Boiler Inspector: Friend or Foe?

1555 Wallum Lake Road Pascoag, Rhode Island 02859

The following article is reprinted with permission from
Heritage Eagle, where it first appeared in issue No. 30,
1995.

I am quite sure that some of you have had a bad experience with
your boiler inspector and consider him/her public enemy No.1. In
this article, I’d like to try to convince you of the fact that
your boiler inspector deserves your respect and attention.

Now that I have your attention by this statement, I’d like
to continue as follows.

As the owner of an ASME Code boiler manufacturing shop, I deal
with my insurance inspector and many jurisdiction inspectors
throughout North America. I find that, for the most part, your
boiler inspector doesn’t have a clue how your tractor operates
and surely does not appreciate or understand why this chunk of iron
is the most important object of your affection, even superseding,
in many cases, your family! You start off at odds as soon as the
inspector wants to examine your tractor’s inner areas. You
shudder with horror when he/she (there are many female inspectors
now) takes out that hammer and taps everywhere chipping some fancy
painted areas with little or no concern, merrily tapping away,
poking tubes, stays and sheets.

Your boiler inspector’s vocabulary is insulting as you are
informed that your boiler shows advanced signs of corrosion,
thinning and, his big gun, red tag! This can’t be your boiler
he’s referring to. You plead with him to pass it anyway,
because there’s that big show you got her all dolled up for,
but he’s suddenly deaf, packs his little bag, hands you an
Inspection Failure Report and drives into the sunset with a smile.
Surely no one can be this mean!

He’s not mean. He may have saved your life by red tagging
your boiler. Your boiler inspector is trained to look for telltale
changes in the condition of steel that often may cause sudden,
severe changes in the integrity of a pressure vessel. He is not
blind to the beauty of your tractor, but he can’t allow himself
to be swayed by cosmetic trappings on and around the heart of your
tractor which is the boiler. Many of you have no conception
whatsoever how devastating a boiler explosion can be. I have been
on site for cleanup and repairs of a few boiler failures, which
have left a lasting impression on my mind. I cannot emphasize
enough how critical it is to properly maintain and operate any
boiler.

Did you know that the original thought at the time your tractor
was built was to figure a life expectancy of 15-20 years, tops!
Today’s boilers will last three or four times that long. No one
dreamed that these rusty hulks found in the woods, behind barns or
buried in the fields would be hauled out, cleaned up and run again
at original pressure50-plus years after their life expectancy
expired.

Many states are tightening their laws concerning these old
tractors with good reason. They don’t want one to blow up in
their state and kill or maim people. Think what could happen at one
of the shows you attend if one of these beautiful tractors let go.
I think it would cause a domino reaction and all old riveted
boilers older than twenty years would be condemned.

You can do a few things to keep you and your tractor safe. You
should never

1. Weld on a boiler unless you are an ASME Code
certified welder.
Only an ASME Code certified welder
working for an R stamp holder should ever touch a boiler. They have
been trained and tested to use the proper procedures and materials
to make a safe weld.

2.  Tamper with or adjust a safety valve.
Only an ASME Code VR company should adjust and reset all safety
valves. To be on the safe side, have your safety valves checked
annually.

3. Put your boiler away dirty. Proper
maintenance demands that your boiler be cleaned often to prevent
unnecessary corrosion which can ruin any boiler.

4.  Run low water. This is the biggest
cause of explosions or failures of a boiler and also speeds up
metal fatigue.

5.  Open the firebox door while the engine is
working.
A sudden rush of cold air on the front tube sheet
causes thermal shock and eventually failure. Wait until engine
coasts as on a saw mill, then open the door and feed quickly. There
are some situations when you must open the door at the wrong time.
Be careful not to upset the heat zone in the firebox.

Take seriously any recommendations given to you by your boiler
inspector it could save your life.

In conclusion, you should find a reputable ASME Code company
with an R stamp familiar with your type of boiler to work with on
all your boiler problems. These firms can save you a multitude of
heartburn dealing with a boiler inspector. They speak the same
language and respect each other’s capabilities and
responsibilities.

I hope you will see that your boiler inspector is indeed your
friend and his concerns are based upon the safety of you and all
those who will attend the many shows throughout this land.

If any reader would like a copy of Recommended Care and
Maintenance of Steam Boilers, I would be happy to include you on
our mailing list. We have made a sincere commitment to promote safe
operations of all boilers and pressure vessels, and we will answer
any questions asked of us. Write: Benson Mountain Company, P.O. Box
427, Thompson, Connecticut 06277-0427.

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