Let's Keep 'Em Puffing


| March/April 1971



7650 Banks St.,Justice, Illinois 60458

This is the time of the year, we all suffer from that old plague, known as spring fever. We've tried everything including sassafras tea, sulphur, and molasses, but there is still no cure.

As we look out the window, we notice that Indra and mother nature are offering new life. The trees and plants are promising us a new years propersity, far better than the last.

We stroll outside like an animal coming out of hibernation, wandering out to the shed and lo and behold, there's old Betsy standing there exactly in the same spot and condition that she was left in. Walking around, looking her over, pull the flywheel, yep, she's free and okay. We open the fire box door and look inside. We might notice a little bit of cinders that we didn't quite clean out, and some scale on the sidewalls, so we take a hammer and pick around a little. Soon we hear a sound much duller than the rest of the walls, so we find we have a thin spot. So, we mark the spot with some chalk. Where else do we check? All of the lower portions of the boiler, around the fire box, tapping very close, making sure we cover every square inch of it. Wherever that rust and mud was laying last fall when we gave her an acid wash job, tap around all the stay bolts, and make sure they are sound. When you find one that has a dead or cracked sound, mark it. Check all around the boiler, at the water and steam line. Sometimes there are some weak spots there. After you have located all the bad spots, cut them out with your torch. I like to weld a small rod on the stop bolt head, so I won't drop it in the boiler, when I cut it out. Before you weld in your patch, you should look the inside over very close with a light and a small mirror, and make sure there are no more cavities, or else they will get larger in the future. With your grinder, 'V' out your parent metal and patch, so that you can get full penetration. There is pro and con on which rod to use or material to use for the patch. There are a lot of good alloys on the market. Some prefer high carbon, and some like a low nickel alloy. I sometimes use a low hydrogen rod for some areas.

Perhaps you intend to give her a new set of tubes. After you remove all the tubes, inspect the inside of the boiler thoroughly. Make sure it is smooth, and no thin spots. If you should have to cut out an area you may choose to replace it by rivets to keep the old fashioned look. In most cases we choose a steel frame 55,000-65,000 pounds per square inch. We do weaken our seams by rivets. This is true, for example; basing the plate strength as 100%, double rivet joint would be 70%, and the single rivet would be 56%. So, by this, we soon realize the welding offers a better job.

Some of you may be building your own boiler and setting up your engine on your own base or chassis, and you want the proper size pipe. The steam pipe may be connected at any convenient point of a boiler, preferably with a dome. If the boiler is to furnish steam for an engine only, you should make the line diameter that of the cylinder, and as straight as possible. Long curved bends are much better than elbows. Perhaps you want one boiler to run several engines. I will give you an example of what size pipe to use: