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Classic Wings Magazine WWII Naval Aviation Research Pacific Luftwaffe Resource Center
When Hollywood Ruled The Skies - Volumes 1 through 4 by Bruce Oriss


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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2019 8:08 am 
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Thanks Matt.


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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2019 8:25 am 
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The UP has converted all of its steam engines to oil firing for a couple reasons. First, while Coal is probably cheaper to get (they serve the Powder River Basin so getting it is easy) it is much harder to get delivered, especially in some of the remote areas that UP operates. However, fuel oil can be fairly easily obtained through their normal supply channels and delivered along side diesel in the same trucks.

Second, as has been previously mentioned, Union Pacific operates their Steam program directly. It's part of the company, all of the people working on these engines are paid employees, not volunteers. As such, they not only have to comply with their labor agreements, but they also want to get the most out of that money and that means they want these units to be as flexible and reliable as possible. While the Challenger and Big Boy units were delivered with coal auger/conveyor systems to automatically feed their fireboxes, those systems were fairly complex and notoriously maintenance intensive to keep running. Additionally, they required that the coal be of a consistent size as not to jam the "tubes" which go between the tender and locomotive. This requires additional processing not required for shovel coal units, further increasing cost and decreasing reliability.

Finally, part of the second point about having maximum flexibility and being operated as "part of the fleet", it's important to note that unlike most excursion units which require "pilots" (railroad employees from the host railroad) and most of the time need diesel units that are manned to assist in case of failure, UP equips all of its Steam units with full modern equipment, including cab signalling, head end computers (to talk with the rear end device and control remote diesel units), and even portable versions of the track computers it has in its newest diesel locomotives can be mounted. As such, these units have no restrictions on being able to operate at full track speed on almost any rails in the United States pulling passenger or freight equipment without any need for extra diesel units.


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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2019 10:54 am 
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When this thread came up and I referred back to my photos, I could read the 3985 number to start my research on them. At the time back then I was at a small warning lights only RR crossing in Bracken, Texas within 50 feet of the track. 3985 was making a stream of black smoke as she approached and this made me think it was still coal fired. But due to member Sopwith's question about coal vs oil fired, I pretty much know my answer after further reading which reminded me of the rain of cinders which followed steamers especially under load. I also know now altho coal oil fired they still emit plumes of black smoke for effect for the crowd or when under load when...ahemm...they pour the coals to 'er. Reflecting back, there were no cinders following 3985's passing on people or vehicles awaiting right up to the edge of the track.

When the volunteers decided in 1980 to dust off 3985 and return her to working order she was coal fired and remained that way for almost 10 years till she was modified for fuel oil. Many of her Challenger sisters came equipped oil-fired. The main reason for the conversion being 3985 was starting numerous trackside fires due to coal cinders. They figured a zone of about 50 feet on either side of the track or their most fire prone zone. I dunno what the operating kit was for 3985 back then but it was customary for coal fired steamers to carry an additional water car with fire fighting equipment and personnel. An added benefit or fatality to the coal-fired experience was you no longer would get the rain of cinders...sometimes burning...in your hair and clothes and everything else.

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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2019 10:54 am 
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Double post

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"In Peace Japan Breeds War", Eckstein, Harper and Bros., 3rd ed. 1943(1927, 1928,1942)
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"Ahh..."The Deuce", 28,000 pounds of motherly love." quote from some Grunt on CH-37
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Last edited by airnutz on Fri May 17, 2019 11:01 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2019 11:26 am 
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Thanks CAPFlyer and Airnutz for the added information. I can see the sense of oil fire versus coal, lots of good points you’ve made. Thanks again.


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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2019 12:47 pm 
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I got the chance to make a quite run up Echo canyon and watch the two engines steam by - it was pretty amazing to see and hear. Even being oil fired it is pretty amazing to see the plume of steam as they approach. I can only imagine the coal fired smoke! Anyway - pretty amazing and to be honest, it made me think of how many troop trains crossed the country between 1942 - 1945.

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PostPosted: Thu May 09, 2019 1:20 pm 
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A few points:
Like rich/lean mixtures in a airplane engine, you only want as much fuel as you need. If you're generating a lot of smoke, you're not firing a steam locomotive well. The white stuff you see go out of a stack, that's steam on a cold day and there's nothing you can do about that. An experienced crew should be generating very little -if any-smoke.
They converted 4014 to oil burning as they didn't want to start more fires.
They re-lettered 3985's tender, which already had the oil conversion stuff done and was close enough for the same class tender that the 4000s carried and placed it onto the back of 4014.
They did convert a Big Boy to oil firing back in the steam era, but it didn't work well. A lot of research on steam has happened since then, though.
Oil is simply easier to get, store, and move with than coal these days.

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PostPosted: Fri May 10, 2019 8:40 am 
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p51 wrote:
A few points:
Like rich/lean mixtures in a airplane engine, you only want as much fuel as you need. If you're generating a lot of smoke, you're not firing a steam locomotive well. The white stuff you see go out of a stack, that's steam on a cold day and there's nothing you can do about that. An experienced crew should be generating very little -if any-smoke.

Thanks P51...True, but under heavier load they'll emit black smoke initially I'm told. As I alluded to above they also "smoke black" for benefit of the touristos and public because they like steam trains to do that. The side effect of this is you carbon up the flues with an oily sooty residue. The train guys said they have a trick to clean the flues. They open the firebox and hold a shovel scoop full of sand there allowing the combustion process to draw the sand in and out thru the flues. It gives the flues a hot sand blasting...something the coal-fired steamers didn't require because the cinders performed that service. Sand blasting also emits a lot of smoke and soot and this is preferred to be done away from the soot alighting on the populace areas.

If you look back the photo page of 3985 you'll find quite a few snaps of her burning very clean out in the wild.

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"Ahh..."The Deuce", 28,000 pounds of motherly love." quote from some Grunt on CH-37
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PostPosted: Fri May 10, 2019 9:34 am 
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Sometimes the heavy smoke seen coming from a steam locomotive is the result of them "sanding the flues". While a steam locomotive is being operated, the locomotive's fireman will occasionally pour small amounts of sand into the firebox. The sand is whisked through the firebox and into the boiler's tubes by the draft. The sand knocks looses soot and combustion built up in the tubes. Thus plumes of dark colored smoke.


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PostPosted: Fri May 10, 2019 2:33 pm 
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Love the sound, shame its not smell-a-vision as well :)

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PostPosted: Fri May 10, 2019 4:55 pm 
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I like old trains as much as the next guy, BUT...

doesn't seeing them make you wish you were on the deck in a Mustang or Thunderbolt looking for trouble in the final months of the Reich?

Or is it just me?...after looking at too much fun camera film. :)

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PostPosted: Fri May 10, 2019 5:24 pm 
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JohnB wrote:
I like old trains as much as the next guy, BUT...

doesn't seeing them make you wish you were on the deck in a Mustang or Thunderbolt looking for trouble in the final months of the Reich?

Or is it just me?...after looking at too much fun camera film. :)

I once knew a man who was an engineer for the Southern and got drafted and he lied about his job because he didn't want to run trains for a railway operating unit. He got flight training and wound up in Jugs in the 9th AF. His greatest joy, he said, was down on the deck spraying German and French trains. He said he had no remorse for the civilian crews he knew he filled with lead (he said he clearly remembered a conductor coming apart as he ran into the stream of fifty slugs from his P-47's guns), either. he told me he just imagined them as foreign versions of specific people he didn't like on the RR back home.
After the war, he hung up his flying gear for good and never flew a plane again, going back to locomotives. Ever now and then, though, he'd hear a prop driven plane and have a moment of fear that someone was coming for him, a form of PTSD, I guess.
He passed away in the mid 90s. I still miss him.

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PostPosted: Sat May 11, 2019 10:59 am 
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JohnB wrote:
I like old trains as much as the next guy, BUT...

doesn't seeing them make you wish you were on the deck in a Mustang or Thunderbolt looking for trouble in the final months of the Reich?

Or is it just me?...after looking at too much fun camera film. :)

Ooooo...and when the boiler goes!!! :D There's one in here where the boiler explosion blows the firebox contents up the stack just before the big blow!...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYTaddev6KQ

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"In Peace Japan Breeds War", Eckstein, Harper and Bros., 3rd ed. 1943(1927, 1928,1942)
"Leave it to ol' Slim. I got ideas...and they're all vile, baby." South Dakota Slim
"Ahh..."The Deuce", 28,000 pounds of motherly love." quote from some Grunt on CH-37
DBF


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PostPosted: Thu May 16, 2019 6:40 am 
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airnutz wrote:
When this thread came up and I referred back to my photos, I could read the 3985 number to start my research on them. At the time back then I was at a small warning lights only RR crossing in Bracken, Texas within 50 feet of the track. 3985 was making a stream of black smoke as she approached and this made me think it was still coal fired. But due to member Sopwith's question about coal vs oil fired, I pretty much know my answer after further reading which reminded me of the rain of cinders which followed steamers especially under load. I also know now altho coal oil fired they still emit plumes of black smoke for effect for the crowd or when under load when...ahemm...they pour the coals to 'er. Reflecting back, there were no cinders following 3985's passing on people or vehicles awaiting right up to the edge of the track.

When the volunteers decided in 1980 to dust off 3985 and return her to working order she was coal fired and remained that way for almost 10 years till she was modified for fuel oil. Many of her Challenger sisters came equipped oil-fired. The main reason for the conversion being 3985 was starting numerous trackside fires due to coal cinders. They figured a zone of about 50 feet on either side of the track or their most fire prone zone. I dunno what the operating kit was for 3985 back then but it was customary for coal fired steamers to carry an additional water car with fire fighting equipment and personnel. An added benefit or fatality to the coal-fired experience was you no longer would get the rain of cinders...sometimes burning...in your hair and clothes and everything else.

Smokeboxes and stacks can be retrofitted to all but eliminate cinders. It really comes down to practicality. If you're running around a few hundred feet of track, coal is probably the best for tourism and nostalgia. If you're going cross country like UP does, oil has to be a better logistical choice. Personally, as long as it sounds, looks, and smells like a steam loco, it's all good! Huff & chuff!


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PostPosted: Thu May 16, 2019 3:09 pm 
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