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Thread: Steam startup

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
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    Waco, TX
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    269

    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
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
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    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.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2008
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    Lynchburg Va.
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    Very good explanation Alan. As I worked a few lay-ups as watchman and Mate on the DQ and MQ I did get to see the start-ups a few times and it is fairly simple just time consuming. Oh and I will hopefully be attending your Talk on the 18th of July.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    Waco, TX
    Posts
    269

    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

  7. #7
    Join Date
    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

  8. #8
    Join Date
    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.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Location
    Louisville, KY
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    161

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    Alan's explanation of our procedures on the Belle pretty well sums up our process after washing the boilers. Keep in mind, though, any engineer worth much will add a few of their own personal touches to the process. Nowadays, without the aux. boiler, we will use our air compressors to atomize the fuel until we get the pressure around 30-50 psi. For many years we burned #4 fuel oil, which was a challenge to burn cold in the spring after washing the boilers. On those sort of days we'd try heating our day tank externally (torpedo heater, halogen lamps around the base of the tank) a while before lighting the burners. Last year we were burning #6, and it gave us nothing but trouble when trying to fire a cold boiler, in spite of our efforts to heat it. Now we are burning #2,which requires little, if any, heating and is as cheap for us to burn, presently, as the cost of #6.
    Another habit we have drilled into our minds for raising steam on a "cold" boiler is to make absolutely sure our 1/2" bleeder valve on top of the main steam line is open when we take steam off the boiler. This is to eliminate any possibility of a vacuum developing while we take steam off. Even though the Belle's plant is open to atmosphere, a vacuum can still has a chance to develop within the confines of the system. this bleeder valve also gives us an indication when steam is building and purges the system of air.
    As far as a daily routine is concerned, it very dependent on how many trips, if any, we ran the day before and how soon to be ready for the next trip. As a general rule, though, we will not let pressure drop much below 50psi before raising steam. With many days in between trips, we will take steam off the boiler, but will will not cool the boiler. With the insulation we've added to this plant in recent years, she'll hold heat in the furnace for several days. Unfortunately, when there are so many days in between trips, it can get expensive to keep steam up. Yes, from an engineer's perspective, it's much better for the plant to keep steam on to avoid the stresses of expansion and contraction, as well as the possibility of leaks developing around gaskets. As I mentioned earlier, though, she'll hold heat in the plant, nowadays, with the added insulation.
    As Alan mentioned, this is a time consuming process. It can also seem like a tedious process of opening and closing valves, checking for leaks, and recognizing where things need to be tightened or loosened. It is also a labor intensive process, to say the least, and takes a watchful crew. Once a procedure is learned, though, such processes can seem like riding a bicycle. You still have to watch for those bumps in the road and deal with the unexpected. Anyway, that's my nickel's worth to this.

  10. #10
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    Dan: Your experience with No.6 oil parallels mine in a stationary source in Cincinnati. Only, back in the daze when I was working, No.6 oil was the still-bottoms from the refinery and had a fair amount more of BTU (if memory serves, 140,000 BTU/# vs 120,000 BTU/# for No.2) and was some cheaper than No.2...which is about the same a Diesel fuel or home furnace oil. We had to quit No.6 oil (aka Bunker C) because it had too much sulfur to meet EPA regulations and we ended up with a blend of No.6 and No.2 which we called No.4. Dan, tell the folks the number of engineers/firemen on shift on the BELLE, and what licenses are needed. What time you have to get to the boat in order to leave on time and how often do you blow down? Do you use city water for makeup augmented by river water as I do and how do you treat the water. Your boilers are steel...MISSIE's is copper and rightly or wrongly, I don't treat the water...just blow it down. Cap'n Walnut.

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