Coal size-

nw-mailing-list at nw-mailing-list at
Fri Mar 3 23:31:28 EST 2006

One aspect of coal size for N & W steam locomotives that has not been
mentioned is that separate coal supplies were maintained for road
locomotives and yard locomotives. At least this was the situation at two of
the facilities where I worked during the final years of steam, namely,
Durham, NC and Shaffers Crossing (Roanoke, VA). Both locations had dual
coal handling facilities for the two types of locomotives.

My recollection is that the main observable difference in the coal was that
the fuel for yard locomotives had less fines, which would minimize smoke and
cinders-- certainly desirable in urban areas. Because most yard locomotives
were hand fired, the coal was not subject to being ground into a smaller
size by a stoker.

Apparently most fuel tests involved road locomotives, so info on yard
locomotive coal size seems to be scarce.

Gordon Hamilton

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Sent: Friday, March 03, 2006 8:36 PM
Subject: Coal size-

Also note that the advertising in the Locomotive Cyclopedia books (not
the little reprints but the big, old ones) describes the performance of
stokers which generally cite how the units crushed the coal for
distribution in the firebox itself by whatever the mechanical or
steam-blown means were used.

It was important to not have the coal too large as a good, thin fire
could not be made to sit over the grates and burn evenly and to not make
fines or dust as these could be drawn up by the draft and blown out
through the fire tubes. They could be not combusted or not combusted in
the right place for useful heat generation and heat transfer.

Also, a lot of fine coal or dust would get whipped out of the tender to
fall back on to the passengers in passenger trains. Not desirable!
Large lumps that could be broken up in the stoker made happier

G Rolih

-----Original Message-----
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Sent: Friday, March 03, 2006 7:27 AM
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Subject: Re: two questions about steam

The 1947 coal size study was found by Louis Newton at
the archives (he has a phenominal memory). He pointed
it out to me at one of the sessions, and I'm currently
getting the data tables into spreadsheet format. Hope
to do an article in a future Arrow.

Dave Stephenson

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