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Steam & Excursion > This Was The Terrible End To This Locomotive & Perhaps Her Crew!


Date: 04/06/20 03:25
This Was The Terrible End To This Locomotive & Perhaps Her Crew!
Author: LoggerHogger

The dangers of steam motive power was present no matter what the railroad application was, large or small, or even a construction company, as we see here.

This tragic boiler explosion sealed the fate of Columbia Construction Co 3-truck Shay #1204 in the early 1940's.  She was working on the companies jetty job out of Illwaco, Washington when she suffered a low water event that caused her crown sheet to let go suddenly with the horrible results that we see here.

Built in 1920 by Lima for logging service in Washington State, #1204 was eventually sold to the Columbia Construction Co. and put to work on their construction jobs.  In 1940 she was sent though the Milwaukee shops in Tacoma, Washington and completely rebuilt prior to being shipped to Illwaco for the jetty job there.  She had only been there barely 2 years when she suffered this, fatal to her, and likely that of her crew too, boiler explosion.

The other investigation photos that accompanied those shown here show detail photos of both her injectors and her water glass and tri-cocks.  Clearly the investigators were trying to determine just why her water in her boiler was allowed to get so low as to cause the explosion seen here.  We may never know if this was crew failure or equipment failure.

Martin



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 04/06/20 03:45 by LoggerHogger.








Date: 04/06/20 05:09
Re: This Was The Terrible End To This Locomotive & Perhaps Her Cr
Author: Arved

Most of the photos of boiler explosions I've seen, the boiler becomes detached from the frame and cab. There are stories of the boiler being blown a mile or more down the track. This shay probably didn't have the 300 psi of some of the biggest and most powerful steam engines. But still, that energy had to go somewhere, and it looks like down, rocketing the loco off the tracks was it.

Survival seem unlikely, but that begs the question - did any crew, ever, survive a crown sheet failure leading to a boiler explosion?

I know the SP had fusible plugs in the crown sheet. If it got too hot, they'd melt and the steam would rush in to extinguish the flame in the firebox. Might have saved the loco, but surely blew the fire into the cab - what a horrific and gruesome way to go.

Arved Grass
Fleming Island, FL
Arved Grass



Date: 04/06/20 06:08
Re: This Was The Terrible End To This Locomotive & Perhaps Her Cr
Author: wcamp1472

Drop plugs were not large-volume discharge devices....

Around 3/4” inch.... once dropped,
the steam expanding in the firebox
Pretty much destroyed the draft provided by the exhaust up the stack...

Firing & Running the engine under steam was still possible... if lightly loaded... It is very difficult to get a hot fire with virtually NO draft..

But you could limp to the roundhouse with one or two blowing ... but EVERYBODY knew about it!!

The big advantage was that there is no way to stop them blowing, without a total cool-down of the boiler in a shop... etc.

A crew that brought a loco to the
‘Turn-in’ track...,was pretty much guilty, with no excuses...

Disciplinary action always followed.. and the Company always prevailed in the time-off ruling...

Crews often went directly to the Division Superintendent to plead for
Leniency—- rather than rely on Union representation..

Typically, superintendents were
Likely to suspend crews for shorter
Periods, than the ‘investigation ‘ route... The whole crew was liable
For the indisputable low water event ...

The drop plugs ( still available today for non loco purposes ) have a soft-solder secured physical ‘plug’...
if the solder melts, the brass plug drops... filling the firebox with a steady stream of blowing steam.
Locos had/have multiple drop plugs...

Even today, Loco inspection rules require the removal and cleaning of the plug’s threads Projecting into the water space...

Calcium and other minerals can coat the the portion of the plug extending into the water space...

If too much accumulation of mud, salts and calcium builds-up on the threads of the brass drop plugs,
the plugs can over-heat ( no longer
‘cooled’ by the water..) and they can drop out prematurely...

On the 30-day boiler inspection form ( on drop plug equipped locos)
there is a signature line attesting to
fact that the plugs were removed and cleaned —— on that date..
Even today’s 30 days of service rules requires drop plugs to be removed and cleaned, attested...

Typically, back in the day, the inspectors simply took cleaned plugs into the firebox and did a change-out of the existing plugs..
The boiler-shop crew maintained
The supply of cleaned drop plugs, as well as a documentation log of the serial numbers applied and removed, by loco and date...
In case of any questions...

At a formal investigation proceeding, the roundhouse workers could be witnesses
for the management ... in formal testimony... as to the fact that the dropped plugs ( in question) were
clean at the time of installation..

The main safety advantage of drop
plugs is that they dropped out on
“low - water” conditions... the crown sheet didn’t have to go virtually ‘dry’, but with low water over the crown sheet, the low-temp melt-out plug would fail on “very low water” conditions ( as opposed to a ‘dry’
Crown sheet) .. saving boilers and lives ... a terrific advantage !!!!

In today’s world, if it was up
to me, in the case of a dropped plug incident, I would permanently remove the sloppy crew from loco service , and give a new crew a fresh chance, and move up the roster..

And, I would add documentation to the personnel files... public safety trumps ‘confidentiality’ concerns!!!

W.

Posted from iPhone



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 04/06/20 07:21 by wcamp1472.



Date: 04/06/20 06:20
Re: This Was The Terrible End To This Locomotive & Perhaps Her Cr
Author: Arved

Thanks for the reply. I learned a lot from it.


 

Arved Grass
Fleming Island, FL
Arved Grass



Date: 04/06/20 06:41
Re: This Was The Terrible End To This Locomotive & Perhaps Her Cr
Author: wcamp1472

I have often wondered why drop safety plugs were not applied to coal burners....

My best guess is that the destruction of the draft was so complete, that it back-drafted
the coal fire—- & immediately extinguishing the fire.. resulting
In a stalled train..blocking tracks, etc...

You CAN continue to force oil fired
(With only a couple of plugs blowing), Engines which can keep a flame—- at least enough to limp home, by its own power...

Wes..

Posted from iPhone



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/06/20 07:36 by wcamp1472.



Date: 04/06/20 09:21
Re: This Was The Terrible End To This Locomotive & Perhaps Her Cr
Author: PHall

wcamp1472 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I have often wondered why drop safety plugs were
> not applied to coal burners....
>
> My best guess is that the destruction of the draft
> was so complete, that it back-drafted
> the coal fire—- & immediately extinguishing the
> fire.. resulting
> In a stalled train..blocking tracks, etc...
>
> You CAN continue to force oil fired
> (With only a couple of plugs blowing), Engines
> which can keep a flame—- at least enough to limp
> home, by its own power...
>
> Wes..
>
> Posted from iPhone

So did UP 4014 and 3985 have drop safety plugs installed when they converted from coal to oil fuel?
Or did they have them as coal burners too.



Date: 04/06/20 10:18
Re: This Was The Terrible End To This Locomotive & Perhaps Her Cr
Author: wcamp1472

Same question to the 844... what year did 844 get converted to burn oil..?
Are there drop safety plugs in it's  crown?
Wasn't the crown renewed in the 2000s,  by "Wasatch"?
( they would know... probably the best)..

As an 'eastern fan', I cannot comment knowledgeably.

IF it was me, I WOULD DEFINITELY have DROP SAFETY PLUGS...applied to any
loco that would be converted, if under my direction.  And, I would have sufficient quantity
of spares, to perform regular change-outs, and would be re-cycling the set(s)...

Its such a simple safety addition.  The loco builders used multiple plugs, according to
the "square footage" of the crown... typically, spaced closer to the front flue sheet ,
evenly distributed.

Wes C.

[ To the best if my knowledge, The application of drop safety plugs in oil burners was 
never a legal requirement;  only THAT, if equipped, they must be maintained, and documented..)




 



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 04/06/20 10:23 by wcamp1472.



Date: 04/06/20 10:59
Re: This Was The Terrible End To This Locomotive & Perhaps Her Cr
Author: HotWater

wcamp1472 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Same question to the 844... what year did 844 get
> converted to burn oil..?

I believe it was 1945 or 1946. She didn't spend very much time as a coal burner.

> Are there drop safety plugs in it's  crown?

No.

> Wasn't the crown renewed in the 2000s,  by
> "Wasatch"?

Not by Wasatch, by by the Hawaiian Boiler outfit of Matt Austin, from 2000 thru 2004, returning to service in 2005.

> ( they would know... probably the best)..
>
> As an 'eastern fan', I cannot comment
> knowledgeably.
>
> IF it was me, I WOULD DEFINITELY have DROP SAFETY
> PLUGS...applied to any
> loco that would be converted, if under my
> direction.  And, I would have sufficient
> quantity
> of spares, to perform regular change-outs, and
> would be re-cycling the set(s)...
>
> Its such a simple safety addition.  The loco
> builders used multiple plugs, according to
> the "square footage" of the crown... typically,
> spaced closer to the front flue sheet ,
> evenly distributed.
>
> Wes C.
>
> [ To the best if my knowledge, The application of
> drop safety plugs in oil burners was 
> never a legal requirement;  only THAT, if
> equipped, they must be maintained, and
> documented..)

To my knowledge the UP had no steam locomotives equipped with "drop plugs". The SP sure had lots, and LOTS of locomotives equipped with them, however.



Date: 04/06/20 11:07
Re: This Was The Terrible End To This Locomotive & Perhaps Her Cr
Author: Klondyke

In the United Kingdom, locomotives were almost exclusively coal fired, and most all had fusible plugs. There were 122 boiler explosions in the 19th century, 15 in the 20th of which only 8 were due to low water level. Is this a tribute to the efficacy of fusible plug? I am no expert, but current opinion of those who are is ‘No’., although in today's safety culture they are obviously still mandatory, and there is a 10 page memo on the subject approved by Government regulators by the Group which oversees the tens of locomotives at work on preserved  and main lines each weekend.

The reason given for the scepticism as to their value comes from the fact that when they fuse, the escape of steam may be inaudible or unrecognised. This is exemplified by  one case in 1948, when an experienced crew, who knew there was a problem with the gauge glasses and had taken reasonable steps to check things out, heard escaping steam when running. They were satisfied by the water level readings they had, and did not recognise the leak was in the firebox. The loco travelled 30 miles up 1% gradients in this condition, and made an intermediate stop, so the fire was not all quenched. Full report here:

http://www.railwaysarchive.co.uk/documents/MoT_Lamington1948.pdf
(The comments on time keeping in the 5th paragraph may raise a wry smile).
 
Another case had a badly fitted gauge glass

Perhaps a more telling statistic is that three of the 8 occurrences happened in quick succession on USATC 2-8-0s sent to help the war effort. These were fitted with single gauge glasses of the Klinger type which were unfamiliar to local crews and if not treated properly gave misleading readings. This caused the explosions. (Latet UK designs had dual glasses)..

So crews watched the gauge glasses and believed them, and took good care of them when they knew how.

How many instances there were of lives saved through the operation of fusible plugs is not known. But all of this says to me that a  century of explosion mayhem meant that 20th century crews knew their lives depended on the reliable gauge glasses, and their good safety record in this respect was down to them paying them due respect, as much as fusible plugs.
 



Date: 04/06/20 14:09
Re: This Was The Terrible End To This Locomotive & Perhaps Her Cr
Author: steamfan759

I have even seen 1-1/2" scale live steam locomotives that were equipped with fusible plugs.  I am going back a long time ago, but a group of friends built a number of Reading 0-4-0 Camelbacks and they all had fusbile plugs.  Someone was running one and ran low on water and it did its job and put out the fire.  The owner of the locomotive kept some spare plugs and soon had the matter taken care of.  This is why you have to be careful when training a newbie on the proper manner on how to fire and how to maintain water at all costs.  The same principles apply that Wes talked about!

Ron



Date: 04/06/20 14:30
Re: This Was The Terrible End To This Locomotive & Perhaps Her Cr
Author: wcamp1472

We were using a rented, newer steam cleaner ...on RR property ( CNJ, Bethlehem  Engine Terminal) ,
when we ran out of kerosene, so we put in #2 diesel...BIG MISTAKE...

In under a minute the fusible plug blew... we shut the machine OFF very quickly ..

Ross, or somebody got a replacement plug from the rental Co. + fresh kerosene...

That was the LAST time we tried THAT trick !!! ..

Stilts...




Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 04/06/20 14:32 by wcamp1472.



Date: 04/06/20 15:41
Re: This Was The Terrible End To This Locomotive & Perhaps Her Cr
Author: heatermason

Martin:  Do you happen to know the Lima construction # of this locomotive?  The Shay Locomotives website shows a Columbia Construction Company #1024 (Lima #3116) at Ilwaco but not a #1204.  In fact the website does not show Columbia Construction owning that number unless it also carried another....

Thanks,  Timothy



Date: 04/07/20 03:00
Re: This Was The Terrible End To This Locomotive & Perhaps Her Cr
Author: LoggerHogger

Tim,

She was Lima #3148.  She was re-numbered from #4 to #1204 when she went to the Ilwaco job.

Martin



Date: 04/09/20 08:49
Re: This Was The Terrible End To This Locomotive & Perhaps Her Cr
Author: randgust

Interesting shot.  Seems like every crown sheet failure shot I've seen ends up with the boiler launching vertically or horizontally, often with the locomotive frame still sitting on the rails.  The Shay shot obviously blew out the bottom of the grates and launched the entire locomotive vertically up and off the rails.   But the boiler is still in place on the frame.   It even looks like that might be the crown sheet sticking out the bottom of the firebox...maybe...



Date: 04/09/20 09:18
Re: This Was The Terrible End To This Locomotive & Perhaps Her Cr
Author: LoggerHogger

That is the crownsheet that we see coming partly out of the firebox.  The engine simple was blown over to the engineer's side since the weight of the cylinders cause her to roo over to that side.

Martin



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