18 W. Wash. St., Newnan, Ga.
My earliest memories of steam go back to where a Watertown Portable blew up about 1882. The fireman was getting a drink of water on the other side of the Ginn house so no one was injured. He had just said the day before, 'I'll fire her or burst her'.
Some of the next ones I guess the first time I ever saw a real hot fire was when an old loco engineer would let the town kids ride with him while he was switching out cars.
The bark of steam engines could be heard all over the place pulling sawmills, running plainers, cotton ginns and the smoke from the large plants boiled out of the high stacks and only the machinery could be heard as most places used large Corliss engines.
This was a country of lumber, cotton, and cotton mills, and it is said we used 14 cars of coal a day in our little of 6000 before the electricity came.
My old friend Lew Steadman told me that he and his fireman decided to keep up steam one night when it would always go down, 4 boilers, 1 Corliss engine with a 75 psi back pressure so as to run the paper mill with exhaust. he had learned to dust the shovel off while firing from a railroad friend fireman, Lew took 2 boilers and his fireman took 2 and they began to throw the coal and each time hit the door with a loaded shovel causing the coal to form a dust and burn before it came down to the grates. Things looked good for a while as they had her popping off most of the time so they looked at each other and decided this was the way to fire until the town chief tapped him on the shoulder and invited him to look at the 130 ft. steel smoke stack outside. She was red hot half way up and people from everywhere were waiting to see the show of it falling down.
We kids never liked a large engine as they never had a bark on the exhaust like the small ones so we always gave the small places our hanging around business.
Ole Beeler Brown tells one about the saw miller having to wait for steam every day until a tramp fireman came along. The first thing he did was to spend a long time cleaning up in the tubes and boxes. Pretty soon he had her popping off so much and hard that the boss told him to slow up a little as he was afraid of this tramp and the boiler blowing up. The tramp answered back in contempt, 'It is only a little branch water and green slabs so don't worry about it.'
No one ever forgot to go to dinner as about 10 different whistles would blow for 12 o'clock and some times the blower would talk to his wife or friend miles away by giving it a extra toot or two. This always called for a visit to the big office to explain the accidental monkey business.
Then there were the steam professors, fellows who were always fingering on more power or RPM or how to save water and fuel or working on a drawing board trying to decide if the Corliss engine was making the proper card on the expansion curve.
Uncle Lee tells how he went to this large cotton mill and they had extra firemen trying to keep up steam and they were burning coal like nobody's business. Uncle spent 2 weeks and 3 Sundays taking cards and setting valves on the 1500 HP Corliss Cooper cross over compound condensing engine.
Uncle was a young man and had been an old German's protege for years here at a large textile plant so he was at home around a worn out engine.
The mill started up an extra shift about the time uncle had everything ready to make the test by weighing the coal that was burned. After testing for a week everyone decided they were burning over a railroad car of coal a week less per week and were using 10% to 20% more horse power because of running the other shift in one of the departments. Unk thought this ought to be worth a dollar a week raise to himself but the office crowd didn't think so so he packed up his tools and found another job in a nice plant without any trouble. In a month or so the mill engine was beginning to use more fuel so the management paid pretty dear for the dollar a week saving on the labor.