Boiler Talk

| March/April 1967

908 Chestnut St., Grand Forks, North Dakota

Having seen a lot of traction engine boilers in my day, I am going to write about some of those I've seen about thirty some years ago that were junked at a junk yard not far from where I live. One of the first I looked at and examined was a Minneapolis, about 25 HP. The boiler barrel was cut off close to the fire box and showed the flues in the fire box end. The boiler had been well taken care of and was in good shape. It was not very old, only about 7 or 8 years and it was clean. The stay bolts were in good condition, lime coated and no rust on them. The threads were in good condition.

The next one I looked at and examined was an old style Buffalo Pitts direct flue built shortly after the company quit building return flue boilers. It had the water bottom fire box. This boiler had been well taken care of as it was in splendid shape. It had been kept clean and the stay bolts were slightly coated with lime, also the sides of sheets. The flues had been in a long time and were very thin. They would dent easily from the blow of the hammer. The steel from which this boiler was made was not very heavy as it was not built for more than 125 PSI to 135 PSI.

Some time later I had a chance to examine another Minneapolis. This was a double cylinder and one of the first doubles the Minneapolis built. It was not a very heavy boiler and I would guess about 30 HP. It had not been very well taken care of in the last few years that it was used as it was full of mud and scale in the bottom of the fire box. It was so baked in with scale and lime around the flues in the firebox end that you had to hammer it hard to break it off. The bottom of the fire box was so baked with mud and lime you couldn't drive a rod into it. This boiler, as far as I could see,, was built for about 135 PSI.

Not far away was another boiler which was a J. I. Case of about 20 HP. It surely had been misused. The fire box was cut apart in several pieces and showed neglect. The lower part of the water leg just above the grate line was full of mud and scale and was baked in hard. How the boiler worked is hard to understand as it must have been foaming all the time as these boilers have so little room for mud and silt. The crown sheet had a blister up near the flue end and that was so thin that it dented with just a light blow from my hammer. It was heavily coated with scale and lime and mud. Whether the soft plug was bare or not I couldn't see but it was clear so it could still be good. This boiler seemed to be quite old and could have been in poor hands in its later years.

In the case of a blister in the boiler sheet anywhere in a boiler, it is best to cut it out and examine the sheet, its thickness and how badly it is eaten away by the water and scale. Stay bolts should be checked the same way. They can be patched up again with electric welding. When a man sees what his boiler looks like inside, where the steam pressure is, he is better able to judge what his boiler is good for.


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