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THE CHAMPION COAL EATER. An engine of this type consumed 4.25 tons of coal per hour in a test run with seven coaches, making sixty-five miles per hour.
IF official prophecies are entitled to credence the next great evolution in railroad operation will be the general introduction of automatic stokers to relieve locomotive firemen of a task that has grown beyond the powers of human muscles. For three consecutive years the standing committee on stokers of the American Railway Master Mechanics Association has predicted the early advent of the automatic, or mechanical, stoker: and according to popular belief, "three times is the charm."
In 1908 the committee said in its report to the annual convention, "Mechanical stokers used on locomotives in this country up to the present time have at least demonstrated the fact that freight and passenger engines in road service can be successfully fired by mechanical means. Mechanical stoking, however, has not made much progress abroad.".
In its 1909 report the committee grew more bold, saying, "Results hold out great hopes for the future, particularly as the question has been taken up seriously by a number of railroads. . .
"It is reasonable to assume that the average tractive power of locomotives will increase. It is within the possibilities, therefore, that the increased fuel con
sumed per mile will render it advisable to provide mechanical means for firing locomotives in order that they may develop high sustained tractive effort and render the service attractive to men who possess the qualifications to become successful locomotive engineers. A successful automatic stoker should render locomotive firing more attractive, raise the standard of the service, permit close attention to the economic handling of fuel and the reduction of black smoke, enable firemen to become better acquainted with the general duties of a locomotive engineer and reduce tube and firebox troubles."
By the time the 1910 convention had assembled the stoker committee had become fully converted, as may be gathered from its report which contained this declaration: "The committee is convinced that the mechanical stoker is destined to be a very important factor in the operation of heavy locomotives in the not very distant future."
Railroad men have no occasion to read the unemotional reports of the committee to be convinced of the urgent need of a satisfactory automatic stoker; but since it is not the privilege of everybody to be railroad men it may be well to give some idea of what firing a locomotive means before discussing the subject of stokers. To the country boy who sees the fireman lolling on his cushioned seat box while his train stands on the siding waiting for the limited, it means a life of indolent ease at good pay with abundant opportunities for long range flirtations with the girls along a stretch of a hundred and fifty miles of steel highway. Consequently he loses no time in applying at the nearest division headquarters for a job. He is received with dissembled, but none the less sincere, joy; for the demand for firemen is great, and the best ones are farm bred.
Rut the "cornfield sailor" who has the strength of mind, character and muscle to struggle through all the preliminaries required to reach the left side of the cab immediately discovers that in addition to anticipating the coming of the pay car and throwing kisses to the prettiest girls along the road he is also expected to shovel from fourteen to twenty tons, or even more, of coal a day: and that this coal shoveling occupies his attention so fully that by the time he gets to the end of his run he doesn't care a hang if he never sees a paymaster or a rural coquette for the rest of his natural life.
To a husky young man, shoveling twenty tons of coal a day may not sound like a terrific undertaking; but that is because he fails to appreciate the difference between shoveling that quantity in the course of a ten hour day, standing
on a steady footing and pausing for a moment whenever he feels like it to gaze at the scenery or light a cigarette, and trying to keep his balance on a jolting, jerking, plunging steel deck which tries ceaselessly to pitch him head first into the side of the cab, while with legs spread wide apart he humps over a scoop shovel, working with frantic energy to get coal into thz firebox fast enough to keep steam up. While the engine is running the fireman must be straddled out on the deck working continually to the limit of his strength, for ordinarily he will have to get from two and a half to three The Hayden Stoker In Use On Thk Erik Railroad. Tender conveyor, driving engine, grating and trough.
Firk Door Open. The Hayden Stoker.
tons of coal into the firebox every hour. Three and a half tons is generally regarded as the limit of a fireman's capacity, but this has been greatly exceeded'on the fastest trains.
To turn from the general to the particular, one of the Lake Shore's monster Pacific type locomotives, weighing 266,000 pounds, hauling the west bound Twentieth Century Limited with seven cars in the train on a test run December 5, 1909, made the run between Toledo and Elkhart in 2 hours and 4 minutes at an average speed of 65 miles per hour. In this short time 8Kt tons of coal were shoveled into the firebox. The average scoop used on a locomotive holds 14 to 15 pounds of coal. Taking the latter figure as the average scoop load the fireman had to reach out into the tender, a long stretch, get a shovel full of coal, swing it around and throw it into the firebox, not anywhere, but on the particular spot on the 56^ square feet of
grates that happened to need it most at that instant, every 6.3 seconds from start to finish. This is the most remarkable feat .of firing for which authoritative figures are available, and it may also be submitted as a marvelous feat of physical endurance.
But this is not all the story. The heat from the open fire door is so intense that it not infrequently blisters the fireman's side, while the white hot glare sears his eyes until seventeen per cent, of firemen are disqualified for further service in the first three years on account of defective vision.
So much for the fireman's side of the stoker problem. For the railroad company the question is even more serious. Already there are many locomotives in service which never do anywhere near what they are capable of doing, for the simple reason that the man never lived who could keep one of them hot while working at maximum capacity. Take, for example, a Mallet articulated compound locomotive weighing 445,000 pounds and having a grate area of 99.85 square feet. In the series of tests on the Lake Shore already referred to, the average consumption of coal was 129.6 pounds of coal per square foot of grate area per hour; the maximum, 150 pounds. Some locomotives crowded to the limit have been found capable of burning 200 pounds per square foot of grate area per hour. At the average consumption for the Lake Shore test the big Mallet would burn 6j/j tons per hour or one-half more than the Pacific type locomotive burned. At the maximum for the Lake Shore tests the consumption would be 7^4 tons, while at the highest recorded rate of consumption it would eat up 10 tons of coal per hour. It is hardly necessary to point out the utter impossibility of any mortal getting even the smallest of these quantities into the finebox in an hour. As a matter of fact a Mallet locomotive of the size mentioned in a test run in pusher service on the Delaware and Hudson burned 5,781 pounds of coal per hour. This was not the measure of the engine's possibilities but of the fireman's capacity under the circumstances.
It is not possible for two firemen to work at once because there is barely room for one man to swing himself on the narrow deck. The C, N. O. & T. Railroad tried the experiment of putting two firemen on one of its Mallet locomotives on a Kentucky division with heavy grades. The men relieved each other at short intervals, each working with his utmost speed when his turn came, but they could not keep up steam. Besides, the constant blasts of cold air through the open fire door caused the flues to leak so badly that they had to be caulked at the end of every trip. Then the company put on a Hanna mechanical stoker and invited the University of Kentucky to send some of its young men to make a forty days test. The first effect noticed was that the flues did not have to be touched during the forty days. The other results when figured out and tabulated were so favorable that twelve more stokers were ordered.
From all this it may be gathered that the call for an automatic stoker that will
meet the requirements of all the varying conditions of road service in America is urgent. In Europe where the locomotives are small and the trains light the necessity for an automatic stoker is not so apparent and so practically nothing has been done to develop one.
In the United States a number of automatic stokers have been tried out with varying degrees of success ; but with possibly a single exception none is yet regarded as entirely satisfactory. As in the case of every other important device used on a railroad, there has been a weary road to travel between the first conception of the idea and its practical working out.
Locomotive mechanical stokers are of two general types, the overfeed and the underfeed. Of the former, which was the first developed, the greatest number