A Red Hot Boiler

Boiler

Content Tools

178 Emerson Place Brooklyn, New York 11205

I sent these photos to be used on the I back cover in color, because color photographs are the only way to do this subject justice. The pictures represent every engineer's worst nightmare, a red hot boiler.

The boiler was one of a pair of H.R.T.'s located in a factory on the edge of the Pratt Institute campus in Brooklyn, New York. The school had wanted to purchase this property for years to complete our campus expansion begun in 1955, and in the late '60s the opportunity came when the company, United Metals, got into financial difficulty and sold us the building, retaining for themselves a long-term lease.

Part of the deal was that we had nothing to do with the maintenance, they had their own people, and so we did not set foot inside the building.

In the late 70s, things fell apart financially, and they went bankrupt in the fall of 1976. The bank immediately padlocked the building, initially only allowing the former general maintenance man in to run the boiler for heat, and this was followed by a period of chaos as the factory contents were inventoried and sold. Even though I hold the position of Chief Engineer with Pratt Institute, I was told to 'keep out,' the bank was running things.

' Your Worst Nightmare,' a story by Conrad H. Milster, 178 Emerson Place, Brooklyn, New York 11205, will explain how this boiler got to be in this red-hot and extraordinarily dangerous condition. All operators of steam-powered machinery should read his story . . . twice.

' Your Worst Nightmare,' a story by Conrad H. Milster, 178 Emerson Place, Brooklyn, New York 11205, will explain how this boiler got to be in this red-hot and extraordinarily dangerous condition. All operators of steam-powered machinery should read his story . . . twice.

One morning in early December, I received a phone call about 7:00 a.m. from Harry, the maintenance man. He informed me that the electric feed pump had failed and the boiler had no water in the glass and was hot, very hot. I told him not to touch anything except to kill the oil burner, which he had already done, and the feed pumps, and wait for me. As we live on the campus, I was there in five minutes, and Harry and I proceeded to open the doors on the boiler. The tube sheet was glowing cherry red!

It was obvious that the boiler had breathed its last, and I went back home for my camera, taking these two photo shots. By then the tube sheet had stopped glowing but you can see that the tubes are still orange.

My first question later that day was to find out why the low water cutoff had not worked. When I opened it up I discovered that although everything was in place control, conduit, wire it had never been hooked up! Neither, as it turned out, had the control on the other boiler!

The outcome of all this was that both H.R.T.'s were abandoned (the other had died earlier), and a small boiler used for the plating operation supplied heat for a year or so until we could tie the building into our central plant's steam supply.

I shudder to think of the result if Harry had decided to put water into the boiler first instead of calling me! As these were low pressure boilers, there was no requirement for a licensed engineer, which in no way diminished the lethal potential they had if improperly run.

There is, however, a more comical story connected with this company. When Phyllis and I were married in Chicago, her home, I went out there for the wedding. Looking over the presents I began to laugh when I came to a nice electric coffeepot. No one understood why, until I pointed out to them that it had been made by 'United Metals of Brooklyn, New York,' only several hundred feet from where we were to live!