Farm Collector


Centuria, Wisconsin

In reading the Mar-April issue of the ALBUM, I read the very
interesting article on Boiler Safety, written by O. H. Neiman of
the Neiman Machine Works, Freeport, Illinois. I would like to hear
more about this thing of Boiler Safety. We all know pretty well
what would happen to our reunions after a fatal boiler mishap. I
don’t think we can over-emphasize the importance of being
careful with ‘our boilers.

I had the experience of taking out the hand holes of a boiler
just a short time after it had passed a State Inspection Test. Prom
the amount of scales in the bottom, I know this boiler had not been
opened up and cleaned for at least two years. This boiler was in a
public building. Let’s open up those boilers at least once a
year and clean them out. Of course, a lot depends on how much they
are used and the kind of water. But, at least once a year,

I went and looked at an engine last year, and one look was
enough. The engine itself didn’t look too bad, but that boiler
was a mess. Those hand holes hadn’t been out for at least 10
years. Maybe a lot of readers will say all that cleaning isn’t
necessary. But I think it’s the least we can do for the safety
of the crowds that patronize our reunions.

I have a set of encyclopedias that were written in the year 1875
and I would like to quote some of its writing on steam boiler
explosions ‘Steam boiler explosions occur as a consequence of
ignorance or carelessness in design, in construction or in
management. Experimental explosions have shown that even low
pressures are sufficient to produce very violent explosions.

‘The Explosion Experiments of Francis B. Stevens in 1871
were considered to indicate: 1. That a most violent explosion may
occur in a boiler well supplied with water. 2. That what is
generally considered a moderate steam pressure may produce a very
violent explosion of a weak boiler containing a large body of
water, and having all its flues well covered. It was reported that
one of the boilers exploded by Mr. Stevens contained 40,000 lbs. of
water; and that when the steam pressure was, as at the time of
explosion, 53 lbs. to the square inch, the heat stored in the
boiler amounted to 2,674,080 British Thermal Units, equivalent in
mechanical energy to about 2,064,389,760 foot pounds, or, if wholly
so expended, sufficient to raise the whole boiler, weighing 70,000
lbs. to a height of 24,491 ft. or more than five miles. , The
conclusion reached was: ‘That it is very certain that the
energy of this explosion and all of its tremendous effects were
principally suddenly liberated at a moderate pressure by the
general disrupture of a steam boiler of very uniform but feeble

‘When steam boilers are locally weak, explosions rarely
occur. The steam pressure produces rupture at the weakest point and
the strength of surrounding parts being sufficient to prevent
extension of the break, no explosion occurs.

‘Where the weakest portions of the boiler are more extended
and more uniformly weak, the extent of the rupture which finally
occurs becomes greater, and the accident is attended with greater
violence of disruption, and the more serious results follow. Where
considerable portions of the boiler are weak, or long lines of
weakness exist uninterrupted by points much more defective,
disastrous explosions are very likely to take place with old
boilers and at moderate pressures.

‘The most terrible explosions occur with good and uniformly
strong boilers, in which, by accident or mismanagement, steam has
been allowed to accumulate until a fatally high pressure produces
rupture and drives the fragments of the boiler in all

So fellows, I say again, let’s be very careful!

Careful and skillful inspection of a boiler will almost always
detect all serious defects. Every sheet should be examined to
discover blisters, lamination, fracture or corrosion. All stays and
braces should be carefully examined and the boiler fittings, valves
and gauges should be inspected and the last should be tested. I
think a lot of us have reached up and tapped a steam gauge and saw
it jump up from a couple of pounds to ten or more. Let’s test
those gauges once in a while and clean out those boilers!

  • Published on Nov 1, 1961
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