PROGRESSIVE EXAMINATIONS OF
Locomotive Engineers and Firemen
JOHN A. HILL,
(Member Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, Associate
Member American Railway Master Mechanics' Association.)
Start of Publication and Explanatory
FIRST EXAMINATIONAfter 1 Years Service
SECOND EXAMINATIONAfter 2 Years
THIRD EXAMINATIONAfter 3 Years
JOHN A. HILL, PUBLISHER,
P. O. Box 2736.
COPYRIGHTED IN 1891, BY JOHN A. HILL.
TO THE LOCOMOTIVE
ENGINEMEN OF AMERICA.
THE future locomotive engineers of this country will need a
different, and, perhaps, a better education in their business
than has been required or demanded in the past. All important
roads have already prepared or are preparing to examine every
man before promotion. In the hope that these examinations shall
be practical, go far enough and not too far, and that better posted
engineers can be had for the great responsibilities resting upon
us, the authorwho has served ten years on the footboardhas
proposed the Progressive Plan, believing that it is just and in
the interests of the men, the railroads and the public. It will
tend to better the understanding and increase the confidence and
self-respect of the locomotive engineers and firemen of America,
whose skill, judgment and heroism have been the chief factors
in the safety and success in the establishment of the greatest
transportation system the world has ever known.
JOHN A. HILL.
New York, Sept. 1, 1891.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS.
So much of the examination of firemen for promotion to the
responsible position of locomotive engineer is unsatisfactory
on account of there being no proper system of training, and there
is withal so much uncertainty as to what a man really knows, even
after he has passed an examination, that the author of this plan
has been encouraged to propose it. He claims no originality in
the questions or answers, but has selected the simplest and best
from every available source. The only original proposition is
in using a series of progressive examinations to insure good material
to start with, and aid and assist the fireman to learn the proper
things first and provide a screen to prevent the advancement of
Every child is taught to creep before it walks; the primer
comes before the fifth reader; kilts before pantaloons, and youth
before manhood. The boy in the shop is put at some laboring or
helping job, where he has an opportunity to observe, see others
work, learn how, and why, and what; he becomes a mechanic step
by stepnot at one stridehe is not put on a drill press
for three years and expected to become a mechanic.
Mankind, profiting by the experience of past and passing generations,
and learning first the rudiments, then the elements, finally reaches
proficiency in such calling as each individual elects to follow.
A young man who has attended a soda water apparatus, sold pain
killer and swept out a drug store for four years, is not made
prescription clerk ahead of the youth who has studied chemistry
and has been employed three years as assistant to the prescription
clerkknowledge is necessary before assuming responsibility.
Locomotive engine running is a responsibility, than which there
is no greater, and the most painstaking care is none too efficient
in selecting and training men for this more than responsible position.
The way to secure a good class of engineers is:
First: Select good, clean material, inspect for culls, and
have some quick and fairly accurate method of testing for such
defects as would prevent the candidate from ultimately becoming
a first-class passenger engineer.
Second: Provide the opportunity and means, or point out the
way, to the student to learn the rudiments of his business firstteach
him how to fire, before he goes head-over-heels into valve motion.
Third: Provide an incentive to the learning of the right part
first, and establish a point at which no progress or any other
defect in the candidate for advancement will call for a termination
of the apprenticeship.
By the method here proposed, responsible officers can provide
a system of periodical examination of firemen, advance
them step by step until they become thoroughly proficient enginemen;
and abandon the usual rule of putting a conglomerate gang of men
upon locomotives, letting them fire a term of years, and select
the oldest for examination, only to find that he knows little
about his business, that he is color blind, illiterate, or intemperateall
of which should have been discovered before he was given a job
The Progressive Plan provides in the preliminary examination
for the establishment of a gauge for candidates, one that proves
that he is possessed of a common school education, is not afflicted
with defective vision, personally desires employment in this line
of work, and is prepared to stand its hardships, with the hope
of promotion; is of proper age, and points out to the candidate
what he is expected to learn and how best to learn it.
The first examination occurs after one year's actual service.
The record of the candidate for advancement is looked up, and
he is examined in the rudiments of his business, the questions
being of an elementary order, to see that the subject is getting
the proper groundwork of his trade. Especial attention is paid
to his understanding of all signals in use by the road, as even,
the youngest fireman is responsible for the proper transmission
of signals to his engineer; this point is especially important
on single track roads.
The second examination takes up the subject of fuel, combustion,
boilers, and the duties of firemen. It insures his understanding
something about, the care of fires, draught appliances and economy
of fuel, while he can still put in practice some of the lessons
The third examination occurs after the third year of service,
and is a thorough one on the mechanism of the engine, brakes,
etc. The examiner requires a remedy or a cure for every conceivable
breakdown liable to occur on the road; and this examination should
be complete enough to warrant the superintendent of machinery
in promoting the successful firemen as needed, upon their presenting
him with a certificate of examination on train rules and time
card from the proper officers of the transportation department.
If the candidate fails to pass satisfactorily at this examination,
he is to be apprised in detail where he is weak, and given a chance
to post himself and try again when his term for promotion comesfor
with progressive examinations there can be no objection to "the
oldest man" coming first.
The early examinations are mainly to secure the proper material,
and then put the young fireman in the way of himself getting hold
of the right kind of information, advise him, guide him, and get
him in the way of thinking and reasoning out things for
He is led to study certain important phases of railroading
at a time when he needs information on these subjects most, and
those who are inclined to put off and lag in interest are kept
moving by the thought of the next examination.
Some objectors will say at once, "Oh, they will learn
those rules by heart and repeat them off like clockwork."
Even so, this will do good rather than harmand is far more
than the majority of men learn before promotion now.
These questions and answers are intended principally as a guide
to the kind of questions that will be asked, in actual examinationsfewer
questions will be used, but on these subjects.
It treats only of such parts of mechanism and such conditions
as are common to all locomotives and to all railroads, and it
is expected that the officers of each road will add to it important
subjects of a local naturesuch as the water scoop on the
Pennsylvania, the smoke-jet on the New York Central, and the water-brake
on the Rocky Mountain roads.
First Examination: Discharge for proven charges of drunkenness,
insubordination, or chronic quarrelsomeness. If more than half
the questions asked are missed, applicant to go back on the list
six months and again come up in his new turn. Demand perfection
in examination on signals. On second trial, if applicant shows
no capacity to grasp the subjects, and a disposition to be lazy
or indifferent, dismiss him. He will make the same kind of engineer
that he does a fireman, and you don't want that kind.
Second Examination: Same as the first.
Third Examination: If applicant for advancement has passed
former examinations all right, and seems from his answers to understand
the subject generally, but is unable to give the correct answers
to specific questions, it would be well to correct him or give
him a few days to get the matter straight. If, on the other hand,
he gives evidence of not understanding the subjects treated, and
would not, in your estimation, be a safe man to trust with a locomotive,
he should be sent back to firing for six months, taking his turn
behind the men hired the six months after he was. Failure on the
second trial should at least call for taking candidate out of
TO THE EXAMINER.
Bear in mind the experience of the man being examined. Do not
think for a moment that your mission is to humble him, to "catch"
him, to impress upon his mind how densely ignorant he is and what
a store of railroad knowledge you possess. Your real mission,
especially in the examination after the first and second years
of service, is to find out the progress made in certain lines
and guide the apprentice in the right direction, showing him what
it is especially necessary for him to know, and giving him advice
how to gain the desired information. Be impartial, patient and
just, and, above all, avoid making yourself a bugbear to those
to whom you are supposed to be a leader and guide.
In final examination, if possible, go with applicant to a locomotive
under steam and propose your breakdown problems rather than have
him come to your officethe man will feel more at home and
give more intelligent answers.
If an answer is given that is manifestly the result of inquiry,
but is wrong, ask the man's engineer the question; if he answers
it the same, do not blame the applicant.
TO APPLICANT FOR EXAMINATION.
Suppose you have passed your preliminary examination. Been
given a book of rules and examination book, and have fired a year.
Be sure before you go to examining officer that you know what
you are going for, and are at least thoroughly conversant with
all signals in use on the road, and know something about combustion.
Be orderly and cleanly, and go to examination fearlesslythe
examiner can't hang you. If there is any subject that you cannot
settle on the true solution of, ask those above you, even to the
examiner. Remember that the exact questions here shown will not
be asked, so that it will do no particular good to commit answers.
What you want is a fair, practical knowledge of the subject, then
you can answer any reasonable question upon it. Don't try to "post
up" for examination dayget posted and keep so. Remember
not only your life, but the lives of others depend upon your knowledge
of your business, especially about signals and train rights. Work
on a locomotive in either place is a serious business and worthy
of your earnest thought and attention.
NECESSARY QUALIFICATIONS OF APPLICANT.
Applicants for the position of Locomotive Fireman on the .
. . . . . . . Railway:
Must be more than 18 and less than 30 years of age, unless
applicant has had previous experience on a locomotive; if under
the age of 21, consent in writing from parents or guardian must
be submitted; those between the ages of 21 and 25 preferred.
Applicant must have a common school education, at least equal
to the grammar grades of the public schools of the Stategraduates
of regular high schools given preference.
Must be strictly temperate, of good moral habits, and physically
strong enough for the arduous work of firing.
Applicant must be able to distinguish the color of flags or
lamp signalssuch as actually used on the roadacross
a space provided, not more than one-fourth of a mile, through
the open air; must prove to the satisfaction of the examining
officer that he is not defective in vision or hearing.
Possessing these qualifications, and the road being desirous
of employing men, he is permitted to make out an application in
writing, in presence of the examiner.
FORM OF APPLICATION .
To the chief officer of the Motive Power Department of the
.. ... ... R. R.:
Being extremely desirous of securing service on this line in
the capacity of locomotive fireman, with a view to future promotion,
if found proficient, I make the following statement
My full name is .... . . .. . . .. . . .. . . . I was born
at on the day of 18
and am years months and days of age. I desire permission to
ride for a few round trips over one division on regular freight
to learn my duties, the location of tanks, signals, etc., and
will assist the regular fireman all I can in order to the better
understand the work (can be omitted where fireman has had other
road experience, but is desirable). Should I still desire to secure
a position as fireman, after seeing the actual service, I will
come and so report to you.
I am (single or married) . . . . .. . . .. . . .. . .
I have been employed by this company before as . . .. .. .
Experience on other railroads . . . . . . . .
I can be found at . . .... ., but sincerely hope you can find
a place for me in the wiping force or at some other
work where I can be instantly available as an extra man in
any emergency that may occur.
[Record of former experience will be investigated.]
It is important that the applicant be given permission to ride
for around trip or two on the class of engines he will have to
fire, be obliged to remain on the engines as long as the crew
does, and perform as much of the fireman's work as he can; if
be persists in being an engineer after this he is in earnest,
and his time so put in should be paid for at regular fireman's
wagesit is a good investment.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS.
Primer for Examinations to Follow.
Examiner: If freight train No. 10 ran from A to B, six miles
and a half, at the rate of 15 miles per hour, how long would it
A. Twenty-six minutes.
Q. How long does it take a passenger train traveling 30 miles
per hour to make a mile?
A. Two minutes.
Q. If this road has 350 engines, each making 100 miles per
day, how many miles do they all make per day?
A. Thirty-five thousand miles.
Q. Suppose each fireman wasted half a cent's worth of coal
a mile by letting steam blow off at the pops too much, or by throwing
away coal, how much would that amount to a day to the road?
A. One hundred and seventy-five dollars.
Q. What do you read?
Give the applicant time, and do not try to hurry or "rattle"
him, but upon his correct and more or less prompt answers to questions
in simple arithmetic like these, you get at his understanding
of figures and give him something to think about.
Advice something on the following line would be timely:
You have, no doubt, thought over the matter seriously, and
understand something of the duties of the road and its dangers.
It is doubly dangerous where any faculty is dormant while on duty;
train yourself to avoid sleep or drowsiness on a locomotive; it
is a habit that grows, and ofttimes kills. You will have many
duties to perform, and it is desirable, and necessary, that you
learn to do them not only well, but cheerfully. Cultivate the
faculty of getting along well with the men with whom you are at
work, and avoid dissensions. Try and please your engineer; remember
he has years of experience; you have none. He can teach you much
that you need to know; he may appear taciturn, cranky, or close-mouthed,
but the meanest engineer on earth will learn to like and help
a loyal fireman, who has nothing to say against him or the engine,
who tries hard to keep steam and keep the engine reasonably clean,
and who is always willing to help him with his workespecially
in case of an accident.
Establish now, while you are young, the habit of taking rest
as soon as you are in ; do extra work ; loafing or visiting afterward-you
may have to go out before you expect.
Don't forget that it is not the last drink that hurts a good
man's reputationit is the first. Be temperate. The
officers of this road have no right to say to you, "You shall
not drink intoxicating liquors; " but they have the right
to say: " We will not employ a man in any capacity that drinks"and
that is what they do say.
Beside keeping the engine "hot" for the engineer,
you owe the company a duty in trying to be economical in the use
of all supplies, and especially of fuel; remember that when the
pops are blowing, they are blowing away coal.
On the road, get into the habit of looking at the orders and
keeping track of trains running against you; if you are in doubt,
ask the engineer; if he refuses to show you the orders, come to
me and so report.
Every fireman can afford a little money each year for reading
matter, and you should make a study of your business. Take at
least one railroad paper, one treating of locomotives and rolling
stock preferred, say the . . . .. . . ... . . .or the. . . ...
. . .. .. . You need Forney's Catechism of the Locomotive at once,
you will find it most useful to you now and as long as you remain
on a locomotive; Sinclair's Locomotive Running and Management
should come next, it is especially valuable because it treats
more of firing and running; Alexander's Ready Reference is also
a good book, and cheaper than either. Use your books to verify,
prove and make clear the problems you encounter in practice.
Your work and habits in the future will be carefully noted,
and no habit or fault will be tolerated in you that could not
be overlooked in the engineer of the most important train on the
roadyou must not consider yourself a mere coal shoveler,
but as a student earning his way and in training for a most responsible
positionwe can hire mere coal passers for smaller wages.
Remember that in a year from now you will be required to pass
an examination on your business, to ascertain how you are profiting
by experience and study. While I shall not confine myself to the
exact questions here printed, I give you the questions so that
you will the better understand what line of study is best for
you. Hunt your Catechism over industriously and you will find
pretty nearly everything you want to know in it. Form a habit
of thinking of the why, and ask questions, of your engineer, the
roundhouse foreman, the traveling engineer, or of the Superintendent
of M. P.find out what you want to know.
We will not expect you to know how to build locomotives, nor
how to face valves or to repair pumpswe will expect you
to learn how to fire and run them, how to get out of every hole,
and run or fire your engine where any one else can, therefore
study every wreck on the roadthey are expensive, but valuable
illustrated object lessons. So far as either of us know now, your
life work will be operating locomotives, and your success
depends on how thoroughly you learn the business. Be particular
to learn all you can about the rules of the road, orders, local
conditions, etc. Bear in mind that you may be set back or dismissed
the service if you do not keep up with the majority, giving evidence
year by year that you are gong to make a first-class locomotive
engineer. I hope to hear good reports of your service.
[After One Year's Service.)
Q. What engine have you been firing?
Q. What engineers have you fired for?
Q. Has there been anything to hinder or prevent you from picking
up desired information for this examination?
Q. Have you been left during the year?
Q. Have you been suspended during that timeif so, what for?
Q. Have you acquired the habit of comparing your time with the
clock or the watches of engineer or conductor daily?
Q. Do you thoroughly understand all the signals in use on the
roadyes or no?
Q. What signal devices are provided and in use on your engine?
Q. When used as a fixed signal, and not on a train or engine,
what does red signify?
A. *Red signifies danger, and is the signal to stop.
*Special rules in use to be added. These are the signals provided
by the standard code.
Q. Green signal?
A. Caution; go slow.
A. Safety; go on.
Q. What is a green and white combined signal for?
A. To stop trains at flag stations for passengers or freight.
A. To be used by car inspectors. Cars so marked should not be
Q. What is a torpedo used for?
A. Torpedoes are additional signals, and are so placed as to call
attention to the regular signals.
Q. Then if one is struck you merely watch for the signal?
A. No. One means stop; two is to slow down and go
ahead cautiously, looking out for danger signal.
Q. What is a fuzee used for?
A. Danger signal, generally dropped by heavy trains to warn following
trains of their presence. They burn ten minutes, and must not
be passed while burning.
Q. Beside any you have mentioned, what else would you consider
a danger signal that would call for a stop?
A. Any light swung across the track, or a hat or handkerchief
waved, or any violent signal given by any person.
Q. How should the rear of trains be marked?
A. Each train, when running, must display two green flags by day
and two green lights at night, one on each side of rear of train,
as markers to indicate the rear of train. Yard engines will not
Q. Then if you were following a train you would be on the lookout
for green lights?
A. No, sir. Green lights, as markers, are toward the front,
so that the engineer can see them, not back, except when
the train gets out of the way on a siding, when the green lights
must be taken down and red ones put up.
Q. What lights must be displayed on the end of trains then?
A. Either a headlight or two or more red lights, except
yard engines. They must have a headlight on each end, or where
but one is used, two green lights must be displayed on the end
in place of red.
Q. What is this for?
A. To distinguish yard engines from regular road engines.
Q. What is the rule about bell-cords?
A. Every car in a passenger train must be in communication with
the engine by bell-cord, or its equivalent in the shape of the
air signal or electric wire. It must be connected to the bell
or whistle of the engine, and through and so connected to the
rear car that in event of the train parting it will signal the
Q. What do green flags or lights carried on an engine mean?
A. That the train carrying them is followed by another train running
on the same schedule and having the same train rights and no more.
Q. Suppose the engine carries white signals?
A. Denote that the train is an extra, having no timecard rights.
Yard engines never carry white signals.
Q. Suppose you stop at a small place with a single siding.
You have a car to set out, and there is one in the siding with
a blue flag on it; what do you do?
A. Always notify the car inspector or repairer, that he may move
his flag to protect himself.
Q. What does one long () blast of the whistle
A. A station, railroad crossing or junction.
Q. A short one(-)?
A. Stop; set brakes.
Q. How would you ask to have brakes released?
A. By two long blasts of the whistle ().
Q. What do two short blasts mean?
A. It is the answer to any signal given the engineer, except the
one signal "train parted." It means "I understand."
Q. Suppose your train broke in two; how do you notify crew
A. By three long () blasts of whistle,
repeated until answered.
Q. What do three short (---) blasts mean?
A. It is the signal for backing, and must be repeated until a
signal is received from the rear of the train.
Q. What are four long () blasts
A. To call in a flagman from the west or South.
Q. How would you call in one stationed to the north or east
A. By four long and one short (-)
Q. Why this difference?
A. To avoid making mistakes and withdrawing proper protection
from the train.
Q. What is the use of four short (- - - -) blasts?
A. Call for attention to watchmen, bridge or switch-tenders, train
crew, or any one.
Q. What do five short (-----) blasts mean?
A. Protect the rear of train by flag.
Q. What use is made of one long and two short (--) blasts?
A. It is a call for attention to signals carried by an engine
(single track only), and is given to all engines of the same or
inferior class trains. It means, "Do you see my signals?"
Q. If you were left in charge of the engine on a siding, and
a train passed you carrying green flags and gave this signal,
what would you do?
A. Answer "I understand," by two short (- -)
Q. Well, suppose, you were left on a freight engine, and you
had green signals up, and a regular passenger train came along,
would you call up your signals?
Q. Why not?
A. Because the first-class train would have a superior right to
the second section of my train, and would not have to observe
signals on freight trains. The freights must protect themselves
against the passenger.
Q. What is the road-crossing signal?
A. Two long followed by two short (- -) blasts.
Q. The cattle signal?
A. A succession of short blasts.
Q. What does one tap of the signal bell mean, suppose you were
A. Go ahead, or start.
Q. Two taps?
A. If running, stop at once; if standing, call in the flagman.
Q. Three taps?
A. If running, stop at next station; if standing, back up.
Q. Four taps?
A. Reduce speed.
Q. If running, and you heard one tap of bell, what would you
A. That the train had parted.
Q. Suppose you found it had, what would you do?
A. Notify the engineer.
Q. What should he do?
A. Give three long blasts of the whistle, and keep the forward
part of train going until he was sure that the rear was stopped.
Q. What does a lamp swung across the track mean?
Q. Raised and lowered vertically?
A. Go ahead.
Q. Swung vertically in a circle across the track when the train
Q. Swung the same, at arm's length, when train is in motion?
A. Train parted.
Q. Suppose the same signals were given with a flag or by the
A. They mean the same.
Q. What is a fixed signal?
A. A station board, crossing signal, or any point signal that
is not moved.
Q. Suppose you find a signal missing or imperfectly displayed,
where one is usually provided, what should be done?
A. The imperfect or absent signal must be regarded as a danger
signal and its condition reported. e
Q. What use is made of the engine bell?
A. It must always be rung before moving any engine or train, through
all tunnels, over crossings, and through streets, and at least
a quarter of a mile before and until past all road crossings.
Q. What do you understand by steam pressure as registered by
A. Steam pressure of so many pounds per square inch above the
Q. Why do you say above the atmosphere?
A. Because the atmosphere has a pressure, at sea level, of 14.7
pounds per square inch, and the steam gauge registers nothing
when there is no steam on it.
Q. In a locomotive boiler is there any part that has more pressure
to bear than another?
A. Yes. Steam pressure is elastic, and exerts itself evenly in
all directions ; but there is more pressure at the bottom, because
that part has to support the weight of the water besides the steam
Q. What object is there in having exhaust steam go through
A. To increase the draught on the fire.
Q. How does the exhaust steam create a draught on the fire?
A. By creating a current of the gases through the stack, ejecting
them and the air in the front end, and forming a partial vacuum
in the front and stack.
Q. How does that affect the fire?
A. The pressure of the atmosphere forces air through the grates
and the fuel, supplying the flame with needed oxygen, and causing
it to burn fiercely.
Q. Then you think a large quantity of air is necessary to make
a fierce fire and raise steam rapidly?
Q. Then why is it that if you have a thin fire, and a hole
is spade in it, steam will fall at once?
A. The air is cold and goes direct through the flues, cooling
them off. In order to have the air do any good it must be thoroughly
mixed with the gases given off by the incandescent fuel.
Q. What is black smoke?
A. A mixture of various gases, watery vapor, air and carbon. The
carbon is the black part.
Q. Will it burn?
A. Not after it is formed. It can be partly prevented by intelligent
Q. How can it be prevented?
A. The carbon of the coal is released when a fresh fire is put
in, and if at the moment of release it can be mixed with the proper
quantity of air and kept at high enough temperature, it will ignite
and burn. The fuel is cold when first supplied to the fire, and
keeps the temperature below the igniting point. The best preventive
is to fire "light"; that is, supply a small quantity
of fuel at a time.
Q. Is black smoke wasteful?
A. Yes, but not as wasteful as generally supposed and claimed.
It is very disagreeable to the public, and costs the road a great
deal to keep cars and other property clean.
Q. What effect would a very small nozzle have on your fire?
A. It would cause a very fierce draught and tear holes in a thin
Q. What do you have to do then?
A. Carry a heavier fire.
Q. Is there any objection to this?
A. Yes. It is harder to get air through it to keep up combustion.
Q. When the fuel burns most in the front of the firebox what
does it denote?
A. That there is more draught through the lower than through the
Q. When it burns most under the door?
A. That there is too much draught through the upper flues.
Q. How can this be remedied?
A. By changing the diaphragm or draught pipe.
Q. What do you do to prevent black smoke from rolling when
engine is shut off?
A. Try to put in a slightly heavier fire long enough before shutting
off so that the fuel will begin to burn, and not give off black
smoke when supply of air is checked. If engine is shut off unexpectedly
at any place where it is desired to prevent smoke, opening the
fire-door, or slightly starting the blower, will generally prevent
Q. What good effect does it have to open the fire-door when
the engine is at work?
A. When the fire is heavy it sometimes aids combustion by furnishing
needed air; generally prevents waste of steam at the safety valve.
Q. What bad effect does it have?
A. Cools the tubes and is liable to cause them to leak.
Q. What are a fireman's first duties on arriving at his engine
before leaving time?
A. To see that the engine is ready for the road; that all oil-cans
are filled, and all signal lamps ready for use; that the full
set of firing tools are in their places; that the flues and ash-pan
are clean, and the fire in the proper condition for service.
Q. What effect does wetting the coal have?
A. Serves to keep down the dust and make less dirt, but is a detriment
to the fire.
A. Because all the water taken up by the fuel must be evaporated
in the fire before the fuel can be burned.
Q. What should be the condition of your fire on arriving at
a station where a stop is made?
A. Avoid putting in a green fire just before a stop.
Q. What should be the condition of your fire when you pitch
over the summit of a long grade?
A. The same as for a station stop.
Q. If the engineer keeps using the injector, or pump, after
pitching over, how should you maintain your fire?
A. Use the blower and fuel to keep it bright.
Q. Are you making much progress in the study of combustion,
and can I explain anything to you, or tell you where to get the
Q. What do you consider of the first and greatest importance
to an engine or train out on the road?
A. Protection; to be certain that the train rules, telegraphic
orders or signals entitled the engine or train to occupy the track
where it is, and did or did not authorize it to move to other
points; and in case of accident, or the disuse or misuse of the
general forms of protection, for the train or engine crew to protect
themselves by flags.
Q. Do you assist your engineer when anything is to be done
to the engine?
Q. How much coal does your engine generally burn a trip?
Q. Is this more or less than the general average?
Q. How do you account for the difference?
Q. Are you satisfied with the business, and are you fully determined
to master it and become an engineer?
This has been your first year's service, and in consequence
the examination has been an easy one. Next year I shall expect
that you know all about the signals, and have forgotten no part
of this examination. I shall expect you to know the object of
every piece in a locomotive boiler, what it is for and how it
works. I shall expect you to be pretty well posted on combustion.
To this end study your books, and try and get a good general idea
of the laws of combustion. I shall not expect you to know all
the gases by name, perhaps, but such a knowledge will not hurt
you. I shall, however, expect you to be able to tell me what results
are obtained by certain combinations of fuel and air in locomotive
fire-boxes. I shall expect you to know what effect a fresh supply
of coal has on heat-producing flame, where loss occurs and where
gain. You will be expected to understand all the draught appliances
in use on this road, and tell how to adjust them to overcome certain
defects found in the burning of the fire.
You will be expected to know how much coal your engine has
burned per mile during the past year (take this from the monthly
bulletin, or get it at the fuel agent's office), and how this
compares with the consumption of other engines of her class, and
give a reason for the difference. You will be expected to explain
how steam is generated, tell what constitutes the different kinds
of steam, and trace it from the moment it is generated until it
passes away from the locomotive and is lost.
I shall expect you to tell the trouble to be expected from
low water, heavy firing, holes in the fire, dirty coal, clinkers,
etc., and how to avoid this trouble. You will be expected to know
what kind of firing has a tendency to cause leaky flues, and what
kind prevents leaking.
To know what the brick arch is for, what it does, and under
what circumstances it cannot be used.
To know the forms of the different kinds of boilers, and the
peculiarities, advantages and disadvantages of each type.
Devote some thought and study during the next year to boilers,
their use and abuse, to the combustion of fuel, and the duties
of a fireman ; for on your proper understanding of this subject
your advancement in the service depends.
Start Page | Contents
[After Two Years' Service.]
Q. Are you sure you know all the signals in use on the road?
Q. Have there been any new ones introduced during the year,
or any changes in old ones?
Q. What have you been firing?
Q. What is the general form of a locomotive boiler?
A. Generally a cylindrical boiler, having a firebox of square
section, surrounded by water, with tubes from it through the cylindrical
part to a smoke-box on the front end.
Q. Why is the fire surrounded by water?
A. So as to present a large amount of water to the direct action
of the fire, thus absorbing the heat.
Q. Tell me just what parts go to make up the fire-box.
A. The two side sheets, the crown sheet, the back sheet with furnace
door set in it, and the forward or flue sheet, set full of tubes
running to the smoke arch.
Q. What strains must the fire-box be constructed to withstand?
A. A crushing strain. The pressure is between it and the outside
shell of the boiler, and tends to force the box in.
Q. How are the sheets of the box supported?
A. By stay bolts screwed into the outside sheet of the boiler,
and through the fire-box, and riveted down.
Q. Is the crown sheet supported in the same way that the side
A. In some classes of boilers they are.
Q. What classes?
A. In those with the outside shell of round section, the stays
are spaced farther apart on the outside shell than on the crown
sheet of the fire-box. They are nearly on a radial line from the
center of the boiler, and are called radial stayed boilers. Another
form of boiler has a square fire-box, and the back end of boiler
shell is also square. The direct stays in this boiler are straight.
It is known as the Belpaire fire-box.
Q. What other form of staying is used on crown sheets?
A. Crown bars. These are heavy bars, generally set across the
fire-box. They have points, or feet, at each end, bent down and
resting upon the seam of the side sheet, keeping the bar above
the crown a few inches. The bars are double, and a thimble is
placed between them and the sheet, and a bolt goes through the
sheet, the thimble and the bar, and is secured by a nut on the
inside. The bars are then attached by stays to the shell of the
boiler; these support the sheet.
Q. What are the objections to this form of construction?
A. It is hard to keep clean, is heavy and costly, and the bars
occupy a great deal of the water space.
Q. What are the principal objections to the direct stay boiler?
A. It is a little more difficult to replace broken stays.
Q. What are its advantages?
A. It is cheaper to make, and gives a much better chance to wash
out the mud and scale, and to inspect.
Q. How is the bottom of the fire-box fixed?
A. The outside sheets and the fire-box sheets are riveted on the
outside and inside of a heavy ring the shape of the fire-box,
known as the foundation ring, or, more commonly, the mud ring.
Q. What is below this?
A. There are iron grates across the bottom, with openings between
them for the admission of air, and an ash-pan below them to catch
fire and ashes that drop through.
Q. Has the ash-pan any other function?
A. Yes; it is usually fitted tight to leg of boiler, has two or
more doors, or dampers, for the regulation of the amount of air
admitted to the fire.
Q. Of what use is the cylindrical part of the boiler?
A. It carries the largest part of the water to be heated, and
the tubes go through it, allowing much of the heat passing through
them to be absorbed by the water.
Q. What is a wagon-top boiler?
A. One having the fire-box end larger than the cylindrical part,
and connected to it by a cone or inclined sheets.
Q. What is the dome for?
A. The dome is a receptacle of steam, placed on the highest part
of the boiler to insure dry steam, and is a convenient place to
place the throttle valve, safety valves and other fittings.
Q. Is the dome necessary to the use of a locomotive boiler?
A. No; many locomotives are in use without domes.
Q. What must be the condition of the boiler to give good results?
A. It must be clean, its heating surfaces clear of scale or other
foreign matter, and the circulation of the water must be good.
Q. What do you mean by circulation?
A. The movement of water in the boiler in such a way as to come
in contact with the heated sheets, a fresh supply of water taking
the place of that evaporated. .
Q. What would be the result if there was no circulation in
a certain portion of the boilersay on one whole side of
A. The water in that place would be evaporated into steam, leaving
the sheets bare, and they would become overheated.
Q. Suppose it did become overheated, what then?
A. If it became hot enough, and there was pressure enough on it,
it would be forced off the stays and an explosion would occur.
Q. Suppose a, crown sheet becomes bare and red-hot, do you
think it would be more or less liable to come down if water were
to suddenly be put upon it?
A. Less liable unless an excessive pressure were suddenly created
to help force it down. It is the softening of the sheet by heat,
and the pressure, that forces them down. Water cools and hardens
Q. What is the result if many of your flues stop up?
A. The boiler is robbed of that much heating surface, the draught
is impaired, and the result is poor steaming.
Q. Why are the checks so far ahead on boilers?
A. So as to introduce the cold feed water the farthest from the
fire, and allow it to become more or less heated before it comes
in contact with the hot sheets of the firebox.
Q. What hurt would it do to feed directly against the fire-box?
A. When the feed was off, the sheet would become as hot as the
others around it, and when the feed was on, it would be cooled
and contract, causing leaks, and perhaps cracks.
Q. Trace the flow of steam from start to finish when the engine
is at work.
A. It is generated at or near some part of the heating surface,
rises to the top of the boiler, enters the dome, and from there
goes into the dry pipe through the throttle valve, into the steam
pipes in the front end, and through the steam passage in the cylinder
to the steam chest. From these it enters the steam port, when
the latter is uncovered by the valve, and enters the cylinder,
there coming in contact with the piston, which is forced away
from the head by it. When the valve opens the port to the exhaust,
the steam goes out of the same port which it entered, escaping
under the valve to exhaust cavity in cylinder saddle, and thence
out of the nozzle and the smoke stack.
Q. How many engines the same size as yours are doing the same
work yours is?
Q. Which one has burned the most coal per mile the last year?
Q. Which one the last month?
Q. How much has yours burned?
Q. Is this any better than you have been doing?
Q. What sized nozzle has your engine got?
Q. Have you read Forney on the amount of water evaporated to
a pound of coal, and the amount of fuel that should be burned
per square foot of grate surface, and tried to compare your own
engine's performance with it?
Q. What is the brick arch used for?
A. To aid combustion, thus preventing black smoke; it also prevents
cold air from the furnace door from going directly into the flues,
causing them to leak.
Q. What is the extension arch for?
A. To catch and carry sparks.
Q. How is the draught regulated in an extension front?
A. Usually by an apron, or diaphragm, extending from the front
tube sheet, above the tubes, to a point about half way to the
bottom of the arch. This is adjustable.
Q. How is the draught usually regulated in short-front engines?
A. Short-fronts are usually fitted with diamond stacks, and these
have a cone and nettings to break up and prevent the throwing
of cinders. The draught is usually regulated by a lift-pipe, or
petticoat pipe, placed between the nozzles and the stack. It is
larger than the nozzles and smaller than the stack. Raising and
lowering this pipe regulates the draught.
Q. What is a safety valve for, and how does it work?
A. A safety valve is a valve opening outwardly from the boiler,
and loaded either by a weight or a spring; in locomotives usually
a spring. This load is so regulated that when a certain amount
of pressure is reached the valve and load arc lifted and the pressure
Q. Why are two usually provided?
A. For safety, in case one sticks or becomes inoperative.
Q. Tell me what a blower is for, and when it is a good and
when a bad time to use it.
A. The blower directs a jet of live steam up the stack, creating
a partial vacuum in the front end and causing an extra draught
on the fire. It is useful when a green fire is being urged into
life. It draws away the dust and ashes when cleaning the fire,
and prevents black smoke. It is a bad time to use it strong when
fire is knocked out of box, or is partly dead, as it draws cold
air into the tubes and may cause leaks.
Q. Suppose your fire is old and somewhat dirty, and you notice,
on opening the door, that the fire is dull red or of a bluish
tint, but at once becomes lighter, often with slight crackling
noise, what does that mean to you?
A. I think that the bottom of the fire having become fouled by
clinkers or ashes, prevents the admission of the proper amount
of air for the fire, and the open fire-door supplies it. By leaving
the door on the latch temporarily, the fire will burn better;
but the clinker or ashes should at once be hooked or shaken out,
so that air may enter through the grates.
Q. If the fire gets all the air it can use, isn't that enough?
Why not leave the fire-door partly open?
A. The air must be thoroughly mixed with the gases given off by
the coal, and this is best done through the grates and the fuel,
as the jets of air are then broken up and thoroughly mixed. In
opening the fire-door a large body of air enters and passes directly
through the gases, only the outside mixing with them. This cools
off the boiler.
Q. How can you prove that mixing theory of yours?
A. By turning my scoop upside down in the fire-door, and on an
angle toward the grates, the air is forced in a wide sheet down
upon the fire and more thoroughly mixed, as is proven by the brightness
with which the fire burns, it being possible to see all the grates
in this way.
Q. What is the result if a hole gets in the fire?
A. Engine will lose steam; air enters in a large body, and goes
through the tubes cold and unconsumed.
Q. Why is it necessary to carry a thicker fire in one engine
A. The harder an engine works her fire, the heavier it must be,
to prevent tearing holes in it. Engines with small nozzles are
more apt to pull the fire than those with larger ones.
Q. What is the best way to regulate the steaming of a locomotive?
A. By the fire.
A. By using as light a fire as can be made to stay on the grates
comfortably, and breaking the coal in proportion to the depth
of the fire.
Q, Explain that point.
A. If the fire is very thin, it is necessary to break the coal
pretty small in order to insure combustion, and to break up and
more thoroughly mix the air entering through the fuel. If the
fire is thick, it must be coarser, or it would shut out the air
Q. Is it possible to admit too much air?
A. Yes. All air admitted above that necessary for combustion cools
the gases and helps keep them below the igniting point.
Q. How much air should be admitted then?
A. That depends upon the amount of coal that it is necessary to
burn. If the train is light, and little coal is burned per square
foot of grate per hour, it will sometimes be better to close one
damper; but if the fire is being forced hard, and a large quantity
of fuel burned, air must be admitted in proportion to the fuel
Q. What would be ideal firing?
A. A constant supply of fuel and air.
Q. Why is this impossible?
A. Because fuel is fed by hand, and the supply is intermittent,
and because enough fuel must be kept on the grates to prevent
tearing of the fire. If the fire-door is opened, and a large quantity
of fuel put on, it cools the gases below the igniting point, and
gives off little effective heat until the mass becomes heated.
On the other hand, if a very constant firing is kept up, the air
admitted at the door will do the same thing, so that the fireman
must stand between the two extremes. The only thing to do is to
keep fire enough to prevent pulling, and then regulate the supply
of air as will give the best results.
Q. Taking a hard-working soft-coal engine, do you think it
practically possible in road service to admit too much air through
A. No. It will be almost impossible to get enough, and if some
air is admitted above the fire it will produce more perfect combustion,
provided it is broken up and mixed with the gases. Perforated
doors and hollow stays do good in cases of this kind.
Q. What is the difference between hard and soft coal for use
on a locomotive?
A. Hard coal is almost entirely composed of carbon, giving off
very little gas, and its use is simpler; it is not so necessary
to admit air over the fire; the flame is short and intensely hot;
a long firebox is necessary in order to burn a large quantity
at a time; as it gives off little gas, there is no smoke to speak
Q. Are you on good terms with your engineer? Do you talk about
the engine or the work, and do you see the orders, and know what
trains you should meet or pass?
I recognize the fact that the past year has been one of hard
work for you, and one that has not given you much time for study.
But if you read a little each week or month, and then compare
the theories laid down by good authorities with your daily work,
you will soon have a very large fund of practical information
based on proven ground.
I have directed your thoughts upon boilers and combustion,
because it is of the greatest importance to the company and to
you. If you are reasonably careful, you can save many dollars
by so firing as to prevent wasting steam at the pops.
Next year I will examine you upon the mechanism of the locomotive,
and ask you what you would do under every circumstance of breakdown
that I can think of. There is no occasion for you to learn a lot
of answers to a lot of set questions relating to breakdowns. What
you want to do is to understand the general plan and principles
of a locomotive, to know what each individual piece does, and
what part of the complete machine it is, remembering that a locomotive
is two steam engines connected by the axles and steam pipes only.
If you understand the principle of the thing you cannot be "stuck"
on a question if you stop to thinkand I shall not hurry
I want you to remember that the business of the road is to
transport freight and passengers with the least expense and delay,
and that the engineer is the brains of one great engine. It is
not to the interest of the company for an engineer to spend hours
and cause long delays to show his skill or ingenuity in patching
up a broken engine, when he could have been towed in, in half
the time. At some time, and under some circumstances, it might
be best, under others worse; the end must justify the means.
Good judgment is the most essential thing in a successful engineer.
I shall ask you many questions about maintaining your engine,
but I shall expect you to know only as much as concerns you as
a runneryou are not a builder. But if you say you would
key rods or set up wedges with the engine in a certain position,
I shall certainly want to know why you do so. Study the
Keep up your reading of current literature on locomotives.
You will find something each month that you did not know before
or had forgotten. Should you pass the next examination satisfactorily,
you will be given a note to the superintendent for examination
on time-card and rules. Passing that, your name will be entered,
in its turn, on the list of extra engineers, and I trust
that in time you will be in charge of a locomotive.
Start Page | Contents
[Final Examination, after Three Years.]
Q. Suppose you were called to-night to go out in charge of
an engine, what would you do on arriving at engine in the yard?
A. First look at the crown sheet and flues; satisfy myself about
the water level; see that there was fuel and water on the tender,
that her headlight and signals were in shape, and that she was
supplied with necessary tools and sand; then inspect her machinery
and oil around.
Q. Suppose you were to take the engine over the road without
A. I should report for orders, and examine and check up the train
Q. Suppose you get out ten miles, between stations, with your
train, and break down, what is your first duty?
A. To protect myself, both front and rear, against approaching
Q. Suppose there was no train due coming toward you for some
time, or you had the absolute right of the roadis it still
necessary to flag?
A. Not always; still it is an additional safe guard, and takes
little time and trouble to put out a flag or torpedoes.
Q. How high would you carry water in the boiler?
A. So that there would be steam and water show at the top gauge
cock, or what is known as a "flutter."
Q. Why not carry solid water in the top gauge?
A. Because it is then uncertain how much water is being carried,
and too much water is dangerous, in that it leaves very little
steam room, and causes water to be carried over into the cylinders,
cutting valves and packing, endangering the heads, and throwing
water and ashes over the engine.
Q. Would there be exceptions to this rule?
A. Yes. In approaching a summit, enough water would have to be
carried so that the engine could pitch over without uncovering
her crown sheet.
Q. Suppose, after pitching over, you had only a "flutter"
in the lower gauge cock, what would you do?
A. Keep supplying water, but instruct fireman to keep the fire
bright, to prevent flues from leaking.
Q. Suppose your injectors stop working on the road, what would
A. Stop, see if there was water in the tank. If the instrument
would prime I should conclude that the trouble was in the injector,
or the check, and attempt to fix them; but if it would not prime
strongly, should take down hone, clean the strainer and wash out
hose by opening the tank valve.
Q. What about your water level all this time?
A. Should watch that; open fire-door in the start to prevent popping
off, and if water got low, should bank fire. If I had a pump,
would take down and examine valves.
Q. Why is it that left-hand injectors and pumps are so seldom
in working order?
A. Because they are neglected, not used, and not kept packed.
They should be used every day.
Q. What is the difference between foaming, and priming in a
A. Foaming is caused by oil, alkali, soda, or any such foreign
matter that causes the water to assume the form of suds. Priming
is when the whole or a large part of the water in the boiler lifts,
caused by want of space for the steam formed to free itself, generally
occurring when a boiler is being forced very hard.
Q. How can you usually detect foaming? and what would you do
if your boiler commenced to foam on the road?
A. Foaming is generally indicated by the appearance of water at
the stack. The valves are dried and pull the lever, and often
valves or pistons will squeak or groan. When this occurs I would
at once shut off throttle and let the water settle, to ascertain
if boiler was actually foaming or had been over-pumped. If there
were three solid gauges of water, would conclude that there was
no foaming; if water sank to or below lower gauge, should decide
that there was foaming, and should keep up supply of water. If
boiler had a surface blow-off cock, would use it, supplying extra
water for it by the left injector or pump; would open cylinder
cocks, to prevent damage to heads, reducing speed if necessary;
should shut off occasionally, to be sure of my water level. In
this way bad water can usually be gotten rid of. At first water
station would try and have enough water so as to be enabled to
blow out a couple of gauges of water.
Q. Suppose that you discovered that, through accident or design,
there had been oil put in your tank?
A. Should proceed just as I have said until a water tank was reached;
then would take water, allowing tender tank to overflow for a
long time; this would carry off any substance that would float.
Using the heaters would materially assist in raising the oil and
sending it back to manhole.
Q. Suppose you found that you couldn't shut off the blow-off
cock, or you broke it off?
A. Should knock out fire at once, disconnect the engine, and send
to telegraph office for assistance.
Q. In this case what would you disconnect?
A. Would take down the main rods and disconnect valve stems.
Q. Suppose you found that the tank valve had come off the stem
and dropped into the seat, preventing the injector or pump from
getting water, how would you get it out without stopping?
A. Put on the heater strong enough to blow it out of the seat;
heater should be shut off quickly, to prevent rupture of hose.
Q. Suppose you were stopped on the road, and found that the
water had dropped out of sight, what would you do?
A. By opening the throttle, or blower, the water level can sometimes
be raised, as in working; if found it still low, would deaden
fire by throwing water on it, shaking it out, or covering it with
fine green coal.
Q. Suppose you found, on the road, that the throttle was disconnected
and open, what would you do?
A. Reduce the pressure, so that I could handle the reverse lever
safely; if the train had hand-brakes, would notify the crew and
ask them to act promptly; if I had air, would use it carefully,
to avoid breaking in two; would take train to first telegraph
station and report condition to head quarters.
Q. Suppose it became disconnected while closed?
A. My action would be governed considerably by the circumstances;
would at once protect myself against approaching trains, send
to nearest telegraph office for assistance, fill the boiler well
up with water, knock out the fire, and blow off steam, unless,
in very severe winter weather, I would thus endanger freezing
up. If near division roundhouse on busy line, would disconnect
and prepare to be towed in. If it was not a busy line, and no
trains would be badly delayed, would take up dome cap and try
to connect up the valve again.
Q. Suppose a flue got to blowing very badly?
A. Would plug it up.
Q. Suppose the whistle or one of the pops blew out of dome
A. Would plug the hole with a wooden pin, tying it in with the
bell-cord, held by a wooden lever.
Q. What would you do first if a check valve were knocked off?
A. Kill the fire, to protect crown sheet.
Q. Suppose when your throttle was closed you could not prevent
some steam from getting into cylinders, what work would you report?
A. Should be sure the steam did not enter through the oil pipes
before reporting a leaky throttle.
Q. How could you tell a leaky throttle from a leaky dry pipe?
A. The dry pipe will generally leak water if boiler is filled
up pretty well.
Q. How would you go to work to disconnect an engine that had
broken a steam chest?
A. Take up the chest cover and fit pieces of board over the steam
passages to the chest, if they were on the cylinder casting; build
up on top of them, using wood, the valve, or anything handy for
the purpose; then bolt the cover down hard enough to prevent steam
from entering the chest; disconnect the valve stem, take down
the main rod, shove the piston ahead, and cramp the gland enough
to hold it. If the steam pipe was connected direct to chest, and
there were studs enough, or enough of the chest left, would try
to block up the steam-pipe opening with wood and hold it in by
fish plates and bolts.
Q. Why wouldn't you cover the ports with the valve?
A. Because no steam can enter the cylinder.
Q. What usually ruptures steam chests and covers?
A. Excessive pressure, generally caused by reversing the engine
when running fast. This makes air-pumps of the pistons that fill
the chests, steam and dry pipes, finally breaking the weakest.
Q. In case it becomes necessary to reverse, how can you prevent
rupture of chests?
A. By opening the throttle it will be impossible to get more than
boiler pressure in the chests, and they are designed to carry
Q. Suppose you struck something that demolished one cylinder
and chest; how would you disconnect so as to run in?
A. Take down main rod, take valve stem off the rocker, or tie
up the end so that it could vibrate; open the front end, loosen
a steam pipe, and insert a piece of sheet metal in the joint,
and tighten it up, or take out pipe entirely and bolt a piece
of board over T pipe.
Q. What would you do if you broke the reach rod?
A. Would fit blocks in top of link slots, so as to hold links
as high as I wanted to cut off; as I could not reverse, would
have to run carefully.
Q. If you broke a lifter?
A. Would fit a block in link, as for broken reach rod; take off
lifter; engine must not be reversed in this condition, as one
side would be in forward gear and one in back.
Q. If a piston rod broke and knocked the forward head out,
how would you disconnect?
A. Place valve over center of ports, disconnect the stem, and
fasten it there by cramping the gland, or blocking, if a metallic
packing was in use.
Q. Why wouldn't you take down the main rod?
A. Because it could do no harm by moving the piston.
Q. Suppose you had an engine with only one pump in working
order, and you broke a valve on that side, how would you get in?
A. Would cover ports with a smooth board, lay valve on top, block
it from moving in chest, and block above enough to hold it down;
put down cover, disconnect valve stem, take piston out of crosshead,
and let main rod remain up, to work the pump.
Q. What would you do if you blew out a piston gland, breaking
off one lug and one stud?
A. Would take out most of the packing, so as to let gland clear
into stuffing-box, and bolt the lug solid to head by remaining
Q. Suppose you broke off both lugs?
A. Engines have been run this way by wrapping the outside of gland
body with cloth, a piece of overall stuff or signal flag, and
forcing it well into the box by a jack, or by using wooden blocks
between it and the crosshead. In case the body of gland was broken,
would disconnect that side.
Q. Should you slip the right back motion eccentric on the road,
how would you reset it?
A. Would place the engine on exact dead center on right side,
place the reverse lever in full forward gear, and make a mark
on the valve rod at the stuffing-box gland; then place the reverse
lever in full back gear, and turn the slipped eccentric until
the mark on valve rod came to its original position, being careful
to see that the full, or throw of the eccentric, was in position
nearly opposite the forward eccentric, then secure it there.
Q. In what way does the mark you made on the valve rod, while
in forward gear, aid you in setting the slipped eccentric?
A. The forward motion eccentric being in proper position, by placing
the reverse lever in full forward gear the valve is brought into
proper position on the ports, and the mark gives the position
of the valve when the back motion eccentric is in its proper position,
thus setting the slipped eccentric by the good one.
Q. Should a valve yoke break, how would you test in order to
determine which side was disabled?
A. Would first place the engine at half stroke on the right side,
and admit a little steam to the cylinders, then move the reverse
lever from back to forward motion, and if the steam could be shifted
from the back to the forward cylinder cock, would conclude that
the right yoke was good, and would test the left side in the same
Q. Why would you place your engine at half stroke on the side
you wished to test?
A. In order to get the full movement of the valve over the ports
on that side.
Q. After locating the broken yoke, how would you disconnect?
A. Would take off the steam chest lid, place the valve over the
ports, and block it there securely; replace the lid, take off
the valve rod, take off the main rod, block the crossheads, and
proceed with a little over half a train to next telegraph office,
report, and give judgment as to whether the engine would take
entire train to its destination.
Q. Should you blow or break out a cylinder head, how would
A. First, take off the valve rod and close the ports with the
valve, and secure it by cramping with the stuffing-box gland;
take off the main rod and block the crossheads.
Q. How would you proceed to block the crossheads securely?
A. By placing crosshead at one end of stroke, and placing a block
between end of crosshead and guide blocks, to prevent it from
moving, would secure the block to the guides with cord to prevent
any danger of its falling out.
Q. Is it always necessary to so securely block crosshead?
A. No. Where possible, the piston should be placed at one end
of the cylinder and the valve placed at same end of the chest,
so that the pressure will securely hold it in place.
Q. Does it make any difference which end it is placed at?
A. On engines having a driver back of the guides the forward pin
will sometimes strike the piston key if the crosshead is blocked
back; in this class of engines it should be blocked ahead or key
Q. How can you , tell the difference between valves blowing
and cylinder packing blowing?
A. Valves blow more steadily than does cylinder packing. If you
put reverse lever in center, and open throttle and cylinder cocks,
you can test the valve; if they are tight, steam can only blow
from one cylinder cock out of the four. If, in starting slow with
cylinder cocks open, you watch the crosshead as it leaves the
ends of stroke you can at once locate the blow, both by sight
and by hearing.
Q. In case you located it in right piston, what would you report?
A. Examine cylinder packing, right side.
Q. Why do you say cylinder packing? it's the piston that is
A. To avoid confounding it with the piston rod packing.
Q. Suppose you broke the back-up eccentric blade on one side?
A. If there was no danger of link swinging against other parts
of machinery would run ahead in full stroke with only the back-up
Q. Why not hook up?
A. Because that would cause the eccentric to swing the link around
the link block pin, instead of moving the pin back and forth.
Q. Should you break a forward eccentric strap?
A. Take off both, cover the ports, and take down main rod.
Q. If you broke a lower rocker arm?
A. Would take down main rod, cover ports with the valve, and,
if the piece of rocker hanging to link block pin could not strike
anything, would let it alone.
Q. What if you broke the top rocker?
A. Would do the same, blocking the broken piece where it could
not be struck.
Q. Suppose the pin in link saddle broke off?
A. Would take down hanger, block up on top of link, just as if
the hanger or tumbling shaft was broken.
Q. What would you do if both front cylinder heads were broken?
A. Disconnect both sides.
Q. What would you do if one of the bridges between the ports
should break out?
A. Cover all the ports with the valve, fasten it, take down valve
stem, main rod, and block crosshead.
Q. What would you do if the soft plug blew out of crown-sheet
on the road?
A. Protect train and disconnect both sides.
Q. How about the fire?
A. Water and steam from the plug would put that out.
Q. If you broke a crosshead?
A. Take down main rod, cover ports, and disconnect valve stem.
Q. Should you break the back section of a side rod on a six-wheel
connected engine, what would you do?
A. Would take off both back sections, and run in with main and
forward wheels connected, with lighter train.
Q. Should you break a forward section, how would you disconnect?
A. Would take off all side rods and run in without train.
Q. Should you break a back or front section of a side rod on
a consolidation engine, how would you disconnect?
A. Would take off both back or front connections, as the case
may be, and run in with two-thirds of train.
Q. Should you break a middle connection on a consolidation
engine, how would you disconnect?
A. Would take off all side rods and run in without train.
Q. Should you break a main crank-pin close up to the wheel,
how would you disconnect?
A. Would take off all side rods, and the main rod on disabled
side, and run in without train.
Q. Should one of the forward tires on a ten-wheel engine break,
how would you manage?
A. Would jack the wheel up the thickness of the tire, take out
the oil cellar, and cut a block to fit the bottom of the box and
journal sufficiently thick to hold the axle up in its place when
resting on the pedestal brace; would then run in without disconnecting,
provided the rod had not been bent or damaged by the broken tire;
would take in full train.
Q. Should you break a main tire, how would you manage?
A. Would first send messenger to nearest telegraph office and
ask for assistance. Would then block up the axle and wheel the
thickness of the tire, slack off the side and main rod keys, and
run in carefully without train.
Q. Should the back tire break, how would you manage?
A. Would take off the back section of rods, block up the axle,
run very carefullyespecially around curvesto nearest
telegraph office, report, and ask for orders.
Q. What would you do in case you lost off the back driving-wheel
tire on an eight-wheeled engine?
A. Would block up wheel, take down side rods, and run very carefully
to first telegraph station.
Q. How fast would you run in that condition?
A. On straight track, five or six miles per hour; on curves and
over switches, very slow.
Q. Would it be safe for you to back up under those conditions?
A. No; there would be nothing to guide the engine.
Q. What would you do in case the back tank truck broke down
so that you could use no part of it?
A. Would put a car truck under, if available; if not, would jack
up tank and put forward truck back, chaining front of tender to
frame of engine; would lighten load on tank as much as possible
and run in light.
Q. What would you do if an axle in engine truck of an eight-wheeler
A. Jack up that end of the truck and chain it to main frame of
Q. Suppose the front axle under tender broke?
A. Would jack up truck frame, and chain it to a cross-tie, or
rail, laid across top of tank.
Q. Suppose you broke a wheel under the tanksay you lost
about a third of it?
A. Would use a tie or piece of rail to block that pair of wheels
from turning, and would slide them to the nearest telegraph station.
Q. Should you break a front driver spring or spring hanger,
what would you do?
A. Would take the spring out, run the back dicers upon wedges
to take the weight off the forward drivers, and block between
the top of driving-box and frame; then run the forward drivers
upon wedges to take weight off the back drivers, pry up the end
of equalizer and block it level.
Q. If a back spring?
A. Would proceed same as in case of front spring, but in reverse
order; would not take spring out if there was no danger of its
falling to pieces, as it would consume too much time.
Q. What size wedges would you use to run your drivers upon,
and how would you get them when needed?
A. I would use wedges of oak, about three feet long and four inches
square, eight or ten inches of the top of wedge straight for wheel
to rest on, and would see that I always had them on my engine
ready for use.
Q. Suppose you were running an engine with a pony truck, and
broke the center pin at front of long equalizer, what would you
A. Put in a new pin, if I had it, and could do it quickly; if
not, would jack up front of engine and block down the cross equalizer
at back of long equalizer, enough to prevent forward end from
striking pony axle, and proceed with full train.
Q. In case of failure of water supply in tank under ordinary
circumstances, what would you do?
A. I should leave my train and run to a water tank, except it
was practicable to obtain a supply from some pond or stream near
Q. In case of snow blockade, and water low in tank, what would
A. I should shovel snow in tender, and in this way make water
enough to keep engine alive.
Q. Tell me how you would start a heavy train.
A. Should pull out easily, starting one car at a time, getting
all in motion before opening engine outthis to avoid breaking
train in two.
Q. After the train got to going nicely what would you do?
A. Hook the reverse lever nearer the center.
Q. What good does that do?
A. Steam is worked expansively.
A. The steam is admitted to the cylinder for a shorter time, and
the supply is then shut off, allowing that imprisoned in the cylinder
to be expanded down to a lower pressure, thus doing work.
Q. What do you mean when you say "cutting off in six inches"
A. That steam is admitted for six inches of the travel of the
piston, or rather that when the piston has gone six inches from
the end of the cylinder the valve has closed the port, and what
steam is then in the cylinder is used expansively.
Q. What is lead?
A. The opening of the port at the beginning of the stroke.
Q. Does it increase by hooking up?
A. Yes; the earlier the cut-off, the more lead.
Q. What is lapoutside lap?
A. The distance that the edges of the valve overlap the outside
of the steam ports. If the valve is two inches wider than the
ports, it is said to have one inch lapan inch on each side.
Q. What is the object of lap?
A. Lap is given for the purpose of enabling the engine to work
steam expansively. Steam is held in the cylinder, and is expanding
while the valve is traveling the distance of its lap.
Q. What is inside lap?
A. The distance that the inside edges of the exhaust cavity of
the valve overlap the outside edges of the bridges when the valve
is in the center.
Q. What is its use?
A. It delays the exhaust, and therefore gets a little more work
out of the expanding steam. It is not used on fast engines, as
it is then desirable to get rid of the steam quickly.
Q. Could you change the lap or lead of your engine by adjusting
the lengths of the eccentric blades?
A. No. Lap can only be changed by adding to or cutting off part
of the valve. Lead can only be changed by moving the eccentric
on the shaft.
Q. What can be done by moving the blades?
A. The valve can be made to travel evenly each side of the center
of seat, that is all.
Q. If the lead can only be changed by the position of the eccentric
on the axle, how is it increased as the links are hooked up?
A. The whole motion is moved back around the eccentric, instead
of the eccentric being moved ahead through the motion, which amounts
to the same thing.
Q. Is it your duty to adjust this motion ?
A. No. I am to run the engine, and report. such work at the roundhouse.
Q. What work about the engine should you do?
A. I should adjust the wedges, keep the rods properly keyed up,
all stuffing-boxes packed, and care for the headlight.
Q. How should wedges be set up?
A. They should be set up while engine; is under steam, and be
adjusted tight enough so as not to thump or knock, and yet allow
the box to move freely in the pedestals. This is best done by
moving them up tight, and then pulling them down enough to relieve
the side pressure. Much damage can be done by getting them too
tight and by adjusting them too often.
Q. How would you go about setting them up?
A. Would place the engine at half stroke on the right side, block
the left wheels, admit a little steam, and thump the boxes hard
away from the wedges. Would then get under, and put the wedges
up solid with a short wrench, and make a side mark on the pedestals
at top of wedge, then draw them down equally one-eighth of an
inch; go over the left side in the same manner.
Q. How would you keep up or adjust the side rods of a ten-wheel
or a consolidation engine?
A. Would place the engine on a level and straight track, and on
a dead center, then slack off all keys on that side; would then
key the main connection first, leaving it sufficiently free on
the pin to be moved laterally by hand, then adjust the front and
back ends in the same manner; before starting to key up rods,
would see that wedges were properly set up.
Q. Why would you place the engine on exact dead center, and
begin by keying the main connection first?
A. In order to insure keying the rods of proper length to allow
them to pass the dead or rigid points without strain.
Q. Can the side rods be keyed too long or too short when not
standing on dead center?
A. They can.
Q. If too long or too short, at what point of the stroke will
the strain be?
A. While passing the dead or rigid points.
Q. What provision should be made in the rods for the uneven
movement of the wheels in the pedestals?
A. The brasses should be loose enough on the pins to accommodate
the movement mentioned.
Q. How does an injector work?
A. Steam escaping from a boiler has a velocity many times higher
than water would escaping from the same sized orifice and under
the same pressure. The steam used in the injector imparts to the
water a measure of its velocity, at the same time giving up most
of its heat. It is enabled to deliver the feed water at the check
at a greater velocity than water would escape directly into the
air from the boiler.
Q. What is the difference between a lifting and a non-lifting
A. The lifter has an extra steam jet ahead of the combining tube
that draws the air out of the injector, allowing the pressure
of the atmosphere to force the water in the tank up into the instrument.
Q. What make of injectors are in use on this road?
Q. How do you make a heater of that instrument?
Q. How should an injector be used?
A. Water should be supplied constantly while engine is at work,
and the injector regulated to just supply the boiler.
Q. What brakes are in use on this road?
Q. What is meant by an automatic brake?
A. One that is self-operative under certain conditions.
Q. What is the principle of the automatic air-brake?
A. Air under pressure is supplied to the train, and a sufficient
quantity stored on each car to do the braking of that car. This
stored air, however, is held in equilibrium by the pressure in
the train pipe. A reduction in the train pipe destroys this equilibrium,
and the stored pressure, through the medium of the triple valve,
sets the brake in proportion to the reduction in the train pipe.
Should the train break in two, or any other accident happen that
would rupture the train pipe, the brakes on each section would
be automatically applied,
Q. What is meant by "straight air"?
A. The term "straight air" is used to designate the
original Westinghouse system, which operates the brakes by applying
the air pressure from the engine reservoir directly through the
pipes to the brake cylinders of cars.
Q. What is your duty regarding air-brakes before coupling engine
to a train?
A. The air-pump is to be started and lubricated for the trip,
maximum pressure pumped up with which to charge the brakes, and
those which may be set should be released.
Q. What is your duty as soon as engine is attached to train?
A. First, charge the brakes; second, apply brakes at full force
and hold them on while brakemen or inspectors go over train to
make sure that all brakes are set; upon their signal, brakes are
released; then wait for report regarding number and condition
of brakes before starting out.
Q. How would you start your pump?
A. Would start slowly, and increase speed gradually, and thereby
not force out the water of condensation, which would be injurious
to the pump.
Q. How would you lubricate your air-pump?
A. I would lubricate steam cylinder with cylinder oil, and air
cylinder sparingly with a small quantity of engine oil; would
not use tallow or lard oils in air cylinder.
Q. Does water accumulate in air reservoir and air pipe? if
so, what should be done to remove it?
A. Yes; the moisture in the air will condense and accumulate in
the main reservoir, which should be drained off once a week in
summer and daily in winter.
Q. How would brakes be applied in making ordinary stops for
A. For ordinary stops the brakes should be applied lightly, by
opening' engineer's valve, and closing again slowly until the
pressure has been reduced on the gauge from four to eight pounds.
Q. When are brakes fully applied?
A. Brakes are fully applied when pressure, as shown on the gauge,
is reduced twenty pounds.
Q. Should brakes be held fully applied until train comes to
a full stop?
A. Because it causes a reaction in the motion of the train, which
is very disagreeable to passengers.
Q. How can this be avoided?
A. By releasing brakes gradually before a full stop, so that all
the air will be off at the moment stop is made.
Q. If some brakes are sticking after the train has started,
how may they be released?
A. If all the excess pressure has been exhausted, or the amount
is not sufficient to release brakes, the engineer's brake valve
is put at "lap" and speed of air-pump increased; as
soon as fifteen or twenty pounds additional pressure has accumulated
in main reservoir, brake valve is thrown into releasing position,
and kept there from ten to twenty seconds. If this does not release
brakes, use the proper Signals, calling attention of trainmen
to release brakes by hand.
Q. What is the maximum air pressure allowed on passenger trains?
A. Eighty pounds.
Q. What is the maximum pressure allowed on freight trains?
A. Seventy pounds.
Q. With a passenger train of from twelve to fifteen cars, what
air pressure would you keep the brake charged with, and how would
you handle the brakes in making a stop?
A. Would carry from seventy to eighty pounds pressure. In making
a stop, would apply brakes gently, reducing the pressure from
four to eight pounds as might be found necessary, and then gradually
increase the pressure on brakes until train is brought nearly
to a stop, without releasing the brakes more than once.
Q. Give the different positions of engineer's brake valve handle.
A. First, releasing position, handle against left-hand stop. Second,
running position, handle against middle stop.
Third, at lap, handle on left of service stop or service stop
Fourth, applying position, handle to right. In the old valve the
suddenness of application of brakes depends on distance to which
handle is moved to right of middle stop.
Fifth, emergency position, stop to extreme right -only to be used
to avoid accident.
Q. How much pressure would you carry on a passenger train of
two to four coaches, and why?
A. Would carry same pressure for all passenger trains, regardless
of the number of cars; because, with the automatic air-brake,
each car carries its own reservoir, charged with a pressure to
be used for a given stop, and is, therefore, subject to the same
braking power, regardless of the number of cars on the train.
Q. Given a freight train of thirty to forty cars, from five
to fifteen of these in front end of train are equipped with air-brakes
and can be used to aid in stopping the train, at what pressure
would you keep the brakes charged, and how handle the brakes in
making a stop?
A. Would carry from sixty to sixty-five pounds pressure. In making
stop would apply the brakes gently by reducing pressure from four
to five pounds; this will be sufficient to let the cars run together,
with only a slight jar on any of them. As soon as all slack is
taken up, would gradually increase the force of brakes as circumstances
required, being careful to reduce the pressure on train pipe gradually,
so as not to use full braking power until absolutely necessary.
The object is to gently bring the slack against the air-brake
cars, and to hold the brakes on until the train comes to a full
Q. Suppose you were running this train thirty miles an hour,
and, on looking back, found one or two cars at the rear were off
the track, what would you do?
A. Shut off and apply air very gently, and call for brakes. If
I applied the emergency brake it would very likely cause a bad
pile-up of cars, as the brakes would all be ahead.
Q. Given a full train of freight cars, all connected with air-brakes,
what air pressure would you carry, and how would you handle the
brake in making a stop?
A. Would carry the pressure prescribed for freight trainsfrom
sixty to sixty five pounds. In making stop would reduce pressure
slightly, just enough to set brakes over entire train simultaneously,
and gradually increase braking power until train is brought to
a stop, releasing the brake, after once set, as seldom as possible.
If the old style engineer's brake valve be opened wide, allowing
the pressure to escape quickly, the brakes on a long train will
set on front end some time before those on rear end, causing the
cars to jam together with destructive force; then, if the engineer's
brake valve be closed quickly, without giving time for the pressure
to become equalized throughout the entire train, the forward brakes
will become released, resulting in a severe jerk that will, perhaps,
break the train in two. In any cage, the use of brakes so released
is lost. The new equalizing pressure valve automatically takes
care of this itself.
Q. Give essential points to be observed in holding a train
of air-brake cars, while descending heavy grades.
A. 1. Have train charged with maximum pressure before bringing
brake into use.
2. Regulating the force of brakes so as to main taro a regular
and steady speed of train, also make as long a distance as possible
to each application of the brakes. By doing this, the pressure
is used economically, and the pump is given more time to accumulate
the necessary pressure for recharging.
3. Always keeping brake valve in releasing position while recharging,
thereby giving- the brakes the greatest advantage in recharging
4. Making no new application of brakes until the full amount of
pressure consumed, in previous application has been restored.
5. Reducing the pressure, as shown on Gauge, not more than fifteen
to twenty pounds from one recharging to another, as it would be
difficult to replenish the full amount in so short a time. Moreover,
when the pressure, as shown on gauge, has been reduced twenty
pounds, the brakes have been fully applied, and any further reduction
is a waste of pressure.
Q. What is a pressure-retaining valve?
A. It is a small weighted valve, attached by a pipe to the exhaust
cavity of the triple valve case.
Q. What is the object of the pressure-retaining valve?
A. The object of this valve is to hold a portion of the pressure
in brake cylinder, while the brake is being recharged when descending
Q. What are the two positions for handle of the pressure-retaining
valve, and what is action of valve in each?
A. Perpendicular; handle of valve is turned down; this allows
the entire pressure to escape from brake cylinder when brake is
released. Horizontal, handle is turned up; this retains a pressure
of ten pounds in brake cylinder, but permits all pressure over
that amount to escape when brake is released.
Q. When "double-headers" are run, by whom and how
should air-brakes be used?
A. By head engineer alone; second engineer closes stopcock in
train pipe under his valve, or, in absence of this stop-cock,
he places engineer's valve in the " lap" position, in
order to give forward engineer complete control of brakes. Second
engineer also keeps his air-pump working, and thus has air pressure
ready for any emergency, such as failure of air-pump on forward
engine, in which case forward engineer proceeds as second engineer
would in case just stated.
Q. The second engineer having once assumed control of the brakes,
how long should he retain charge of same?
A. Until the end of the trip, except in a case of necessity, which
may again reverse the operation.
Q. What should always be borne in mind when on mountain grades?
A. To keep train well under control.
Q. Should descending at high speeds be practiced?
Q. Why not?
A. Descending at high speed must not be practiced with any train,
for there may come a time when some part of the machinery may
fail, and, while practicable to control speed by hand brakes at
eight to ten miles per hour, it may be impossible at twenty to
thirty miles per hour to regain its control.
Q. Are you familiar with the use of driver brakes on locomotives?
Q. How do you apply them?
A. I apply the brakes gradually, in order not to bring a too sudden
strain on the brake rods and lever.
Q. Would you reverse your engine when driver brakes are set?
A. I would not.
Q. What would be the probable result of reversing engine with
driver brakes set?
A. The effect would be to lock and slide the wheels, resulting
in flat tires.
Q. In case of failure to any part of air or driver brakes during
the trip, what would you do?
A. Report it promptly to master mechanic or foreman for inspection
Q. What extra air-brake parts should you always carry on your
A. I should always have on engine one extra hose for connection
between engine and tank, and one hose for between tank and car.
Your weakest point, as shown by this examination, is in . .
. . . . . . . . You need to post up a little on that. I do not
know just how soon you will be called upon to run an engine, but
I wish to impress upon your mind the fact that you must not now,
or then, sit down satisfied with yourself because you have passed
this examination. The master mechanic or the traveling engineer
have a right to demand that you be re-examined, if they think
it necessary, should your promotion be delayed for another year.
The mechanical world is moving all the timekeep up with
It is not particularly necessary that you know how things are
made, but do know how they work and why they work.
Study up every new brake, injector, or other device, so that
in case you run across one you will understand its principle and
can work it intelligently.
I cannot refrain at this time from calling your attention to
the necessity of getting a good reputation on the road, and not
a bad one.
If there is disagreeable work to do, do it as cheerfully as
possible and with little "kicking." Say you can't pull
cars after you have triednever before.
Get the reputation of oiling around, taking water and getting
ready to move quickly. Get the reputation of running on the road
evenly, occupying card time between stations, and not running
fast and stopping often.
If you find it necessary to run fast to a station for a meeting
point, commence to run fast right thennot at the last moment.
Get the reputation of doing well, and on time, anything you set
out to do with an engine. Make your fireman your partner; show
him all your orders; interest him in his work and the enginehe
will be of great service to youand above all, don't forget
that you fired a long time yourself.
Avoid the reputation of being "fly" on the road.
Never be reckless or foolish; it's a grave business. Don't let
your thoughts wander from your work. Accept the responsibilities
of your position wish your eyes open and hand firm-just as a successful
surgeon uses the knife near the vitals-know what you are doing
and how to do it, just how far to go, and where to stop. A nervous,
excitable, uncertain engineer is as dangerous as an ignorant one.
Don't ask many favors or make many kicks, so that when you
do ask a favor it will be more likely to be granted, and when
you do kick it will count.
Don't do anything because some engineer you know or like does
so, unless you know he is right. Know why, and then do as your
knowledge of the subject teaches you is right and best. You have
an individuality of your owndevelop it.
I wish to impress upon your mind the importance of telling
the truth about affairs on the road. Never make out a false report
about killing stock, or accidents. Tell the plain, naked, bald-headed
trutheven when it shows you were in the wrongit will
be noticed and known, and credit given you for it; but once you
get caught making out a lying reportand you will get caught
if you do ityour word won't help you much in an important
case. Lying to save a man's job is a pretty good way to jeopardize
it when the lie is discovered. Railroad officers have a wholesome
respect for a man who dare say, "I did so-and-so; it was
a mistake," or, "It was my fault."
I hope you will pass your examination on timecard and rules
before the superintendent successfully, but would advise you not
to try until you are pretty sure.
If you are temperate and industrious, I don't see why you should
not become an engineer that every officer of the road will be
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