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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
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    Waco, TX
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    Default Steam startup

    A while ago someone posted the steps necessary to start up a steam locomotive from dead cold. It was a lengthy process which I found very interesting. I would be fascinated to see a start up check list from any, or several of the operating steam boats, either from dead cold or from overnight shutdown. Same for the shutdown check lists. I'm sure that the process is somewhat different, or at least simpler, for the Graceful Ghost than it is for Natchez. Would any of the engineers here be willing to post for those of us who don't get the chance to play with steam machinery, but wish we could?

  2. #2
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    Mile 639 is where I grew up
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    Good question. I'm sure I won't understand the technical part, but would be interested to see the number of steps and time involved in each.

  3. #3
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    On Flintlock Farm on Gunpowder Road in Boone County, Kentucky
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    Hank and Jo Ann: It is MUCH simpler than the big stuff like full-sized locos and steamboats, but I can give you an idea about how I go about getting MISSIE up and running on a daily basis. MISSIE is a 20' long steam launch with a three horsepower 2 cylinder compound engine...propane fired with a copper water tube boiler. Max of four people... I fill my day-tank with tap water (15 gallons) and fill the boiler with my electric pump (12 volt) (2 1/2 gallons...I have previously put the battery on charge and look for the "green" indicator light telling that it is charged). Install two full propane jugs in the bow and crack the valves open. The gauge there will go from red to green and I then turn them off while I do more checking...Since the line valve is closed, the gauges should remain green indicating no leaks in the propane system. I then open the port side propane tank only (and the line valve) and the pilot light is then lighted. If adequate water still shows in the gauge glass, I start the main burner (simple rocker switch). I make sure that the drains in the high and low pressure valve boxes are open as well as the exhaust vent to the atmosphere. I crack the main throttle and the simpling valve to heat both the high and low pressure ends of the compound engine. Since I have a water-tube boiler I start to get steam in about three minutes (no pressure yet...but enough flow to start heating the engine. Since I have "D", or slide valves (not piston valves), I can get by with some water in the cylinders when starting. By the time I have checked all the safety equipment aboard there is plenty of pressure to turn the engine over and warm it. This calls for pressure on the gauge and the simpling valve used to kick her over only; then closed. She is usually on a trailer and I back her into the water and if I remembered to put the drain plug in, she floats! When launching in still water with little wind, she stays on about a 30' tether and I then reel her into the float, tie off and park the car. I many times do this solo. Sometimes when tethered to the dock I will slowly roll her wheel (propeller 18" x 23") while I park the Suburban and trailer. I and my crew (if any) don our life jackets and get aboard...with a crew, I can get them to launch me in the boat making for simpler/faster handling. The routine oiling, charging, replentishing tanks is done before leaving the house (barn, where MISSIE lives). If I do not have to wait in a queue to launch...lighting off upon arrival, I can, when alone, launch her, park the car, get in and back away within a timed 14 minutes...without rushing. With a trained crew and in a hurry, I estimate I could back away in eight or nine minutes from cold...leaving them to park the car etc. When she stays in the water over night, it takes me about five minutes after safety check to pull away...full pressure not necessary. MISSIE's boiler runs at 120 psi (Burner cuts off) to 90 psi when burner turned back on. She normally runs with about 65 psi on gauge and makes 5.3 mph for a total of a little more than 20 miles on a full twenty pound tank of propane. Since MISSIE is a condensing boat, she pumps her own condensate back into the boiler. There is some loss to atmosphere and of course all of the whistle steam is a loss. If there are no bikinis in sight about a half-cup of water per mile will do for makeup. But I find that water loss is directly proportional to the number of bikinis spotted by the engineer and inversely proportional to their size. Most of my makeup comes right out of the river...no water treatment. There are three ways in which to add boiler water...chain drive off the engine; 12 volt electric pump and hand pump. MISSIE has logged over 2000 miles in 163 launches over eight seasons. I hope this helps...Cap'n Walnut.
    PS: Shutdown is quite simple. Tie off, turn off the burner, shut the main propane valve and walk away. Before next time, the tanks topped off, the oil separator cleaned, the battery recharged...some say you can run all summer on one charge...I never trust it, although I have run a full week without (about 80 miles...but not at night that requires running lights). If ovenight in the water I just top up needed liquids and lube the engine. The engine gets oiled with steam cylinder oil and lubed with synthetic grease along with the trailer wheels. Cylinder oil is injected into the steam line feeding the engine and also used on eccentrics and crosshead lube.

  4. #4
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    Apr 2006
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    Waco, TX
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    Default

    Thanks Tom. I was hoping that you would post MISSIE's proceedure. BTW, what is the simple valve? It takes you less time to launch and get going than it took me to step the mast, bend on sails and get the Lightning ready to sail, even with crew halping!
    Last edited by Hank Bloomer; 05-24-2009 at 09:24 AM. Reason: bad typing

  5. #5
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    Apr 2006
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    On Flintlock Farm on Gunpowder Road in Boone County, Kentucky
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    Hank: MISSIE has a compound engine like the DELTA QUEEN...exhaust from the starboard engine on the DQ is taken to the port side and then runs the engine there. She has a "simpling" valve too, and it is used to give the low pressure engine a boost of high pressure steam as when getting her offa dead center and starting...really just a squirt...she doesn't run that way. MISSIE has the same thing and it is used for the same thing...getting offa dead center when starting/reversing etc. The term derives from the fact that there are "simple" engines and "compound" engines and the simpling valve makes a compound temporarily into a simple engine. In MISSIE's case, she is a fore-and-aft compound two-cylinder engine connected to a propeller shaft while the DQ's two engines are direct-connected to each side of the paddle wheel. Typically, although not always...the high pressure cylinder is half the diameter to the low pressure engine. In the DQ, the HP is 26" in diameter; the LP is 52" in diameter...both have ten-foot stroke. MISSIE's are 2 1/4" by 3 3/4" by 2 1/2" stroke. MISSIE also condenses her steam just like the DQ does for added efficiency and ooomph! Cap'n Walnut

  6. #6
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    Apr 2006
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    Waco, TX
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    Default

    Thank you, sir. That's very clear, and a piece of information new to me. Thanks also for the origin of the term.

  7. #7
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    Apr 2006
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    Waco, TX
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    Default

    When warming up the cylinders, how do you admit steam? Normally and let her roll dead slow? Or do you have a valve setting that allows steam to both sides of the pistons with the exhaust or drain cocks open so no motion is created?

  8. #8
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    Jul 2006
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    Northern California above Lake Oroville on "Dewey Mountain"
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    Default

    Hank,
    Typically you "roll 'er back and forth" to warm up the cylinders, a little throttle, and forward, then reverse, then forward until she rolls over. Also, usually leave the drain cocks open in case any water carries over, or condenses because the cylinders are so cold.Close the simpling valve (if there is one) and let her warm up at a low throttle setting, and close the cocks when they show just steam. At least that's what I did with the Mikahala (steeple compound). It does take a bit of "feel" and "listen."
    S'
    David D.
    Last edited by David Dewey; 05-27-2009 at 12:53 AM. Reason: Forgot an important detail

  9. #9
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    Apr 2006
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    On Flintlock Farm on Gunpowder Road in Boone County, Kentucky
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    777

    Default

    Hank and David: MISSIE is simpler than that in that if I heat the valve boxes with their drains open (simpling valve and throttle cracked open), I can start her and water (condensate) in the cylinders will simply push its way past (unseat) the "D" valves and no harm is done. But MISSIE does have cylinder cocks that can be used to warm the cylinders in the conventional manner. With all the inertia of the wheel and pittman, water in the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE's cylinder could deadhead against the poppet valves and might well blow a head off the cylinder...the drains not big enough to vent the pressure fast enough or if left closed. Thus the caution used with warm-up there. It is a tribute to all those generations of engineers that this has evidently never happened. Don't know if we can say the same for the DQ as she has had a cylinder replaced (low pressure, I think) and ran through her self another time methinks. The former could have been from inexperienced navy personnel in the engine room. That is why it is said that old-time engineers would not walk in front of a cylinder head when under steam. Cap'n Walnut.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
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    841

    Default

    I am not a licensed marine engineer, but I designed the boiler settings, etc., for the Belle of Louisville's Nooter boilers. Originally, to start up, the first thing is to fill the boilers. It could be done several ways, but the easy way was to fire up the auxiliary boiler (never called that, even by African-American firemen) and use a steam pump. In coal-burning days oily rags and kindling wood were placed on the grates, a thin layer of coal was spread and the fire was touched-off. A wait of several hours was used by the engineers to oil around, check valves, gauges and drains.
    When the Belle burned bunker C oil the fuel was heated by the auxiliary boiler while the main boilers were filled with water. When the bunker C was heated to a liquid state, firing jets were turned on to atomize the oil and drive it into the furnace. A torch made of an oily rag on a steel rod ignited the fuel. Again there was a wait of several hours, etc.
    Today the Belle burns a much lighter fuel which is shore-power-electrically pumped to the burners during warm-up. The fuel does not have to be pre-heated. Ignition is still by torch, I think.
    The long wait for the water to boil is still used to oil around, fill the chemical feeder for the feedwater, check everything and open drains to get rid of condensate in engines for pumps, propelling engines, etc. When working pressure is reached the fuel is atomized by steam.
    When working pressure is attained the cylinder cocks are opened and the throttle opened a crack to warm up the cylinders, steeriing engine, steam lines and feedwater heater.
    All of these chores are relatively straightforward and easily understood, but it is not like turning on the ignition key in an automobile.

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