Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Steam Engine Start-Up

You think you've got it bad? Consider what it takes to fire up a giant locomotive that runs on bunker oil -- the same thing many big ships burn and a close kin to road tar. Way better than coal or wood, right? No stoking, right?

Yeah, it's a stroll in the park. Except the oil won't flow until it's preheated and what preheats it is steam from the boiler, which of course won't boil without oil to burn. Getting around that -- and a few other little can't-be-dones takes about half a day!

Read. Enjoy. And consider the fellow who wrote it does the job for fun. The guys who did that every day? They were somethin' special. And that's just one of a zillion preposterously difficult jobs somebody goes and does every day -- not because they love you, not because overseers are standin' over 'em with whips, but because that's how they earn a living.


Anonymous said...

I read the whole thing.

Maybe it's just because it's late and I'm tired but it made me sad when I noticed the page was last updated over ten years ago. The guy that wrote that probably isn't doing it anymore and may not even still be alive.

If you ever attend Boomershoot let me show you some of the old farm equipment and all the controls and people it took to maintain, start, and run it.

NotClauswitz said...

I spent the day once at a railroad junction in the middle of India, hooked to a small engine that pushed our three, third-class carriages back and forth. We were unhooked from the Calcutta line that had gone off, on to Bombay, and were waiting for the train from Delhi to come down and take us to Madras. It was a hot midwinter day, and I hung out in the cab with the drivers who ran the steam engine. It didn't run on oil, we threw coal in to feed the fire. There's still a lot of steam in India. They smoked a lot of ganja too, being hard work and all.

Anonymous said...

Bunker Oil is some nasty stuff - basically the leftovers from crude oil, after everything else that's saleable has been removed.

Dr. StrangeGun said...


Everything removed but the BTUs :) Plenty of those left over...