BOILER EXPLOSIONS


| November/December 1981



Boiler

This boiler was 5' in diameter, 23' long, built for 250 lbs. working pressure. It never had a hot crown sheet while I owned it.

106 South Elm Street, Newkirk, Oklahoma 74647

Lately there have been gruesome stories about boiler explosions and scary tales of foaming boilers and I am almost afraid to attend a steam engine show. What if some 'engineer' were to pump water on to a red hot crown-sheet? Or maybe accidentally get a spoonful of milk in his water tank?

Now, I want to tell a little tale about a dry boiler that didn't explode. In the tall white oak timber of the Arkansas Ozarks back about 1934, a good stave mill operator named John McKew, was running a stave mill. One day everything was going nicely, but somebody noticed that there was no water showing in the glass. The fireman had become careless or perhaps a check valve had failed to close. Anyway somebody hollered 'turn on the injector' but another yelled 'no, no, it'll blow sky high if you do.'

John McKew was the kind of fellow that never was scared for a full minute in his life, so he took command. He said, 'Now you all get behind the sawdust pile. I'm 76 years old anyhow and it can't beat me out of much, and I'll turn the pump on.' He did just that. Nothing happened, and before long the water showed in the glass. The careless fireman built up his fire and got up a head of steam, and the mill resumed making staves.

Now understand that I'm not advising anybody to turn on the injector when the water is out of sight. It is best to cover the fire with wet ashes. Drawing or dumping the fire will create an intense heat that will do more damage or perhaps cause an explosion. Getting a crown-sheet hot is sure to cause some damage, so DONT LET THE WATER GET LOW.

Now I will tell a story of a hot crown-sheet that had much more serious consequences.