How to boot a steam locomotive


I really love the detail in Phil Jern’s description of cold-starting a steam locomotive:

Looped under the fireman’s seat is an electrical cord. I uncoil it and drape it over to the wall, and plug it in. I climb up into the cab, open the engineer’s seatbox, and remove a trouble light. Plugging it into an electrical outlet in the cab, I open the firebox door and peer inside. There is a huge “bone” of unburned carbon in the front of the firebox, right in front of the burner. Damn. I go out to the tool car (an old Southern boxcar) and grab a pickaxe and a bucket. Back up in the cab, I hang the trouble light right outside the firebox door, toss the pickaxe into the firebox, and set the bucket on the floor in front of the door. Feet first, I squeeze into the firebox, feeling for the floor, being careful not to dislodge any of the firebrick if I can help it. Inside, I reach outside for the trouble light, locate the pickaxe, and break up the carboniferous mass. I toss the loose pieces out the door and into the bucket, and use the light to inspect the firebox, looking for loose or leaky staybolts, making sure the firebrick lining the sides of the firebox is in reasonably good condition, and checking the burner for obstructions. All I find is a couple of loose bricks, so I replace them, push my tools back out the door, and climb back out. I look back inside to make sure I didn’t leave anything inside. Once, I left the pickaxe inside, and all that was left at the end of the day was the head.

How to boot a steam locomotive [Thanks, Jim!]


My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal

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