Making sure your steam traction engine is ready for winter
The following are guidelines for the proper winter storage of a steam traction engine. We will assume that you have done your last show of the season and have hauled your engine home. We will also assume you have already drained the boiler, the feed water tank, the mechanical lubricator, and dumped the coal. Now the fun part!
Clean front and back flue sheets. Lightly sandblasting or wire brushing to bare metal is okay. The reason for sandblasting or wirebrushing is that when you hydro next season, you will be able to see any leaks you might have that otherwise might be lightly plugged. Water can run under the soot and not be seen.
Be sure the grates are removed and the firebox side sheets are inspected. Years of use and abuse may have left ash in the firebox. This will gain moisture at the dew point and make sulfuric acid. This causes corrosion of the side sheets. The water legs are also prone to internal erosion from turbulating water. This can not be seen except through an ultra sound inspection.
Inspect all the stay bolts outside and inside. Remove the injectors and blow air through the injector pipes. This keeps them from getting water in them and possibly freezing. Take the caps off the check-valves and prop up the check with a thin wire. This allows air to go through the pipes. Take the plug out of the boiler feed water inlet and inspect the fittings.
Discard the rubber gaskets. Inspect the threads and the dogs for cracks. WASH OUT INTERIOR OF BOILER TO REMOVE SCALE. Place an old window fan in the smoke box to force air through the barrel and water legs. You want to get the water to evaporate quickly. If you store your engine outside, make sure you cover the stack. An old farm disc works great .
While you are at it, get a few years’ worth. Gaskets should never be used for more than one season. Be sure of proper fit around the lip of the plug. Make sure you label where the hand hole plugs fit!
Get a mirror and light where you can’t. Also, don’t forget to get an ultrasound every few years. While you are at it, remove the soft plug and get a new one. I’ve seen three soft plugs that had just 1/4-inch of fusible material left in them. Some of this was from flame erosion. It could also have been from not enough water on the crown sheet and they started to melt out but the material froze. Where the fusible material was thin, it was in the middle of the plug. Replace it yearly.Contact steam engine enthusiast Ken Hough at (219) 462-0281, or via email at:firstname.lastname@example.org.