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Bruno Krause 09-02-2008 08:57 PM

the Pilot, the Engineer and the Chief...
The thread about western style steamboat boilers reminded me that I have a few questions about steamboat boiler operation in general.

Was/is there some kind of dynamic discussion underway between the pilot and the Chief about how much speed and power would/will be required and for how long? For instance, even on the DQ, is the Chief aware of where on the river the boat is, do the pilots let him know when less than Full ahead is required so that the firing of the boilers can be toned down a bit at just the right time, i.e. coming into locks and ports? If the pilots all of a sudden do not need full ahead anymore, do they let the Chief know ahead of time, or is it up to the Chief to figure this out very [B][I]quickly[/I][/B] by himself between the telegraph and the rising boiler pressure at full fire.

If the pilothouse calls for full ahead, what does that mean? I'm sure it means different things whether upbound or down, right? And is "full ahead" relative? Does it equate to the engineer opening the main steam valve just enough to provide a particular paddlewheel revolution speed? And if the pilothouse needs a tad more, say 10% more push than present, how is that conveyed to the engineer? Or if the pilothouse needs something in between "full" and "half", or "half and "slow", how is that requested to the engine room? And for that matter, how is that requested of the boiler room, other than wildly fluctuating steam pressure gauges?

And lastly, I take it the pilots are directly responsible for setting the speed on the AQ's is it still the same way with the AQ's wheel, i.e. the pilot requests via electronic telegraph and the engineer provides a certain set wheel revolution speed and the Chief tries to keep up with it all?

And a sorta related question about older steamboat boilers...I've heard/read the term: the boiler had a "bag" in it...What does this mean, is it a weakened outward bulge in the side of the boiler, with subsequent need to be cut out and new metal put in its place?

Lexie Palmore 09-03-2008 12:29 PM

Lots of questions and many on this board can contribute, but I'll start first. Typically, the engineer on watch is responsible for answering the bells from the pilot house as soon as the bells or other signal is made. The engineer has his own settings on the throttle for the different speeds. Engineers like to know ahead of time if there will be changes. Experienced engineers usually know the river well enough to anticipate landings and locks. I have been told that old hands knew what bells would be rung from what pilots before they were even rung. While on the DQ I would call the engine room and/or boiler room to prepare them for any changes, especially if it was something out of the blue. At times a pilot or captain may not like a particular speed. A certain speed on the DQ would cause the pilothouse to shake. Or a little more oomph was needed for some swift current. The engineer would be called to change the settings a little, and asked kindly. There is technically no "in between" speed. You would just call to ooch things back or ahead a little. The speed, such as full or half, would still be the same, unless the pilot actually rang the bell for a different speed. There was a engine order indicator in the boiler room of the DQ. It may still be there. Rule #1, always keep an eye on that pressure gage. And the water level.

From the pilot house, we could tell what was going on down below by the wheel revolutions. It was expected that, say, full ahead would be so many rpms. All relative to river conditions, of course.

A bagged boiler is a bulge caused by low or no water in the boiler, thus the steel overheats and sags or warps, weakening the boiler shell. Not good. Usually means the boiler is fried and has to be replaced. And a fireman is fired. I don't know about the repairs to bagged boilers, if that is even possible.

Tom Schiffer 09-03-2008 01:09 PM

Lexie/Bruno: I have read that bagged boilers were sometimes cooled down and beat back into shape with hammers. I seem to recall that this was a fairly routine thing to do. It is certainly caused by some localized overheating of the boiler shell which lowers the tensile strength at that point and at that elevated temperature to where the internal pressure bulges the shell outward. I think maybe that the Sultana's boilers were bagged and repaired shortly before the "event".

Bruno Krause 09-03-2008 01:49 PM

Thanks! The "bagged boiler" question came about from old S & D's that I have been relishing, specifically the "Log of the Steamer Boaz in 1906". Reading the log it seemed that a few times a year a "bag" was discovered and it was quickly repaired, as in a few days. Either Tom's explaination of the big hammer theory or my envisioned theory of new metal bolted into place after the bag was removed seems logical considering how short the repair time was. I would think that bolting a new section on would weaken the surrounding metal a bit, though...

Shipyard Sam 09-03-2008 03:57 PM

How Times and Meanings Change
GOOGLE [I][U]Bagged Boilers[/U][/I], today, and this is what you generally get:

[I]Modern wood chip or pellet [B]boilers[/B] are highly efficient, clean burning and totally automatic. Pellets can be purchased in[B] bagged [/B]or bulk form.[/I]

Walnut was right.

Frank X. Prudent 09-03-2008 06:04 PM

Bagged boilers were the bane of the Chief Engineer. It wasn't so much low water in the boiler that would cause one to bag, but the unequal distribution of heat at the bottom of the boiler above the fires. Low water in the boiler still needs to be avoided, but that is more likely to cause a catastrophic explosion than a bagged boiler. If an engineer didn't blow down his boilers and keep them free from accumulating sediment, any scale that would form could keep the fire's heat from being equally distributed. A hot spot could develop where the sediment and scale accumulated and that area overheat and bag. The last steamboat to bag a boiler, to my knowledge, was the Str. PRESIDENT during her last trip as a steamboat.

There were a couple of remedies to a bagged boiler. First of all, pull your fires and wait for her to cool down. Then inspect the magnitude of the situation and where you are with your bagged boiler. The engineer could decide to build a fire brick casing around the bag, raise enough steam to get to a boiler yard and have repairs done or get new boilers. Another option was to go to the boiler yard and have the bag heated to cherry red and then hammered back into place. Chances are that the U.S. Steamboat Inspection Service's boiler inspector, whom was probably a licensed chief himself, would be overseeing the whole boiler yard operation, check things over, and give a yea or nay to the repairs.

Dad would always say that he could tell whom was steering by listening to the way they rang bells. He'd love to say that some pilots couldn't make any more noise if they put marbles in a tin pail and shook the pail around. Also on the old boats, and on the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE today, the striker usually handles the engines while over seen by the engineer. When bells ring though both will come a running to the foot box. Neither of them want a delay in answering bells.

I've also seen that a pilot rang to go from a half bell to a slow bell, or slow to half, and the engineer told me to answer back on the telegraph, and that was the extent that that bell was answered. NO, my father wasn't the engineer and it was a long time ago, but the pilot ringing would have had to have been Cappy Louden or C.S.Ware!

Alan Bates 09-03-2008 07:43 PM

Bruno, Frank has the right answer. When silt formed on the bottom of the boiler it insulated that spot from the cooling (!) effect of the water. That spot would get hot enough to make the steel more or less elastic. When the steel bagged the silt would break and the water would instantly cool the bagged spot - self-healing, so to speak.

In 1966, I think, the Belle of Louisville bought a pair of Brown Fintube boilers. The back heads bulged during the first trip because the flames reached above the waterline in the boilers. We had to install longitudinal stay bolts from head to head and build a firebrick wall to protect the repaired boiler heads. In two years they were worn out and had to be replaced.

This was caused by parsimony. The board of directors was advised to accept the boilers with the greatest water capacity and the lowest firing rate. Instead, a tightwad on the board held out until they accepted the lowest bid, which was for the lowest water content and the highest firing rate. They were so bad the pilot was obliged to ring for a slow bell when he wanted to blow the whistle! Blowing the whistle could cause water to carry over into the steam line and to the cylinders.

Saving that first expense eventually cost the boat more than two million dollars.

Pilots do not give a hoot about rpm's. They want a particular speed and get it by verbal discussion with the engineer. The engineer has throttle settings for each bell signal.

Alan Bates 09-03-2008 07:48 PM

Engineers did, indeed, keep track of where the boat was. Chet Foster told me one time, "Don't worry about hitting that wharfboat. I got marks all up and down that wharf." Chet kept an eye on the railroad trestle and if the pilot didn't ring to stop or back at the usual place, he intended to do it in any event. Sometimes bells didn't ring - a broken wire, a jammed chain, anything could happen. Having an engineer like Chet was a great comfort. Ask Kenny Howe.

Judy Patsch 09-03-2008 08:36 PM

Last bagged boiler
Unfortunately the PRESIDENT wasn't the last steamboat to have a bagged boiler. The NATCHEZ did, during a summer when I was working on her. In fact, I think both boilers were bagged in different years, which led to them eventually being replaced. We had several layups during my 11 summers for boiler repairs, so I don't remember the exact years.

Lexie Palmore 09-04-2008 11:52 AM

Well, some of us were interested in RPMs. Kind of like a tell tale. I believe the Sprague had a rather intricate rig to the outside of the pilot house that was connected to the paddlewheel. This would tell pilots which way the wheel was turning and how fast, or in the Sprague's case, how slow. For those few who have NEVER been in the DQ pilot house, there is an indicator there, as well, that tells how fast and which way the wheel is turning. It also has a counter, which has probably turned over thousands of times.

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