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Coal firing delights

by Doc
The purpose of this article is to amass tips and hints derived from, sometimes, bitter experience. The hope is to spare others' misery and to reinforce what I am learning to myself as I go along this thorny path. I shall be delighted if other coalies add sections of their own. . This is merely the Gospel (so far) according to Dai, one lost soul, wailing in the wilderness........Call it an ashpit of the soul

The checklist

An airline pilot has a checklist which must be gone through systematically before take-off and landing. A coal firer really ought to have just such a thing because, believe me, you'll regret not having one sooner or later.
1 OILING THE MOVING PARTS. The chances are that your coal firer will have an axle pump to convey water from storage tanks to the boiler. It needs lubrication. There is only one way to lubricate the axle pump and that is to PUT THE LOCO ONTO ITS BACK. It so happens that this is the best position to oil all the moving parts in any case. Resist the temptation to use the time of waiting for steam to rise to do this with a natty oil can. DO IT FIRST.
2. FILL THE DISPLACEMENT LUBRICATOR which, if you put the loco to bed the last time should have been emptied of water already. NO? Of course not. DO IT NOW! It's a fiddly job as a rule unless you have thoughtfully soldered an extension T bar onto the silly round screw top. Oooops! There it goes, down through the cracks in the patio decking! I bet if you tried to do that a hundred times, you'd fail. Aren't you glad the heat isn't rising yet?
3. FILL THE WATER TANK. Don't listen to those who think boiling the water makes it OK or collecting tap water. Heard of acid rain? Use distilled water.
4 CHECK THE SIGHT GLASS IS AT HALF FULL. If you have an axle pump, what makes you think it will always let water through to the boiler when the loco is static? You can half fill the boiler by unscrewing the safety valve.....NO, all of it, not just the bit with the ball and spriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing.....Oh Hell! Best to have a quick release valve on the boiler side of the regulator and a pump bottle. Remember that each pump only delivers 1ml of water but, hey, the exercise is good for the hand muscles. Waddaya mean the sight glass looks full already? You did drain the boiler after last use, didn't you? No, of course not. So, for all you know, the boiler is actually full. Give it a shake. YUP. Thought so. Empty it by unscrewing the safety valve.....NO, all of it, not just the bit with the ball and spriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiing.....Oh Hell!!! Write 'Deja Vu' a hundred times on the black board
A full boiler takes a lifetime to heat up. No, not your lifetime; the lifetime of the batteries you put in the electric blower. Furthermore, what you are after is a space above the water with steam expanding quite rapidly. Water only expands slightly when heated. Half a boiler full is about right.
5. FILL THE FIREBOX WITH CHARCOAL SOAKED SINCE YESTERDAY WITH BBQ LIGHTER FLUID up to the door sill. You can just about get away with charcoal that has just this minute been splashed with juice but older marinaded works best. Keep the pieces of charcoal as small as peas. It's surface area you want not bulky bits with big spaces between. And before you reach for the matches, ensure your coal pieces are as small as peas as well.
7. LIGHT A SHOVEL FULL OF SOAKED CHARCOAL and put it in the firebox.

8. CLOSE THE DOOR AND RESIST THE TEMPTATION TO PEEK There will be more than adequate evidence that the fire is viable from smoke and even sparks emanating from the chimney and crackling from the firebox. WAIT!

11. KEEP AN EYE ON THE GAUGE which even with charcoal will be rising. You might even get enough steam to move off. RESIST THIS. Play with the whistle if you must fiddle but better by far start to utilise the steam by 'cracking' open the steam blower tap and removing the electric blower.



Problems with Llywelyn

 I've solved a persistent problem with Llywelyn. I was getting quite fed up with slipping return cranks and was assuming that I had to pin them. Then it occurred to me that it was a symptom of another problem so I rang Roundhouse yet again. They are so kind. The guy agreed with me that if it was indeed the case that Hackworth gears need no pinning, if I pinned, I would be effectively preventing a fuse blowing. There must be a stress and the slipping was a safe outcome.

'Test the whole chain', says he,'disconnecting link by link until you get a smooth cycle. Replace each link to show where the problems are.'

OK, I have a free day, why not? All sorts of tiny errors showed up. Little rubbings, bindings requiring a touch of filing here, a second washer there and Bob's your uncle. That is, until using the reversing lever. Setting the lever in neutral and checking both sides for symmetry demonstrated that the two slide blocks were just the teeniest bit out of sync. Held on a cross shaft by a grub screw you see? I swear they were smack on at assembly but maybe the effect of tensions and crude handling of the lever had allowed a slip. Now, all is as sweet as pie. 'But for how long?' I hear you cry. Go on, go on.
Of course, don't allow this to lead you to believe that Pajero's Laws of CoalFiring have been suspended. I have yet to complete one full circuit of the line
Just to remind you

Pajero's Laws of Coal Firing.

First Law. However well you learned salutory lessons from a failed run, there are enough inherent problems to ensure no coal fired locomotive will ever complete a full circuit of your track.

Second Law. In coal firing, no matter how early you begin, there will never be enough daylight left to solve problems. (see also Law 1)

Third Law. However much it is music to your ears to be told by the lovely man at Roundhouse that the return cranks associated with Hackworth gears do not need to be pinned, if it seems as if they do, smell a big rat. if the return cranks move out of alignment, the normal resistence in a Hackworth gear train is so little, you must have something binding somewhere. Do NOT pin the crank for if you do, it will be just as if you removed the fuse from an electrical plug because it kept blowing.