Servicing British Steam Locomotives
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  1. #1
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    Default Servicing British Steam Locomotives

    This makes me curious as to how often this maintenance is done. I can see the appeal of diesel locomotives.

    YouTube

    General Repair: YouTube YouTube

    Paul

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    In the US, it's required to inspect the inside of the boiler every 5 years (I think), so you have to replace flue$$.
    On the Brits, all the lokes I saw in the links had cylinders outside the frames, like in the US. Turn of the (last) century, it was more common to have them inside the frames, so the axles had to be cranks, and it must have been a bugger to service the valves and the packing glands.
    Things I've read (from Brits of the time) is that they considered our lokes ugly. I can't believe they would go to that much trouble and expense over an aesthetic issue, there has to be a better reason.

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    Don't know about across the pond, but the USA had CLASSES of repairs, done per schedulle - maybe the USRA (WW1 Federal Gov't) had something to say about this practice

    United States Railroad Administration - Wikipedia

    Quote Originally Posted by paul39 View Post
    This makes me curious as to how often this maintenance is done. I can see the appeal of diesel locomotives.

    YouTube

    General Repair: YouTube YouTube

    Paul

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    with the ending of steam locomotives in regular revenue train service, the only steam locomotives used in the USA are on historic or tourist operations. When steam locomotives were used by the railroads in revenue train service, they were in fairly steady service. As a result, the old Federal RR Administration regulations required boiler inspections and tube replacement based strictly on a calendar. With steam locomotive now used in historic or tourist train operations, they are often not in steady steam service. The result was a redrafting of the US FRA regulations for steam locomotive boiler inspections and tube replacement. The regulations are now based on "days of service". A "day of service" is defined as anytime a locomotive has a fire in its firebox, whether sitting with a banked fire, or pulling a train.

    Once the allowable days of service have been reached, the locomotive is shopped for inspection. This means a complete stripping of boiler jacketing and insulation, removal of all auxiliaries and piping, and removal of the boiler tubes (and superheaters and superheater flues if so fitted). Once this is done, the boiler is abrasive blasted, and then given a complete ultrasonic thickness gauging. A visual inspection is made inside and out of the boiler by the railroad's mechanical department, a mechanical engineer (if one is retained, which is where I come into the picture on this sort of job), and the FRA inspector also takes a hard look at the boiler.

    Any repairs or alterations are detailed by the engineer and run by the FRA, and any concerns the FRA inspector and their mechanical engineer have are noted and addressed by the engineer when the boiler repair and alteration reports (known in the USA as "Form 19's") are drawn up. Data such as weld procedures, calculations, material specs, and anything else relevant are submitted with the Form 19's for the FRA to review.

    Once FRA has approved the repairs and alterations, work proceeds. In progress inspections by the FRA will occur, as will inspections by the mechanical engineer. A 3d party testing lab may be brought in to do non destructive examination of welded repairs. In some instances, post weld in-place stress relieving (resistance heating) will be done, and the time-temperature strip charts are submitted with the Form 19's.

    In service, FRA requires formal inspections of the boiler, and boiler washouts and checking of level gauge cocks and try cocks is also required to be documented.

    Getting back to the youtube about "General Maintenance" of a British steam locomotive: the locomotive was in the shop for twelve (12) days. The locomotive was one of a class of locomotives, so the boiler that went back onto the frame may well have come off another locomotive of the same class (assuming heavy boiler repairs were needed). Things like auxiliaries (injectors, brake ejector for the vacuum brakes used in England, lubricators) would be "common stock items", so they would be replaced with ones that had already been serviced.

    The servicing of the locomotive was not something that would be tolerated in today;s world where concerns about exposure to hazardous substances and workplace hazards are in force. The locomotive parts went for a dunking in a hot lye (caustic soda) vat to remove oil, grunge, paint, and anything else that needed to be cleaned off.
    The boiler was likely insulated with asbestos blocking, and this was probably putting plenty of asbestos fibers into the air. The shop crew did a lot by brute force, instead of using things like air impact wrenches.

    Interestingly, the locomotive is described as spending a total of twelve (12) days in the shop, of which five (5) of those days were spent in the paint shop. This means the actual overhaul or shopping of the locomotive had to happen in seven (7) days. By having overhauled parts from engines of the same class on the shelves, the overhaul was possible in this time. Things like driving wheel sets (wheels and axles) which had already been re-tired and journals turned and burnished, and main axle "brasses" which had been rebabbitted and bored, were likely ready to go onto that engine. The worn parts went into the shop for rework and subsequent re-use on an engine of the same class. Chances are (and this was not shown), the drive wheel sets had been through the "quartering" process. The shops had "quartering machines" which turned all the crankpins to equal throw distance, and re-established the "quartering" or relationship of the crankpins on each side of the locomotive. In service, crankpins would wear unevenly and wind up changing the relationship and throw distance slightly. Shopping an engine to the extent shown in this film would mean re-tiring the drivers and re-quartering the crankpins. Rod brasses re-babbitted and bored to fit the new crankpin diameters would be fitted as well.

    What many people who rhapsodize about the romance of steam locomotives, and how great they were, how they had soul, etc, never had to actually care for one. Routine work to take care of a steam locomotive includes: dump the ashpan and get under a hot locomotive to lubricate the main brasses or check the hard grease in them; to clean the ashes out of a smokebox with a boiler having a fire in it and steam up; fill lubricators with steam cylinder and valve oil; climb up on a hot boiler to check/fill the sand dome; get in the coal pocket of the tender to "trim" the load of coal and move what is left forward so it can be gotten to when firing; take the clinker hook and pull clinkers from a hot firebox; fire the boiler with the engine working hard and have to look into the incandescent firebox to "read the fire" and bail coal where it is needed; maintain your footing on a slippery engine deck made of well worn diamond plate with a dose of coal dust to make it more slippery...
    keep bailing coal where it is needed while the engine is working and the fire seems to want to come out of the firehole and get you; try to work the injector and discover it has decided not to pick up and hold... The starry-eyed rail buffs (often called "foamers" 'cause they tend to get frothy at the mouth around steam locomotives) all want to give their left nut and first born son to "work on a steam locomotive". They will chew your ear off about every steam locomotive ever made, and pay no heed of the fact you have a job to do and a grave responsibility with it. When you offer them a chance at breaking into steam locomotive operations and they discover it is not about riding in the cab and waving to people, but about getting under a hot engine or similar, they tend to fold like a cheap suit and run like the devil himself was after them. The average person who bemoans the passing of steam locomotives has no clue what it took to keep those locomotives in service. They also have no clue as to hard and dirty the work was, and what hazards and hazmat came along with it.

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    G'day Joe, I just LOVE that post of yours; absolutely "spot-on" with your comments about what has to be done every time the loco finishes work for the day. And as for your "foamers" comment, I don't think any of us can improve on it. I haven't stopped laughing yet! My experience of steam was limited to driving a 7.25 inch gauge loco and it was hard, dirty and hazardous. But shoot, it was good fun. Good on you, mate.

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