Advice For Boiler Buyers!

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This letter is not being written to start a debate over the pros
and cons of boiler inspection requirements.

My job as a jurisdictional (state) boiler inspector, is the
enforcement of my state’s boiler rules, the A.S.M.E. Codes, and
the National Board Inspection Code. The purpose of this letter is
to inform steam enthusiasts who are thinking about purchasing a
boiler, and bringing it into the state where they plan on operating
the boiler, to check that state’s boiler regulations prior to
buying the boiler. A majority of states have boiler laws that cover
the operation and repair of boilers. The sad part is most of these
laws are different from state to state. Make sure you check with
the jurisdictions where you plan to operate the boiler for their

In the past year, there have been seven boilers brought into the
state where I work. Five have been considered antique traction
boilers, and two were considered non-standard boilers. Most states
require new boilers to be built to the A.S.M.E. Codes and most also
require registration of the boiler with the National Board. Antique
and exhibition boilers usually have their own set of regulations
due to their age and use.

I would like to use an example at this time to demonstrate the
problems an owner may be faced with when bringing a boiler into a
state for the first time. A person reads an ad or hears about a
boiler that is ‘For Sale’ in state ‘A’, he
purchases the traction engine (boiler) for $15,000 and brings it
into state ‘B’.

The engine has sat in a field or barn for 20 years, but he is
told there is ‘no problem’ with the boiler. He has not
checked with the requirements of state ‘B’ concerning their
boiler laws. Now he finds out he needs a current operating
certificate given by that state to operate his ‘new’
boiler. An operating certificate is usually required by each state
where the boiler is to be operated. This is where an Authorized
Inspector gets involved. A vast majority of the antique boilers do
not have insurance on them where an insurance company inspector,
holding a working commission from that state, would make the
inspection. Most antique and non-standard boilers are inspected by
an inspector employed by the state. The first question that will
probably be asked is for any paper work on the boiler, i.e.,
previous documentation, certificates, manufacturers literature,
material specifications, etc. The owner has no paper work.
Calculations will have to be made to determine the allowable
working pressure for this boiler based on the existing thickness,
boiler dimensions, pitch of stay bolts, type of construction,

Inspection reveals three-fourths of the front flue sheet has
been replaced and a patch welded in the bottom of the barrel. Guess
what? No documentation on the welding. This could have been welded
last year or ten years ago, and who did the welding is not known.
The state where I work requires any welding to be done by a repair
company having a National Board Repair Certificate of
Authorization. All repairs and alterations to boilers shall be
approved by a commissioned Authorized Inspector and performed under
his guidance. All welding MUST be documented.

Safety valve seals are missing. A safety valve has to be
replaced with an A.S.M.E. approved safety valve set at, or below,
the allowable working pressure with proper relieving capacity and
lead seals intact, or, an A.S.M.E. valve on the boiler can be
removed and sent to an authorized safety valve repair facility for
calibration and sealed.

Other problems were found sometimes that will require spending
more money for repairs.

In closing, I would like to stress the importance of contacting
the jurisdictions prior to purchasing a boiler to see if the boiler
will meet requirements before you spend a lot of money. I feel
sorry for a buyer who has spent $15-$20,000 on a boiler and I have
to tell him it does not meet our requirements, and that it cannot
be operated around the public.

Editor’s Note:Because the above
article was submitted by its intention of informing and assisting
our subscribers, we have respected his wish to remain

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