I want to congratulate you on the fine appearance of the last two issues of IRON-MEN ALBUM magazine. We just received the May-June issue in yesterday's mail.
There are several letters in this issue in which I think the writers made some misstatements. Now - in regard to some boilers 40 or more years old being as good as new - will say the owners mean they may be as safe as when new. But we all know the tubes are more liable to pitting and corrosion and that they must be replaced at times.
As far as safety is concerned, no one is any more afraid of an old untested boiler than I am, but if I see a test card hanging on a boiler, even if it is a very old boiler, with the owner's or inspector's signature on it, I feel the owner is looking out for the public's safety.
In regard to Mr. Glenn Harmon's letter about 'Too Much Pressure' I will say - who ever heard of anyone carrying 50% more steam pressure than the manufacturer recommended? I must come to the defense of my good friend, Joseph E. May, who is a Case engine fan and knows what he is talking about. Mr. Harmon mentions a 50% factor of safety and I assume he means the strength of new boilers. I do not care to be around any boiler under pressure if it has only a factor of safety of 50% more than working pressure.
Practically all late high pressure steam traction engine boilers were built 500 to 700% stronger than the working pressure. Did Mr. Harmon ever see or study a boiler construction record? Just now I am looking at a copy of the construction record of the 65 Case boiler I owned for a number of years. This record is on file with the Industrial Commission of Ohio and shows J. I. Case Ohio Std. No. 1878 was finished and inspected Nov. 17, 1916, by Hartford S.B.I.& I. Co., and approved 165 lbs. W. P. It shows the boiler plate was made by Worth Bros. Co. of Coatsville, Pa. (Lukens Steel Co. now.)
Mathematically, it had a bursting pressure of 939 P.S.I. Ohio boiler laws demand a factor of safety of 5 to 1, so this Case boiler could be legally used in Ohio carrying 187 P.S.I, when new. Three of our district boiler inspectors said this boiler was as good as new when I bought it in 1953. It had always been housed, used very little, and had good care.
Now, I am looking at a Port Huron boiler construction record of Ohio Std. No. 185. This engine is owned by National Threshers Inc. and the ladies T.N.T. The record shows the boiler was built in 1921 and had a mathematical bursting pressure of 1279 lbs. Travelers Indemnity Co. inspected it June 14, 1921, and at 175 lbs. W. P. it had 730% factor of safety. With our Ohio boiler 5 to 1 factor of safety law, it could legally carry 256 lbs. W. P. when new.
I have seen a number of steam traction engine boilers that have exploded or ruptured due to careless operation.
Many years ago, a few miles northwest of Swanton, Ohio, the lap seam on the shell of an Advance engine let go causing a serious explosion. The wrecked engine was left in the farm yard a few years and made a good advertisement for the A. D. Baker Company nearby.
In September 1937, an 18 hp. Nichols & Shepard engine owned by Gus Burnham of Prattville, Michigan, (about 12 miles north of my present home) blew the lower part of the firebox out killing the owner's son, Stedman Burnham.
This engine was the old style round water bottom firebox and had only 1/4' plates when new, and always carried 125 lbs. W. P. I had told a number of people I did not think the boiler safe had it been given an hydrostatic test, a rupture would have occurred in the plate under the grates and no explosion or life lost. Several days later I examined the boiler and found the plate as thin as a scoop shovel and stay bolts 8' or 9' apart. Just how this thin plate, due to corrosion, ever stood the 125 lbs. W. P. they were carrying, I do not know.
I have seen the fire flue in return flue boilers collapsed so you could not build a fire in it if you wanted to. Late Huber boilers had a 5/8' plate fire flue that remedied that trouble. Also have seen Port Huron Longfellow boilers with bagged and fallen crown sheets due to low water.
In regard to Mr. Harmon's remarks about abuse of engines, no engine was ever misused more than the 24-75 Longfellow I have used almost continually the past 40 years. When new in 1917, the road contractor used it to pull a loading excavator in a gravel pit and his help misused it shamefully. When I bought it from the Advance-Rumely Co. on March 11, 1920, the crankshaft was sprung and crank-disc wobbled 1/4' out of true, the crank-pin was cut and scored, main pinion, intermediate gear and bull pinions worn out, and draw bar at hitch broken in two. I replaced the worn gears and put a jacket on the boiler before I did any work with it. The next year (1921) I shipped the crank-disc to Port Huron for a new crank-shaft and crank-pin. This engine has done a lot of work for me and is still used in my covered sawmill. We work it to its limit, and it runs good and fires easy.