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    Steamboatman's slang

    What does it mean when a steamboat "runs through herself". Capt Way has stumped me again.

    #2
    The easy answer...

    The piston, in its rush back and forth through the cylinder, becomes slightly out of line due to a failure somewhere in the rigging and takes a turn thru the cylinder. Thus, it hangs up and everything comes to a stop.

    Usually, the engine requires replacement. As no manner of work will free the piston from the innards of the engine and the whole thing is a loss.

    This happened to the DELTA QUEEN in Rock Island back in 1954. Which, I am guessing is the writing you found with the phrase "run through herself" in. Capt. Frederick Way Jr. was a phenomenal writer of river subjects. I can think of no better author to read if you are looking for river history, with a side order of dry wit and facts you can take to the bank. If Capt. Way said it...you can believe it with no reservation...ever!
    Last edited by inactive user 02; 05-04-2011, 11:36 AM. Reason: Wrong date

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      #3
      DQ in Rock Island 1954

      Mike, you might also want to read Letha Greene's book Long Live the Delta Queen, in which she devotes a whole chapter to the running through herself incident Sept. 17, 1954. This was the DQ's first foray onto the UMR and it ended here rather than St. Paul. But she tried again in 1955 and made it, again and again, through 2007.. I posted a thread on it a while back with pictures from that 8 day layup here, which was my first real longer experience with a steamboat, watching it from our levee every night of the layup. Here's that thread on the layup, posted in 2009: http://www.steamboats.org/forum/stea...ri-1954-a.html

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        #4
        When a steamboat runs through herself one of the connections between the piston and the paddlewheel crank fails. It can happen at the crosshead or the crank journal or along a pitman strap. When it does, the piston becomes free, strikes the cylinder head, shatters it and goes cannon-balling along the deck or over the stern taking everything in its way with it. It is usually disastrous.

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          #5
          I thought it was when the cylinder head blew off due to being rammed by the piston or failure of head bolts or something like that. A major malfunction, to say the least. Said cylinder head can be propelled through the entire boat and woe be to anyone or thing that happens to be in its way.

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            #6
            I forget which boat it was, but Robert H. McCann maintained that one old boat ran through herself with some regularity. She would launch her pitman on a journey out towards the depths of the Ohio without much fanfare but with great consternation by the engineers. Being tough times and pitmans not coming cheap, a bleach bottle was attached by a length of rope to the pitman, so the bottle would take flight with the projectile. The bottle then served as a bouy to mark where the errant piece of hardware came to rest.

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              #7
              1819 burst her cylinder head. in 1819 Col Richard Johnson sent 4 steamboats up the Missouri to supply the US troops moving up the Missouri River the R. M. Johnson made it as high as the mouth of the Kansas River when she burst her cylinder head and they had to sent all the was back to Louisville, KY the closest foundry for a new head. They were able to make the repairs in the early spring of 1820 and the boat came out of the Missouri.
              I have been under the impression that in there early engines there was a problem with condensate building up in the cylinder and when that got to be more water in the cylinder then there was room for it was a pop goes the weasel, so to speak. I am trying to remember if there was a drain cock on the cylinder head of the 1820 Missouri Packet, now on display at the Arabia museum in Kansas City. I found my notes there was brass petcock at bottom of the cylinder head to drain the cylinder. I didn't find the Photographs I took and the drawing I made didn't show the petcock.

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                #8
                One of the first lessons I remember when learning to fire the Belle's boilers was from Chief Mike Pfleider. As I was sitting in the fireman's chair one day bringing up steam Chief Pfleider walked up to me from the engine room and told me to look towards the engine room. Right in my line of sight was the stbd. engine. He told me, nonchalantly, if that head ever let go while I was sitting there I wouldn't live to remind anyone else of such hazards! I don't think he was necessarily trying to frighten me--just a lesson for a young man to ponder and remind oneself while the equipment I operate may be old and slow moving, it can still be deadly and dangerous.

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                  #9
                  *RE: Engines 'running through*

                  Steamboating colleagues:
                  Interesting insights on the above topic going way back in steamboat history. Judy on the mark calling our attention to the account of the DQ's incident in 1954. The DQ had another such incident during her World War II days in war service in San Francisco with the high pressure cylinder. The U.S. Navy had to have a new engine cast/milled and the comment then was, "It cost the Navy more for that engine than Capt. Tom Greene paid for the boat in 1947." The late Terry Beckett some of you know here was a striker on the DQ in 1954 often telling of that trip. He assisted the men trying to dislodge the shaft going so far as to pack with ice thinking it would help dislodge. A lot of sweat, cursing, badly cut and banged fingers during that time. A neighbor of ours was a nurse traveling on the DQ that trip and helped the doctor who was a passenger with some bad cuts etc.

                  Another incident recorded, or from memory of old timers, was when the boat's lost their stern and sidewheels entirely. Capt. Ellis Mace wrote of sidewheelers "dropping one of their wheels with much damage to the wheel housings...superstructure and cabins adjacent."

                  The big sidewheel walking beam engine boats also had similar incidents on Eastern waters/Great Lakes. One of the big FALL RIVER LINE boats also suffered a shattered cyclinder when a mere tablespoon of water collected and froze during winter layup. Another Hudson River sidewheeler had her big walking beam rocker develope a crack that had been painted over. Running up the Hudson the rocker cracked, broke with the cylinder shooting up and coming down on the decks. Some of the ocean steamships of the day often "threw a propellor" with a visit to the yards required. Those big props then and now very delicate and one nick the size of a silver dollar can cause them to vibrate and wobble.

                  R. Dale Flick
                  Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati.

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                    #10
                    Lessons Learned

                    There were three lessons always told to the novice steamboatm'n:
                    (1) Never sit or stand in front of the cylinder head.
                    (2) Never stand in the bight of a line.
                    (3) Never tinkle off the bow of the boat.

                    Any, and all, of the above could prove fatal. The Mate on the AVALON was lost soon after the boat laid up for the 1958 season and was, in all likely-hood, due to a violation of Lesson # 3.

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                      #11
                      On my first trip as a deckhand I was told rule 3 when I threw a bug-infested box of cereal over the bow at the landing. "Don't let the Old Man catch you doing that. It brings bad luck." A few days later the tow ran aground near Memphis and everybody aboard took two or three involuntary steps forward. If any of them had been standing near the headlog they'd have walked overboard and under the fleet. A moving boat creates the illusion that the boat is fixed. If it suddenly stops momentum will make evderyone aboard take a couple of steps forward to avoid falling down. It is like an earthquake. Yiou don't expect the ground to move - but it does.

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                        #12
                        So what does rule # 3 have to do with a box of cereal? Or is it just standing on the bow that's dangerous? Another, less dangerous but important rule is something about spitting, or trying to spit, overboard. In other words, don't do it.

                        And yet another important safety rule that could have a fatal outcome is to never voluntarily go overboard.

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                          #13
                          Originally posted by R. Dale Flick View Post

                          Another incident recorded, or from memory of old timers, was when the boat's lost their stern and sidewheels entirely. Capt. Ellis Mace wrote of sidewheelers "dropping one of their wheels with much damage to the wheel housings...superstructure and cabins adjacent."
                          While operating in the Cincinnati to Louisville trade the fabled QUEEN CITY performed such a stunt near Madison, Indiana. Her wheel dropped into the river and stood up vertically between her cylinder timbers.

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                            #14
                            Rule numberr 3 means don't throw anything over the head of the boat. The superstition was that doing so brought bad luck. In my ignorance it happened that I threw a weevily box of cereal over the head. It could have been anything from a wad of paper to a pair of elephants - just don't throw it over the head.

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