, the draft forces
( in pounds)  coupled with the driver RPMs, gave you the horsepower produced.  
( Pounds of drawbar force TIMES driver axle speed in RPMs and tread speed, in feet/minute...)

The PRR test plant was used for testing a wide variety of loco components from fuel of various coal mines, to lubricants,
to superheaters’ performance, to valve gears proportions, to stoker designs, to exhaust-nozzle configurations, as well as
gross-horsepower actually produced —- all in a 60-MPH, stationary test lab.    

The noise was absolutely DEAFENING ..  Imagine a Thundering M1....pounding at 70-MPH...all the while being stationary inside a building....for hours on-end ...as they measured  ALL variables—- the PULSE  of the thundering Iron Steed—- the amount of coal burned the amount of steam produced, the water consumed, the superheater temps...probably over hundred variables all collected, collated and studied.  Each separate test generated a complete Altoona Test Plant, Test Report, —- describing the test,
the test’s purpose, the testing arrangement, the complete reports of the individual tests performed while the loco was in the Laboratory.

A complete description of The PRR Altoona Test Plant, is contained in the Kalmbach Book: “Apex of the Atlantics”,  by Fred Westing ( out of print?) It’s the story of how the PRR Test Plant was designed, and how it fathered the wonderful E6s class 4-4-2, to the pinnacle of Pacifcs, the K4s,
To the Marvelous M1 classes.  
Grab a copy and read it !!!. It’s the key, and primary, book in my library of steam loco books.

I got to visit the Test plant in 1964, immediately after it had been gutted, and ready for demolition.  
I got there ( Thanksgiving weekend) just before they removed the gons of scrap iron.  The testing apparatus was in three gons of scrap iron, standing on the track leading to the gutted building .....  
It was one of the saddest sights of my life...it seared an indelible image onto my brain.
That image can still generate nightmares.  I took 2 1/4 X 2 1/4, b&w pics of what I found.... I haven’t looked at them since..

Maybe it’s about time?

Wes Camp

 



Edited 6 time(s). Last edit at 02/05/19 15:56 by wcamp1472.



Date: 02/05/19 16:19
Re: Are steam engines ever put on "blocks" ??
Author: sgriggs

Wes,

Thank you for the detailed description of the Altoona Test Plant. I have a number of the reports (Q2, T1, K4, L1, and numerous older types and equipment tests).  They are a gold mine of information for those interested in the real engineering data behind steam locomotive performance.  I will definitely look for ‘The Apex of the Atlantics’ to add to my library.  If you could bring yourself to dig them up and post them, I know I would be very interested to see your 1964 photos of the plant in its last days.

Scott Griggs
Louisville, KY



Date: 02/05/19 16:27
Re: Are steam engines ever put on "blocks" ??
Author: wcamp1472

It’d be fun to see them again

W.



Date: 02/05/19 16:55
Re: Are steam engines ever put on "blocks" ??
Author: bioyans

Only if they are left in a really bad neighborhood ... ;-)

Posted from Android



Date: 02/05/19 18:50
Re: Are steam engines ever put on "blocks" ??
Author: MaryMcPherson

LarryDoyle Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Or, do like the Milwaukee did, and just couple two
> engines face to face and tell the engineers to
> open their throttles.  Steam vs. electric, or
> steam vs. steam.  Theres ample photo
> documentation published, as well as this film clip
> from the 1934 movie Danger Lights.
>
> -Larry Doyle  (My namesake is the guy in the suit
> with Jean Arthur)

Cool film!  Have it on DVD.  Somehow though, I don't think that climbing out of the cab window at speed with a cup of water is how you deal with a hotbox in the trailing truck!

Also, I looked up DM&IR 227 on the site that must not be named...  what a monster!

Mary McPherson
Dongola, IL
Diverging Clear Productions



Date: 02/05/19 18:51
Re: Are steam engines ever put on "blocks" ??
Author: wcamp1472

You might be a red-neck, if your engine is up on blocks...

With aplologies to Jeff Foxworthy..

( I couldn’t help it🤪).

W.



Date: 02/05/19 18:55
Re: Are steam engines ever put on "blocks" ??
Author: MaryMcPherson

wcamp1472 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> You might be a red-neck, if your engine is up on
> blocks...
>
> With aplologies to Jeff Foxworthy..
>
> ( I couldn’t help it🤪).
>
> ​W.

NASCAR bumper stickers are also in the mix somehow...

Mary McPherson
Dongola, IL
Diverging Clear Productions



Date: 02/05/19 19:58
Re: Are steam engines ever put on "blocks" ??
Author: Trainhand

I bet there were serious rail burns after that scene.



Date: 02/05/19 23:35
Re: Are steam engines ever put on "blocks" ??
Author: SP4360

Buster Keaton had the right idea.



Date: 02/06/19 05:16
Re: Are steam engines ever put on "blocks" ??
Author: zoohogger

Check out the look on Jean Arthur’s face when she realizes that they will be late for dinner, again, because the trains are more important.

Most of us married men have seen that look.

Rick Z



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