3775 Herman Ave, San Diego 4, Calif.
(Page 8, March-April Issue)
(Yes, the editor knew this was a Spark! Arrester but did not know why they made it so big. Mr. Yates answers very well. In Pennsylvania we never bothered much about a spark arrester but many barns were burned because they ran out of coal and they insisted they use wood. We have a few other letters which will be printed later. We thank all who have contributed to this request.)
On page 8 I notice a picture of a Case engine with a peculiar attachment on the stack and the Editor asks for information as to what it is and what for? It is surprising that any one who has been around a steam tractor as early as 1900 to 1910 or 12 should not know what a spark arrester is. Out in the wheat raising Plain States the early tractors used straw for fuel as there was plenty of it and coal was scarce and expensive so the engines were fired with straw and the sharp exhaust of the hard working engine would send up a shower of live sparks which would fall in the under dry stubble and set off many disasterous fires, so the spark arrester was invented for the purpose of catching sparks and holding them in various types of containers until they were cool when they would be emptied.
As with other accesories, many different types were built by as many different firms, but all for the same purpose, to prevent fires. I cannot name this particular type of arrester but can remember seeing similar when a boy around the old engines. The one type most popular as I remember was an inverted cone affair placed inside the stack with a long tube outside the stack which caught the sparks as they were arrested by the cone shaped screen inside.
What ever type was used was a headache to the fireman as they would clog up and shut off his draft then you would see him reach up with a poker and lift the hood at the top and let the sparks go while he regained his steam.
You no doubt have received many letters in regard to your query, most likely by older men who have actually had experience with the spark arresters. I was too young to have had any actual experience with one but remember them when a boy around the many engines at that early date. When the coal burners came along there was no further need for spark arresters hence I never had any dealings with one as I learned to fire with coal.
If you have always lived in Pena sylvania where there was plenty of coal, you may not have known about straw burners as we who lived on the prairie. In many of the timber regions, wood was used for fuel which was as bad as straw about throwing sparks.
I hope my letter will be of some value to you. Am always glad to answer any questions any one wants to know about. There are lots of questions I asked about the engines older than the ones I can remember and have to depend on my older brother engineers for information.