LETTING OFF STEAM

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Three years after the tragic events at Medina, Ohio, concern over the safe operation of historic boilers remains high. Fortunately, a generally saner atmosphere has replaced the paranoia that was witnessed in the immediate aftermath of Medina, and states appear to be taking pragmatic steps towards not only ensuring safe and proper operation of historic boilers, but also ensuring the ability for the continued operation of our old machinery.

In 2003, the state of Ohio created the Ohio Historical Boilers Licensing Board to draft guidelines governing the operation of historic boilers. Now, word comes that the National Board of Boiler & Pressure Vessel Inspectors, the national organization that drafts rules and specifications for the boiler and pressure vessel industries, has activated a task group to study the Board's historic boiler codes.

From what we've learned, this task group will focus on a review and possible revision of Appendix C of the National Board Inspection Code, which deals specifically with inspection of historic boilers

Several active owners and operators of steam traction engines have been tapped for the task force, and it appears their primary role will be reviewing comments made to the Board since the adoption of Appendix C. We hope the planned review is a positive sign the Board wants to keep abreast of prevailing opinion by keeping its finger on the pulse of the hobby.

This comes on the heel of the Board's 73rd general meeting, May 10, 2004, in Nashville, Tenn., where one of the scheduled talks given by Morris Snow, chairman of the Board's historic boiler committee, was titled 'Potential for Disaster Historic Boilers.'

Many of us wondered what the Board was attempting to accomplish at its national meeting, so I called Donald E. Tanner, executive director of the Board, to express concern over the tone of the event.

In my discussion with Tanner, he assured me the Board has no agenda to shut down historic boilers, and that the Board was interested in getting feedback from owners and operators of historic boilers to help craft its policies. I was not alone in contacting Tanner, as I know steamers from around the country contacted Tanner to vent their concerns over the Board's stance on historic boilers.

The task force appears to be a direct reaction to the concerns expressed by members of the historic steam community, proving that we do have a voice, but only if we actually use it. The task group was scheduled to meet in August, and we'll keep readers aware as we learn more.

Contact Donald Tanner by writing to: The National Board of Boiler & Pressure Vessel Inspectors,
1055 Crupper Ave., Columbus, OH 43229-1183; (614) 888-8320; dtanner@nationalboard.org
www.nationalboard.org