(Image above from a Wikipedia article about boiler explosions http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiler_explosion)
Locomotive boilers are potentially dangerous items of equipment and are, quite rightly, inspected by our insurance company’s surveyor annually. There are two distinct stages to the inspection process.
The first is the Visual inspection. For this the boiler is empty and the washout plugs, dome cover and any other inspection points opened. The surveyor then peers in though the openings to assess any pitting, wasting and deposits of scale. They will also look at the state of the threads in the washout plug holes and hammer test the firebox stays.
If the boiler passes that stage it can be reassembled and subjected to a steam test. Last Thursday was steam test day at the Welshpool & Llanfair Light Railway. I was charged with preparing two locomotives, The Earl & Countess, and a my colleague Tony with lighting up Joan.
Task one was to use a fourteen pound sledgehammer to convert a pallet into firewood. Next there were two fireboxes to clean out and fires to lay and they were lit at about eight o’clock.
Now there is no point in hanging about in a smoke filled cab so I went off to see how Tony was getting on. He was also ready to light up but needed Joan pulling out of the workshop. A diesel locomotive (Chattenden) was started and after the obligatory ten minute wait to charge the air reservoir was used to pull Joan outside.
I checked my fires added some more coal and then went off to have some breakfast. When I got back both my locos were brewing up nicely.
As the pressure rose I oiled up the motion and once there was enough to enable them to move under their own power drove them outside the shed.
The surveyor arrived a little later than planned and dealt with Joan first. The routine is quite simple. A look around the boiler – including in the smoke box. Then the pressure is increased so the safety valve operate. The injectors are then used in turn to demonstrate that they feed water into the boiler and reduce the pressure.
I am pleased to report that all three boilers passed.
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