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Belle of Louisville Boiler Experiment

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Old 02-24-2007, 06:37 AM
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 841
Default Belle of Louisville Boiler Experiment

Here is a tale of spite. In 1966 the Belle of Louisville made an extended trip to Maysville, Kentucky. The Louisville Coast Guard machinery inspector came along as a guest. He promptly got into a round-the-clock poker game, even though he was among the world's worst gamblers. The concession lady, the captain, an engineer and a couple of deckhands took turns fleecing this fool. He spent all the money in his pockets, cashed his pay voucher for the month, wrote his last check and started on I.O.U.'s.
At the end of the season he came to the boat, electric drill in hand, to inspect the boilers. He riddled the bottom sheets until he found a thin spot, then condemned them. Even if he had not found a thin place, he had ruined enough plates to require heavy repairs. This may or may not have been vengeance for his losses in that disastrous poker game. The boilers had to be replaced. Now I am not saying he did this for spite, but I certainly do suspect it.
There was a notorious tightwad on the board of operators, a man so concerned with first cost that he was blind to all else. Bids were received from several boiler manufacturers and the board went to the Coast Guard Commander for advice. He told them he was forbidden by law to choose between manufacturers, but that they should take the boilers with the highest water capacity and lowest firing rate. The tightwad, however, prevailed over the rest of the operating board and they selected the smallest and cheapest boilers that were offered. They were jim-dandy, two-pass little things, which had fins inside the tubes that were supposed to increase the transfer of heat to the water. So they were installed. During the trial run it became apparent that the new boilers simply didn't have enough power. A quick inspection found that all of the wonderful fins had burned out during the trial run! Further, the back head had bulged outward 3/4".
Conferences were held. Blame was heaped on the innocent. Ties were installed between the boiler heads to prevent that bulge from increasing and a fire-brick shield was installed to protect the back head. Orders were given to the pilots to ring a slow bell before blowing the whistle because the added load caused water to carry over into the engine cylinders. The boat limped through the 1967 season while new bids were called for.
The chastened board, including the pinch-penny, bought three large boilers and had them installed during the winter of 1967-68. They are still serving the Belle. All in all this experiment in parsimony cost the boat more than a million dollars. All of the principals involved in these transactions are beyond punishment today owing to the grim reaper, so the story can be told.
The finless fin tube boilers were given to the county garage. They didn't last long even there.
The moral of this tale? Savings of first cost are not always economical.
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