Maintaining a loco - not as easy as it looks!
children alike seem to be mesmerized by old trains. Steam engines
seem to capture everyone’s fascination. Although the steam engines
are lacking in modern technology, the care and maintenance of these
iron work horses is far from simple. The maintenance for the train
is not just periodic upkeep as cars are today. The engines require a
daily maintenance routine. In addition to daily maintenance and
inspections the engine must also be serviced monthly, quarterly,
yearly, every five years, and after every one thousand seventy-two
days of service.
The train operator and other qualified personnel are responsible for
checking the operating ability and safety of the steam engine each
day before operation. All grease fittings must be greased and all
moving parts must be lubricated. Careful attention is given to the
gauges and valves regulating the pressure. Items such as the boiler
feedwater delivery system, the draw gear, chafing irons, piston rods
and fasteners, the running gear, and valve motion rods are inspected
and checked for adequate operation. The engine is checked for leaks.
The brakes, signal equipment, and lighting are checked to ensure
that they are fully operational. If any item on the checklist does
not pass, the item must be replaced or repaired before the engine is
permitted to be used.
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A thirty-one day service inspection will require the washing of the
boiler. All arch tubes, water bar tubes, circulators, and siphons on
the steam engine must be inspected, cleaned, and washed. All of the
washout and water tube plugs must be removed and inspected during
this monthly maintenance. The staybolts must also be tested. If any
problems or defects are found, the engine must be repaired before
further use is allowed.
The quarterly inspection and maintenance requires the removal and
testing of all of the air and steam gauges of the engine. The safety
relief valves are tested and adjusted. The steam gauge siphoning
pipe must be cleaned, and the tubular water glasses are replaced.
The main reservoir and brake cylinder are checked for leaks.
Finally, the tender tank interior must be entered and inspected. If
any part is found to be weak, leaking, or in poor working condition,
then the engine will require repairs to correct the problems.
Once a year, the boiler of the steam engine must have the longitude
lap joint seams checked. The interior must be inspected for defects
or weak points, and it must undergo a hydrostatic test. The
thickness of the arch, water bar tubes, and the dry pipes must be
tested. All of the staybolts are checked and tested, and the smoke
box must be inspected. The draw bars and pins will be removed and
inspected for signs of wear.
Veterans steam engine society meet at Crosswood Sidings, Alta, Utah
every Monday at 7.00pm; contact secretary David Dawes on
Every five years, the flexible staybolt caps and sleeves are
inspected in addition to the yearly test. Worn parts will be
replaced or repaired.
At one thousand seventy-two days of service of the steam engine, the
boiler flues will be removed, and the interior of the boiler will be
cleaned and have a hydrostatic test performed on it. The interior
and exterior of the boiler must undergo a thorough inspection. The
jacket and lagging are removed and inspected. This maintenance and
testing helps to ensure the safety of the boiler of the steam
People of all ages admire the magnificent steam engines of days gone
by. Although lacking in modern technology, the steam engine is a
complicated machine that requires careful inspection and maintenance
to keep it in adequate repair and safe for use. By completing the
needed maintenance, steam engines will be in good repair and
fascinating people for years to come.