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Steam & Excursion > We’ll never see it, but I’d improve the grates arrangement..


Date: 01/08/22 08:16
We’ll never see it, but I’d improve the grates arrangement..
Author: wcamp1472

In the video and sound clip of 611 climbing Blue Ridge Summit, ( Mary McPherson's video 
dedicated to Keystone1, below) it's as good as O. Winston Link's records...

Its up hill, it's a heavy train and it's a J!

In my experience and observations I'm confused as to why the Js make black smoke
so readily.   Normally, under such drafting conditions, you could expect the highest 
temperatures and the hottest fires..... SO HOT, THAT ALL THE RELEASED CARBON
GETS CONSUMED IN THE FIREBOX!

The most reasonable explanation is ( my memory) that the N&W stuck with table grates,
or rosebud grates.  These are flat grate segments with a small number of finger sized holes
for air supply to the firebed.   The table grates probably had total hole areas of 25% of the
grate's area.

On many 'modern' coal fired engines, like NKP Berks, they were equipped with 'finger grates'.
These grates were made of individual grate bars carrying loose fitting 'fingers' with center mounts,
resting  on the grate bars. that allowed them them to freely rock and rattle with the gyrations
of the engines.  The total air flow area with finger grates was probably 33% or greater.

Finger grates have a free air-flow pattern about 50% greater air flow into the firebed of
comparable 'table' grates. There were two patented, finger designs that were manufactured:
solid individual fingers & the ​more complex 'vented' fingers.  ( I forget the Brand names)...

On the Berks, when properly 'loaded'. --- pulling 50 freight cars or more-- the NKP crews typically
fired the engines with a generous 'heel' across the back of the grates ( to hold back the violent
cold drafts from burning-out the  rear of the firebox) ---- and sending cold air into the firebox.  
About the front 80% of the grates carried a broad, thin firebed of burning coals ..evenly distributed.  
With the stoker 50% or more, (with a steady, high-velocity draft), burnt in mid-air, before disappearing
into the flues and tubes..

The bed burns at a white-hot flame that combusts 100% of the carbon-gas  ( down to CO2)
entirely witnin the firebox volume---thus, no black  smoke .... if under a steady, stong draft.  
Under such conditions, it's physically 'hard" to get the engines to produce black smoke.  
That easily happens with light trains and flat, to down-hill drafting.

The Js seem to easily produce black smoke almost all the time.  I attribute that to
oxygen-starvation, compared to the volume of released free-carbon  ....as. a result
of staying with out-moded grate designs of the 1920s.

( With poor quality coal, you don't get the rapid release of carbon; but, burning GOOD coal
like N&W 'Pocahontas' burning coal releases so much free-carbon,  more than the available oxygen...)

One disadvantage we found with Berk '759, was the tendencsy to have a few broken
grate fingers ---they'd break at the weakest point where they rested on tge grate bars,
like maybe 6 or 7 at boiler-wash times ---- every 30 days.   We contracted with Strasburg RR,
and their local Amish iron-casting foundries, to buy a couple of pallet loads of new 'fingers' --
- that were perfect fits for the original  grate fingers.

So, in this clip, the fire has been strongly drafted all the way up the hill, and this far-up,
with a hot fire, we see black smoke and lower firebox temps.   It not the fault of the firing crew,
it's a built-in characteristic from the designers. and a build-up of the deeper ash firebed.
( A deeper ash firebed, restricts the free flow of oxygen --- to the flames--even further...).

If I had the opportunity, I'd take advantage of the iron casting skills in Lancaster and convert
the 611 with finger grates.....similar to the Reading T-1s....2100, 2101, 2102 & 2124...

Then , after a fight like J was doing in the video...instead of cresting the hill, black-smoking,
the stack would be a light gray, and the pops 'on the feather'..(. just prior to popping wide-open..).
The stoker-screw would barely be barely turning, & a white-hot firebox ...instead of bright orange... 
almost 750F superheat...and blue-tinted piston rods...( with virtually no unburned carbon out
the stack...)

Not likely to happen in our lifetime.

W.



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 01/08/22 14:37 by wcamp1472.



Date: 01/08/22 09:34
Re: We’ll never see it, but I’d improve the grates arrangemen
Author: gregscholl

Not to argue over the mechanical aspects in your piece, but there are other factors.

(1) In the old days, say 1956 N&W big shots were strict about no black smoke since it meant waste.  There is the one instance at Rural Retreat around 1957 where O. Winston Link was shooting a night scene(Also the church Christmas Music).  There was black smoke and link had them back the revenue train up and do it again with only white steam.  Trains were generally shorter in the regular service days.  Sometimes on the west end of the N&W where we were, they were smoking a bit cause of Batavia Hill.

(2) 2016 on Blue Ridge Grade was a 20-25 coach train, far more than would be run in regular service.  Also its hard to know for sure how exact the restoration was in these regards compared to the old in-service days.

Here is my shot from Labor Day Weekend of 1982.  Same spot where Mary has her video, except we are inside the curve where the sun was,  Nils Huxtrable was right there with me, and I believe his shot was on the cover of "Steam Spirit", a book he and Tom Schultz put together for the NS Steam Excursion program to sell.  Anyone remember that book.

https://www.gregschollvideo.com/images/nwearly.jpg

Greg



Date: 01/08/22 09:49
Re: We’ll never see it, but I’d improve the grates arrangemen
Author: HotWater

Just my opinion but, I'm pretty sure that one of the main factors of the "black smoke", in that video posted below, was cause by the crappy coal being used. Back when the N&W J class locomotives were in regular passenger service, the N&W used the highest BTU, finest quality, Pocahontas coal available. They, the N&W then NS, also used that same high quality coal during the first years of excursion service with 611 and the 1218. The coal subsequently provided for the NKP 765 "21st Century Steam Program" was NOT very good, and the 765 crews had a hell of a time firing 765 with that "NS provided" coal. 



Date: 01/08/22 10:10
Re: We’ll never see it, but I’d improve the grates arrangemen
Author: gregscholl

HotWater Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Just my opinion but, I'm pretty sure that one of
> the main factors of the "black smoke", in that
> video posted below, was cause by the crappy coal
> being used. Back when the N&W J class locomotives
> were in regular passenger service, the N&W used
> the highest BTU, finest quality, Pocahontas coal
> available. They, the N&W then NS, also used that
> same high quality coal during the first years of
> excursion service with 611 and the 1218. The coal
> subsequently provided for the NKP 765 "21st
> Century Steam Program" was NOT very good, and the
> 765 crews had a hell of a time firing 765 with
> that "NS provided" coal. 

I agree.  Was going to mention that but forgot. Have heard the crews don't care much for the current coal, but not much they can do about it.
Remember when N&W was a coal hauling railroad?  Boy how times have changed!
Greg
 



Date: 01/08/22 10:21
Re: We’ll never see it, but I’d improve the grates arrangemen
Author: wcamp1472

"" > Here is my shot from Labor Day Weekend of 1982...."

Re: That 'cover' picture:

THAT'S a hot fire !!
Mostly steam in the exhaust, nice gray coal smoke...
Very hot fire...

Thats what you want to see...

W.



Date: 01/08/22 12:31
Re: We’ll never see it, but I’d improve the grates arrangemen
Author: wcamp1472

In my experience, 'lousy coal' typically meant 
a low proportion of 'volatiles' ..... and makes it harder 
to get dark smoke..

'Pocahontas coal' generally meant for me the best stuff.... lots
of volatiles, lots of carbon, very low ash. I've found that coals like Pocahontas 
catch fire easily and 'smoke' easily --- especially if 'abusing the stoker'...
When sitting around, I've found that small scoopfuls of decent lumos
keeps the firebed  lively, and lumps lasts longer, and the lumps don't cause
the dark smoke clouds.

Pocahontas was not tthe stuff that railroads bought for their own power, back in the day...
RRS generally bought the cheaper grades of coal...  Anthracite culm, being an example.
Although, I'd read that RRs like NY Central did buy two grades of soft coal:
one for passenger engines, and one for freight.

I'd also heard of NYC firemen/crews, assigned to freight engines, bribing the
coal-up crews to fill tenders with "passenger coal",  then add a top layer of the
freight coal...mostly dirt & 'fines'. ... so that when shuffling by towers and
2nd floor offices ,the managers would only see the lousy coal, on top.

NYC had several coaling facilities that were long-ramp affairs, with
separate coal chutes for the grades of coal...
Loading-up tenders with the different types could be easy...and quick.

in excursion service, when standing for periods of time, and needing to maintain
a lively grate,  I'd prefer to scoop feed, rather than use the stoker.....the fine stuff
burns-out too quickly, and makes unnecessary black smoke.  
I scooped only a few partial shovels ( of decent lumps) for ease of proper placement
across the grates..

When it's time to GO, a couple of minutes with the stoker...and I'd have
a 100%  fire across the grates...with a big 'heel' iacross the back..
( as my 'insurance'...).

W.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/08/22 13:45 by wcamp1472.



Date: 01/08/22 21:15
Re: We’ll never see it, but I’d improve the grates arrangemen
Author: callum_out

Can you say "overfire jets"?

Out 



Date: 01/09/22 11:35
Re: We’ll never see it, but I’d improve the grates arrangemen
Author: wcamp1472

I don't think J-Class N&W engines were equipped with 'over-fire" jets.

Use of over fire jets implies use of the stoker.

When sitting around ( several hours) in a quiescent state, you want
small fires all over the grate.  But a grate capable of delivering heat
necrssary to deliver 5,000 hp of steam,  is way too hot, if the only load
on the boiler is the soft whine of the turbo generator.
All the other appliances are not needed.

Thus, I've always taught about using a few, large coal chunks, scattered by 
coal-scoop across the firebed.  Large chunks burn down in 20-or so minutes.
Keeping a live-fire available across the firebox, and. virtually no smoke.

I encourage cab visitors to try their hand at scoop work..
Most miss, badly....
That's OK, I'd said 'scattered'  !!

And, when "prep time" comes, you've got a full grate of lively fire, ready to go.

W.



Date: 01/09/22 12:49
Re: We’ll never see it, but I’d improve the grates arrangemen
Author: tomstp

I have seen one steam engine with Rosebud grates.  It was 1.6" scale 4-6-0.  When I looked at holes inthe grates t being widely apart I wondered how in the heck it steamed well.   And it DID steam well.  Prior to that the only thing I ever saw was "finger" grates which I also have in my 1.5" scale 4-6-0 and it makes steam easily.

Thanks for the information about the Rosebud grates.



Date: 01/09/22 15:24
Re: We’ll never see it, but I’d improve the grates arrangemen
Author: callum_out

Doesn't matter if it's an LS6 or a steam locomotive, the secret to making it work is air/fuel ratio. The gtates thing is
interesting, how well do the fingers work with a deep coal bed?

Out 



Date: 01/09/22 15:46
Re: We’ll never see it, but I’d improve the grates arrangemen
Author: wcamp1472

Typically a deep fire-bed on finger grates, mostly ash, is the result of light/no draft.
To have them shake themselves clean, it takes a heavy load.

Light-loads mean adding more coal --- to burn the 'volatiles"  ( about 10% to 15%), the
draft is too light to burn the carbon, so it and the ash build-up, deepening the firebed.

Physically shaking the grates, ---- stopped, with the ash pan OPEN, is the only solution.

Too often amateurs will try shaking the grates en route, that gets the ashes to build up,
under the grates.   Such a build-up can invariably melt the grates and grate bars...
Dropping the fire into the ash pan --- always a BAD OUTCOME.

A lot of locomotive equipments are designed for heavy hauling, heavy drafts, high heat,
and strong demands.  Fan trips rarely constitute the loads that heavy-duty freight engines 
are designed to pull, unassisted..

So, protecting the grates ( coal burners) from abuse is a primary function of the crews that
maintain and operste these beasts.

W.
 



Date: 01/09/22 17:23
Re: We’ll never see it, but I’d improve the grates arrangemen
Author: MaryMcPherson

wcamp1472 Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> In the video and sound clip of 611 climbing Blue
> Ridge Summit, ( Mary McPherson's video 
> dedicated to Keystone1, below) it's as good as O.
> Winston Link's records...

Wow.  Thank you.  That's no small compliment!

Mary McPherson
Dongola, IL
Diverging Clear Productions



Date: 01/09/22 17:54
Re: We’ll never see it, but I’d improve the grates arrangemen
Author: wcamp1472

The recording you've posted tells a thrilling story ....
There are very distinct chapters about the journey up the hill.

It involuntarily evokes images of the past...that fit into everybody's 
personal experiences, from back in the day..

Those of us that caught the tail-end of 1950's mainline steam,
are lucky to have the latent memories, that are now brought back to life..

This recording evokes those wonderful memories....for each one of us.

That's what Link wanted to preserve...both in sound and pictures...
Thank you for starting off the year 2022 in such a classy way.

And, yes, thank you for dedicating it to Mike's achievements and his love of 
Steam Railroading, around the world.   I can picture him standing, and
listening, --- lost in the Moment, --- just as you described.

Wes Camp



Date: 01/11/22 06:43
Re: We’ll never see it, but I’d improve the grates arrangemen
Author: Worthington_S_A

HotWater Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Just my opinion but, I'm pretty sure that one of
> the main factors of the "black smoke", in that
> video posted below, was cause by the crappy coal
> being used. Back when the N&W J class locomotives
> were in regular passenger service, the N&W used
> the highest BTU, finest quality, Pocahontas coal
> available. 

You are correct.  When 21st Century first started, they actually provided some really good stuff that was either actual Pocahontas or something very close.  The stuff we had with 630 in the first couple years was great.  The later stuff, by the time 4501 and 611 were out and about, not so much.  I don't know that it was so much NS cheaping out as much as a lack of availability.  I'm told that the seam from which the high quality stuff came is closed entirely due to lack of demand.



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