Lighting up a steam locmotive

 
  steamfreak711 Locomotive Driver

I filmed this video quite a few years ago when we were training our firelighters in the correct procedures to light up a steam loco from scratch.  We had quite a detailed printed manual as well, and each firelighter had to pass a practical test before being able to tend the loco alone during light-up (usually overnight).  

I must say it was usually quite peaceful, sitting at the shed with the loco slowly coming to life.  The slow popping, creaking, groaning as the boiler warmed.  Eventually the first hiss of steam, the slightest crack of the blower to clear the smoke from the cab, the turbogenerator whining and the loco coming to life.  

This loco is a South African 15F (mechanically fired) but I would guess the procedure for Australian locos is somewhat similar?  Would be interested in comments on similarities/differences?



https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qtuAUGh92Zo

P.S. Merry Christmas!

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  RadarJunkie Station Staff

brilliant!
  woodford Chief Commissioner

There's also the constant getting down from the cab walking over to the wood pile carrying the wood back, throwing it up into the cab climbing back up and throwing the wood onto the fire, repeat ad infininitum. It is great once one gets one gets the whole grate burning but it takes anything up to 1000kg of wood (for VR's H220 or NSW's 60 class) to get the whole grate alight, all of which you need to get up the cab yourself.

Note: It did not help at all where I was lighting up a couple of steamers that the wood pile was way over the other side of the yard.

woodford
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
Note: It did not help at all where I was lighting up a couple of steamers that the wood pile was way over the other side of the yard.
"woodford"
Someone there needed a few tips on organisation! I've done more light ups than I care to count on R, J and NA locos and the respective wood heaps were, very sensibly, next to the loco shed.
As steamfreak711 said, it's great watching and listening to the loco coming to life, and if you were on watch in the winter, you weren't in much danger of freezing to death! Then, if you were there around sunrise, the best bacon and eggs of all time were cooked on the shovel.
  woodford Chief Commissioner

Note: It did not help at all where I was lighting up a couple of steamers that the wood pile was way over the other side of the yard.
Someone there needed a few tips on organisation! I've done more light ups than I care to count on R, J and NA locos and the respective wood heaps were, very sensibly, next to the loco shed.
As steamfreak711 said, it's great watching and listening to the loco coming to life, and if you were on watch in the winter, you weren't in much danger of freezing to death! Then, if you were there around sunrise, the best bacon and eggs of all time were cooked on the shovel.
Valvegear
I understand the point that was made I was just making sure the readers had a balanced view and it is not all just sitting around and feelling a machine come to life. I like most people in this world had not reallised that to light up a steamer one had get a wood fire blazing over the whole grate.

One must rememeber unlike in most of Britain coal has almost never been used as a home heating fuel and as a consequence very few people in Australia can even identify coal as they have never seen it and therefore know nothing on how to burn it.

woodford
  4206 Chief Commissioner

Location: Dorrigo yard
Thank you for sharing
  a6et Minister for Railways

Looking at the video (in part) and assuming that its a current procedure in SA, it is very much more complicated than when regular steam operated on the NSWGR. Depending on the depot and facilities most depots followed a fairly common procedure in light ups.  To start with no steam engine could be lit up or an appropriate employee assigned to light up an engine without direct instructions from their supervising officer that being a depot chargeman who had received the all clear from the foreman fitter on duty. The following procedure is what happened at Enfield and likely for years past except for the material used.

The worst day of the week was Sunday afternoons (same at WCK and other major depots as the evening weeks programs were to commence) when to 50 engines were lit up over the next 10-12 hours, more in the early AM mondays with the first around 1430.  A list of engines in order to light them up was given to both a firelighter (labourer) as well as two Acting Fireman who had been instructed as part of their ground training on the procedures.  Engine list meant they were all ok to light up with only a couple of checks to be done first, it also helped if both were smokers as matches were carried. This is now based on being an A/F working together.

One of the 2 would get a large builders wheel barrow, firing shovel, 2x5 gallon bucket and head to a large bin between the Chargemans office and #2 shed. The bin contained wood shavings soaked in dieseline or other spent waste inflammable liquid filling the barrow and bucket with as much as possible and proceed to the first loco.  In the meantime the other A/F would go to the engine make sure the smokebox door was open, check water levels in the gauge glasses, gauge glass was not isolated and at least 1/2 glass of water was showing. We were given kero flare lamps with which to check the smokebox for any issues and the fire box for any leaking stays.

All being ok, the firebox grate area was covered with coal enough to ensure the grate was fully covered, by this time the barrow mate arrived and handed up buckets of the wood shavings, that were tipped onto the shovellng plate, the shavings were then shoveled over the coal to provide a full cover, a last large shovel full was then set alight using the flare lamp, once the shavings were well alight all over the shovel, it was spin shoveled or cut thrown into the firebox in a manner to ensure as large a spread of the burning shavings covered the box. At that point of time the other AF had gone to the next engine on the list to perform the job of in cab duties.

You stayed in the cab until certain the shavings were caught and as soon as being sure you got out quick as the smoke soot and dags were overpowering. The Firehole door had to left completely open to allow for air to flow through.  The procedure meant that you would light up at least 1 engine every 10 minutes or more as you had to work between the sheds, mainly 1 & 2 sheds.   2xA/F's started at 1400, 2 at 1500 and 2 at 1600, with 2 non acting Trainee Enginemen at 1600 who had the job of cleaning the cabs.  Each type of engine took different times to light up and get steam, from the smallest at Enfield a 30cl through to 32, then standard goods, 36, 38/59 60 in the order of grate area sizes.  In order to help getting steam up, during the in cab check the blower was turned on by around a 1/4 turn max, more to help clear the smoke a bit, and not enough to raise steam too quickly and sweat the boiler.  

Often, but not always there was a lot of old spent hard cotton waste, that had been through the washing process available, and considered beyond further washing and had been soaked in the dieselene, this was ripped into smaller bits and put on top of the shavings, once it was alight it would usually stay alight a bit longer than the shavings ensuring only a single light was needed.

Within a hour of the first hour of light ups the smoke that started covering the area was incredible by the time the 1400 A/f's had their meal break at 1800-1830 both 1 & 2 sheds were smoke filled, the first engines lit up would be getting steam and you would have been back to put more coal on the areas burnt through

If Garratts were being lit up and being in 3 shed, another shavings bin was there for the procedure which was identical but a much longer process owing to the size of the grate area and to shovel coal from the shoveling plate. What helped here was when they were coaled, as with all engines when the fuelman received the blackout list on the Friday night- Saturday closure was they made sure the bunker/tender at the shoveling plate end was coaled up extra high to keep the shoveling plate covered. Garratts had a fold down shoveling plate that slightly stuck into the cab through the door arch when opened. It was a long throw from there and you usually had to take a step forward with the shovel in order to get the coal over all the grate. The stoker could not be used until at least 60Psi of steam had been reached.  A seperate 1600 A/F was assigned to 3 shed for cleaning and maintaining the garratts in steam.

Country depots that did not have access to wood shavings had to have split plank like timbers, these were also soaked in combustible liquids but it took a bit longer as they were a bit harder to light and keep alight. On branch lines were trains went out one day and returned the following day, the loco's carried a pile of timber either on the tender backhead or often seen on 30T class on the front running board and tied down. If shavings were available they were in a bucket carried on the tender.  Many of these crews got to learn how to pill bank the engines meaning the wood and shavings were hardly needed the following morning and deemed an insurance, this enabled them to have a full nights sleep and not have to get up and light up again, meaning up to 3 hours extra in bed.

The fire would be knocked out entirely from the front of the box, the rear, under the door was knocked down to half point. With the blower (1/2 turn) left on a bank was filled under the door up to the bottom of the door and it affectively smothered the bottom part of the fire/ash. The coal oozed smoke until the first flames came through at the point above where the fresh piling had taken place at which point the blower was turned off and door shut time to go. The fire was checked as was the water every two hours until before they went to bed. At this point the boiler was filled beyond the top nut and out of sight. Blower on to ensure that burning coal was present, the last fire before bed was to lay some coal on the grate seperate to the bank but make sure the bank was full and a mini shake of the grate to reduce the height, pill again and shut blower and off to bed.

Next morning wake up check the fire. blower on and push the bank forward or what was left of it, it did not take a lot to reset and get burning again, at worst some of the wood was used along with some shavings, this time with blower working and probably minimal steam the wood and shavings readily caught the warm/hot coals and steam raised fairly easily.  It was a task but better than a full knock down and warm boiler light up. The danger though could be if one did not know how to do it properly and the boiler stayed too hot water could run out and a boiler burnt.

How its done in these days of modern heritage working is an unknown to me, but the above was how it was in the years 64-73 anyway.
  a6et Minister for Railways

Note: It did not help at all where I was lighting up a couple of steamers that the wood pile was way over the other side of the yard.
Someone there needed a few tips on organisation! I've done more light ups than I care to count on R, J and NA locos and the respective wood heaps were, very sensibly, next to the loco shed.
As steamfreak711 said, it's great watching and listening to the loco coming to life, and if you were on watch in the winter, you weren't in much danger of freezing to death! Then, if you were there around sunrise, the best bacon and eggs of all time were cooked on the shovel.
I understand the point that was made I was just making sure the readers had a balanced view and it is not all just sitting around and feelling a machine come to life. I like most people in this world had not reallised that to light up a steamer one had get a wood fire blazing over the whole grate.

One must rememeber unlike in most of Britain coal has almost never been used as a home heating fuel and as a consequence very few people in Australia can even identify coal as they have never seen it and therefore know nothing on how to burn it.

woodford
woodford
I Understand where valvegear is coming from also what you are saying. Much depends on how things are these days in heritage operations as well as over different systems as well. The other aspect is that having wood or other lighting up items located away from the loco could be a safety issue as well, thing is how many are involved in the lighting up process and is there any set procedures.?

I know from talking to some freinds involved with steam trips in NSW, that the systematic approach that I speak of that took place on the NSWGR is not how it works these days, also watching some youtube clips of the lighting up of 6029 at Canberra using large lumps of wood and sleepers was not done during regular working days.  Other aspect as well is the modern anti pollution issues that would stop steam dead if the smoke that was a constant bane of the steam days depot light ups happened, would mean they would be forever stopped.

The problem also facing many operations is how to light them up without smoke, bad enough when working. I saw the lighting up of an oil burner in NZ and the black smoke that came from it was terrible, and oil burners also are messy to light up and gradually attain steam as well.

In a modern depot or todays heritage areas, why wouldn't there be a small forklift available that could transport a box of wood from the storage to the cab side or near enough to it and lift it to the cab level? Saves throwing it up into the cab with the resultant risks that could have.
  woodford Chief Commissioner

Smoke has ALWAYS been the bane of steamers, although often loved be steam enthiusiasts, it means the fuel is NOT being burnt efficently. A fireman cannot just shovel fuel on and hope for the best he MUST manage the fire, keeping in mind with what sort of loads are comming up and therefore what is the best thing for the fire. Lighting up is similiar one only puts more fuel on when you have a real good blaze.
I have never done an oil burner but I believe you need manage both the oil flow and the air flow together, to make sure one has enough air for full combustion but not enough that one would have cold air into the fire box, which fire box's never like.

There's a real EXCELLENT chapter on driving and firing steamers for maximum effeciency in  the Locomotive Cyclopidia an (very large) american book apparently put out on a regular basis, I have the 1926 and the 1943 editions. The chapter gives in great detail all about the care and feeding of steam locomotives. I have done a number of copies for current steam firemen.

woodford
  a6et Minister for Railways

Smoke has ALWAYS been the bane of steamers, although often loved be steam enthiusiasts, it means the fuel is NOT being burnt efficently. A fireman cannot just shovel fuel on and hope for the best he MUST manage the fire, keeping in mind with what sort of loads are comming up and therefore what is the best thing for the fire. Lighting up is similiar one only puts more fuel on when you have a real good blaze.
I have never done an oil burner but I believe you need manage both the oil flow and the air flow together, to make sure one has enough air for full combustion but not enough that one would have cold air into the fire box, which fire box's never like.

There's a real EXCELLENT chapter on driving and firing steamers for maximum effeciency in  the Locomotive Cyclopidia an (very large) american book apparently put out on a regular basis, I have the 1926 and the 1943 editions. The chapter gives in great detail all about the care and feeding of steam locomotives. I have done a number of copies for current steam firemen.

woodford
woodford
Mate, believe it or not I think that the 9 odd years that I worked on steam in regular service gave me a bit of knowledge.

Oil burners were dirty mongrels and a slip up in lighting them could prove a problem, and some unwary issues could cause a firebox explosion, & I hated lighting them up, and thankfully only happened a couple of times, the smoke that was emitted in the light up stage was terrible, bare in mind there was no air to provide the atomiser mix.

The 59cl controls had a single oil ratchet handle to increase the oil flow and a round knob control valve for the atomiser, if you had too little or too much the thumping from the fire was incredibly loud and would cause a headache very quick, the burning oil smell added to the problem as well.  In ground trials you were shown how to light them up but were not allowed to work on them, nor on a garratt untill you completed your B trials and then traveled with by a Loco Inspector.
  TheFish Chief Train Controller

Location: Pyongyang

How its done in these days of modern heritage working is an unknown to me, but the above was how it was in the years 64-73 anyway.
a6et
As for what happens in Australia I'm not sure but I'm volunteering at the Mid Hants Railway in Hampshire at the moment and they have a very gentle procedure to warm engines up slowly, then keep them warm overnight.  We generally use broken up pallets with waste paraffin and the following procedures.  

If an engine has been in steam the previous day some of the fire is usually left in the grate to burn out overnight.  This needs to be cleared in the morning but means the boilers is still warm, although without pressure after standing for twelve hours.  A thin layer of coal is put down, and the pallet timber is put at the front of the box under the brick arch.  The fire can then be lit in the front of the box with a rag soaked in paraffin on the end of one of the fire irons. It's then gradually allowed to spread to the back of the box.  The ash is dropped before leaving the depot in the morning.  When I helped with a light up last month we achieved working pressure on our black five in a bit over three hours from the fire being lit.  

If an engine is being lit up from cold for a period of running a warming fire with only a little coal and timber will be allowed to burn under the brick arch two days before it is required, the firebox will be closed off as much as possible to retain some heat, then a proper fire will be lit the day before that will build the boiler up to working pressure.  Therefore minimal work will be needed by the crew the next morning who would follow the same procedure just as if the engine had already been running.
  a6et Minister for Railways


How its done in these days of modern heritage working is an unknown to me, but the above was how it was in the years 64-73 anyway.As for what happens in Australia I'm not sure but I'm volunteering at the Mid Hants Railway in Hampshire at the moment and they have a very gentle procedure to warm engines up slowly, then keep them warm overnight.  We generally use broken up pallets with waste paraffin and the following procedures.  

If an engine has been in steam the previous day some of the fire is usually left in the grate to burn out overnight.  This needs to be cleared in the morning but means the boilers is still warm, although without pressure after standing for twelve hours.  A thin layer of coal is put down, and the pallet timber is put at the front of the box under the brick arch.  The fire can then be lit in the front of the box with a rag soaked in paraffin on the end of one of the fire irons. It's then gradually allowed to spread to the back of the box.  The ash is dropped before leaving the depot in the morning.  When I helped with a light up last month we achieved working pressure on our black five in a bit over three hours from the fire being lit.  

If an engine is being lit up from cold for a period of running a warming fire with only a little coal and timber will be allowed to burn under the brick arch two days before it is required, the firebox will be closed off as much as possible to retain some heat, then a proper fire will be lit the day before that will build the boiler up to working pressure.  Therefore minimal work will be needed by the crew the next morning who would follow the same procedure just as if the engine had already been running.
TheFish
The days of regular steam working to todays railways especially the heritage ones have a lot different methods in lighting up. I understand when engines came out of workshops the light ups were done differently but mainly for a gentler and longer steam build up.  Most of the light ups we performed were on engines that were cold, that is with the fire knocked down for periods of more than 24 hours, with the needs to have the first one available for service in approx 4 hours.

The method of the soaked wood shavings all over the coal covered grate allowed for a fairly even catch of the coal, it took time for the whole bed to catch, having the firebox and smokebox doors open allowed as much air as possible through the grate area, otherwise the fire would be smothered and therefore choked, and either go out or take longer to catch and steam raised.

Once the fire has been set and steam is raised, the smokebox door is shut, that was not our job but was left to an examining fitter who was also given the rostered whistle out list of light ups, he would examine the interior of the smokebox especially the spark arrestor to ensure it was not blocked once the door was shut, the firehole door was also able to be shut, key at this point was to get a bank going under the door, as well as enough coal over the rest of the grate. The engine had to be ready for the preparation crew an hour before it was due out of the depot, usually that meant having at a minimum of 80-100 psi steam.

The other aspect of this was that the cab had to be cleaned before that crew arrived, this was actually the worst job of all, as the whole cab area, floor, ceiling walls, back head was covered in soot dags, much of which was laden with the oily substance from the soaked wood shavings, overalls were the only clothes worn and nothing at all underneath as after the first cab clean the overalls were putrid.

Using the deck hose which was located and controlled on the fireman's side you hosed down the ceiling from mid point to the firemans side wall, then the back head, and firemans side floor plus the tender floor, by that time most of the water would have dried off on the ceiling and you repeated the hosing on the drivers side.  You could never avoid the amount of much that was hanging off the ceiling going through the overalls and into the hair and skin.  We used to get 10 minutes to clean up and sign off before going home, but on light up nights if you had your amount lit up you could shower and clean up much earlier change to another pair of overalls for other work.

Most of us had two pairs of overalls and we kept them in a locker, at the end of the week both were taken home to be washed, some places had large drums cut in half that were filled with water from the boiler with the dag overalls in it, using a wash brush you could clean most of the muck off from that first night, hang to dry in the locker room until the next shift, that helped mum a lot with her having to wash them.
  HardWorkingMan Chief Commissioner

Location: Echuca
Back when steam was in daily service a lot of boilers rarely got the time to get stone cold.  In most heritage operations these days (with the possible exception of Puffing Billy whose roster requires at least 2 locos every day but Christmas day) the boilers are usually coming up from stone cold.

The boilers expand as they are heated so the heat needs to be added slowly to ensure even expansion otherwise the firebox end heats faster then the smokebox and you get uneven expansion that can lead to cracks, leaking tubes  and even boiler failure.  Generally speaking the larger the boiler the longer it needs to heat so an R class will take longer than an NA assuming they both start from the same temperature.  We used to take 4 hours from cold and 2-3 from warm for the small Museum Locos and an extra 2 hours from cold or hour from warm for the larger Hudswell Clarke

It seems to be the practise amongst main-line running groups to steam up the engine the day before and use it to marshal the train.  Then it can be left with a banked fire ready for the following day and not take so long to light up on the run day as the boiler is already warm (and therefore expanded).  It also gives a chance to ensure everything is still operational on the loco after sitting unused for a while, gets oil moved around the motion etc before it is put under full strain.

The expansion/contraction issues can also occur when the boiler is cooling for exactly the same reasons as on lightup. For a while Puffing Billy was banking all fires overnight, even in locos not scheduled to run the following day.  The idea was to let the boiler cool gradually and extend it's service life.  A couple of times it also proved handy when a rostered loco had an issue and there was a 'warm' loco that could be ready for use in an hour or two.  With a bit of loco roster shuffling all trains were still steam-hauled.
  hbedriver Chief Train Controller

Puffing Billy  usually allows 3 hours from warm (steamed a day or two earlier), or 4 hours from cold. If really cold, often put a warming fire in the previous afternoon/evening; usually a few big knotty logs and some oily rags soaked in kero/diesel; the idea is to smoulder more than burn overnight. Usually works well enough, sometimes even have 5 or 10 psi next day. Main thing is to take the chill off the water and steel, you don't need to raise pressure.

All steam at PBR have fires dumped nightly, then dampers closed (these are actually quite effective), and funnel cap, so everything cools down slowly enough. These usually produce better results than back when we banked the fires (I hated that practise; the fire was always out in the morning, then no steam to work the blower anyway, and then you had to get rid of the ashes before lighting up, with that horrid fine dust everywhere; not such a good thing to breathe. Usually threes days we still have around 10 - 20psi in the morning, more if the loco ran a night train the previous night, when you may still have 60psi. Steamrail dumps fires nightly as well; 707 Ops leave it to burn out, then clean next day.

I lit one loco up in winter once; couldn't get the air to move, so the loco just couldn't breathe. I'd arrived hours early, expecting trouble. Driver arrived 4 hours later; no steam and no warmth in the boiler, just a black mess of charred but unburnt wood in the firebox (and I had already cleaned it out and tried to re-start twice by then). His solution was to knock the ends out of a 10 gallon drum, place that on the top of the funnel (easy, with that nice wide flared top), next thing the loco drew air and within half an hour we were making steam. Taught me about the "chimney effect", the longer the better.
  Valvegear Dr Beeching

Location: Norda Fittazroy
When I was at PBR, one of the drivers used to leave light-up wood in the smoke box to dry out a little overnight. I was always pleased to find it, because it was a thoughtful gesture. A couple of firemen were caught out when said driver found a charred mess after light up - oops! . . . who didn't do the smoke box check before putting a fire in?

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