N&W in 1903 -- Bad Water

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Thu Feb 21 21:23:31 EST 2008

New Reason Assigned for Shortage of Motive Power
Norfolk and Western Will Erect Filter Plants at Tanks Where Water is Taken From Mountain Streams
The Norfolk and Western Railroad Company is preparing to expend $200,000 in the erection of filters along its line through the coal fields as a result of an experience it has just passed through. The Norfolk and Western is one of the best equipped coal roads in the country, and for more than a month the men who get coal over it could not understand the delay in the shipment of coal.
It was owing to a lack of motive power, but what has caused the shortage of engines puzzled the officers of the road for a time.
The motive power had been increased, and to their surprise engines that had been in service for but sixty and ninety days were turned into the repair shops with their boilers completely wrecked. The investigation started showed a state of affairs never before encountered in railroading.
The water supply for the engines in the coal district of the Norfolk and Western is secured from the mountain streams and is pumped into water tanks. The water contains sulphur [sic] and mineral substances which sink to the bottom of the streams.
When the streams are high none of these substances are gathered up when the water is pumped into the tanks, but recently the country has experienced a drought and the streams became very low. The result was that the sulphur and mineral substances were pumped into the tanks. The sulphur had a terrible effect on the boilers of the engines, and within a short time many were in the shops for repairs. It is said that in many cases the boilers were nearly eaten out by the water. It is this that has caused the shortage of motive power on the Norfolk and Western recently, and has brought up a most interesting question among railroad men.
The work of putting up the filters is now in progress, and the engineers say that the water can be filtered so that it will not in any way injure an engine boiler.
Within the past week there has been a time in the streams from which the Norfolk and Western draws its supply of water, and no difficulty is being experienced, but it is feared that the same difficulty will occur if they fall, and for that reason the work of erecting the filters is being pushed energetically [Apparently something was omitted about the streams being full within the past week.]

Bluefield Daily Telegraph
December 13, 1903

Gordon Hamilton
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