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Locomobile Steam Gathering Place

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Ron,

Great, I am full of anticipation to see an early Locomobile steam car brought out of hibernation and put on the road.

Al

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On a sister steam subject, I encourage everyone, who has not, take a look on You Tube for the "Golden Spike" celebration going on this week in northern Utah.  Also, look up on You Tube "Big Boy".   Big Boy is the largest steam engine ever built in the world and it is impressive.  Saturday, we are going to have a family get together at Promontory Point for the reenactment of the Driving of the Golden Spike, to finish the first cross continental Rail line.  Also, the newly restored Big Boy is making its first appearance at the  Ogden Utah Central Rail Station to help with the Golden Spike Celebration.  Any Steam Guy has got to be impressed with the driving of the Golden Spike and also of the restored and fully operational Big Boy.  What a story!  Share your thoughts.  I don't think we would have the technology we enjoy now without the early development of steam which helped build our Nation.

Al

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Hi Al,

 

Yes I have been following the 4014 engine restoration for years along with many others in the steamisphere. I was absolutely enamored and thrilled when she backed out of the shed. I've had that same feeling on a much smaller scale of course when my projects are in steam for the first time. Its Alive!! :)

 

I just can't imagine what it must be like to run that engine on the line. Ive been up in the cab of the big Allegheny locomotive at the Henry Ford museum which is a bit smaller than Big Boy physically but actually has more horsepower. Standing in the engineers position, there is just a little window to look down the side of the boiler all the way out to the front of the smokekbox. It had to be scary as H running 80 mph, anyone or anything on the tracks was pretty much hit.

 

Fueling the coal was pretty interesting, no man could keep up with a shovel, you probably know this, but the coal was auger'ed up and pulverized and them blown in to the firebox with a jet of steam. Impressive pieces of machinery and it's mind boggling to think these were built - drawn up with pencil, paper and a slide rule and machined with no CNC equipment. I'm a machinist and I am often in awe of the workmanship and talent that these folks had. Lots of lost art.

 

-Ron

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Ron,  The Big Boy is all testosterone but not built for high speed either.  He was originally built to pull the Wasatch Grade.  This part of the UP line is all up hill from Ogden Utah to Cheyenne Wyoming.  The smaller sister engine, that is on display with 4014, I think is 844.  844 has been in service for a while as is a different engine being capable of much faster speeds than that of 4014.  Whereas 4014 is a true work horse that could get up to a respectable 80 MPH, if I have my stats correct, 844 was capable of speeds pushing 120 MPH.  Years ago, 844 came down the main line that runs through the middle of our agricultural area.  It made a "whistle stop" for all to enjoy and take pictures then moved on down the track and in a big hurry.  I followed along on the side roads and after 844 passed 3 crossings, (within 3 miles)  I was having a hard time keeping up as my speedo was reading over 85 MPH.  What a rush it must have been to "engineer" on one of these steam engines.  I am sure that you get a very similar rush when you steam up your Locomobile!  Later this week I will share a few pictures of the events and steam engines.

Al

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Posted (edited)

Al,

 

I would enjoy your pictures very much. Running my little steamer fast (40 mph) is exhilaration mixed with fear. I can't imagine running 80 mph on that big beast, bouncing around on our rough tracks, the medal creaking, squeaking, the roar of the fire - Fred Dibnah a well known in the UK and passed on now steam man once stated "If you've never gone fast on the footplate of a steam locomotive, you haven't lived'. I've never had the opportunity.

 

I don't know what the top speed of 844 is but I'm thinking it's like 90? The UK steam Locomotive Mallard set the world speed record of 126 mph for steam which still stands I think, it is a very tall driver'd streamline Locomotive built for high speed passenger service and the UK had and has much better tracks than we do. I'm not sure a train could run that fast on ours, maybe? A little known fact about the Mallard speed run, the videos always show it streaking across the country, three miles out from the depot, they cut the throttle and started braking and when it went through the depot they were still trying to stop it, and it went down until it slammed in to the trackstop. No damage, but they way underestimated the stopping distance. Have a look on Youtube for "Fred Dibnah" A very interesting fellow. Another one is Mark Williams on the rails: Mark Williams covers some of the US train history.

Edited to add: The Mallard had to be completely rebuilt after this high speed record setting run. The conrods were stretched and warped and many of the bearings and surfaces were damaged.

 

FredDibnah : start with this one and watch the whole series:

 

 

 

 

 

Start here and watch the whole series with Mark Williams.

 

 

-Ron

Edited by Locomobile (see edit history)
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Hello Ron,

If you track down any good information regarding the old Locomobile Steam car registry and serial numbers and you are willing, please post here to keep us invigorated and informed.

Al

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3 hours ago, alsfarms said:

Hello Ron,

If you track down any good information regarding the old Locomobile Steam car registry and serial numbers and you are willing, please post here to keep us invigorated and informed.

Al

Al,there is supposed to one floating around, but I've not located a copy of it. If I find one, I'll let you know.

 

-Ron

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Dave,

 

That is a nice looking Loco. Looks to be fairly original. Some things have been changed like the wheels, the original wheels did not work well as the tires were glued on like early bicycles and the tires are crazy expensive in that size. 28 x 2-1/2 I heard like 600 each.

 

Also that crank bearing and rod bearings have been swapped out with modern sealed ball bearings, another good thing to do, the original bearing in the crank were like those used in the neck of a bicycle, very problematic in that service. I did the same to my engine and the crank bearings are trouble free. I have no trouble with my engine. All the trouble I've had is with the burner which leads me to the next paragraph.

 

I'm not sure what burner you have, but I'm thinking it is original with the rivets. I attached a few pics of what the Locomobile burner looks like. I don't have any experience with them, but they do work. I'm using an Ofeldt style burner.

 

Running on Propane is possible and you're right it is much easier, the problem with it is, it's a very cold flame in comparison to Gasoline and Kerosene. Diesel is hotter than all three, but the fumes from it can be intolerable. Running on Propane will just be sticking a delivery tube with properly sized jet at the mouth of the mixing tube and light it. Which might be difficult without a pilot of some sort and of course, it would n't be able to be shut off.

 

I'm going to stop right there, sorry, I have a big day tomorrow and I have to get to bed. I'm a two fingered typist and I type slowly, I'll have some time this weekend and I can provide more info when I'm not so rushed.

 

-Ron

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Hello Dave,

Thanks for the posting the pictures of the Locomobile steam car.  They are delightful little guys!  I will try to give you a buzz.  What day or time is best to get in touch with you?  I am rather tangled up with the Utah Golden Spike doings for a couple of days.  Do you have any more of the story/history behind your Locomobile?  How close is El Paso to Carlsbad Caverns?  I may be at the caverns in a week or two on another family event.

Al

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Ron,

I am interested to hear the "rest of the story" you stopped on.  I would also like to understand more of the theory of the Ofeldt design boiler.  A while ago I about bit on a replica steamer and had planned to use the Ofeldt boiler for steam generation.  I then backed off and decided to get a more pure Locomobile project.

Al

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How many Locomobile steamers are up and running, this spring after winter hibernation?

Al

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Posted (edited)

Hi Al,

 

First let me write, no boiler is perfect, each type consists of a groups of trade-offs of advantages and compromises. The Locomobile and virtually all other production vehicles at that time used firetube boilers. These are the boilers consisting of a shell, lower crownsheet and upper sheet with  a various number of tubes which the products of combustion pass through. I'm writing this off the cuff, so I may miss a few things.

 

Firetube Advantages:

¶High reserve capacity

¶Traditional type for vintage vehicles

¶Stable generation

¶Slow reacting which is better for the manual controls these early cars used. Easier for novice operators to stay ahead of.

¶Good base of contemporary knowledge and experience with this boiler type in the steam community

¶Excellent response in the sight glass that reads boiler water level.

 

Firetube Disadvantages:

¶Heavy, two to three times heavier than a comparable water tube boiler with equal or less steam generation.

¶Slow firing, some of the large Stanley touring cars took over a half hour to fire up, much more water to heat.

¶Lower steam generation per square foot of heating surface, theoretically with a non induced draft wood fire a firetube boiler will produce one -horsepower per 10 square feet of heating surface, the water tube types, about one horsepower per 5 square feet of heating surface. These -values vary wildly with fuel type, burner and venting/draft configuration and are only a rough guide.

¶A moot point as all boilers should be built to withstand the service, but the hoop stresses on the large boiler shell make the firetube boilers -more prone to catastrophic failure. Although there is not one recorded incident of this ever happening in a steam car.

¶Easily damaged, they typically used rolled in copper tubes, if the copper is overheated, the tube can collapse, this can happen even in a low -water/hard firing condition. The upper portion of the tubes are exposed and provide some superheating in the steam space, but this is at risk -of overheating the tubes.

¶Expensive to purchase and manufacture.

¶Thermal expansion, this has been a known issue with these types of boilers since their inception, Sylvester Roper wrote about it in the mid -1800's. The issue is the thermal expansion rates of copper versus steel and how heat is applied inherent to the design. It is important to fire a -firetube boiler up completely full, this prevents the tubes from over heating in the upper portions during fire up. What happens is the tubes over -heat and elongate and exert physical force on the upper and lower tube sheets, which can cause loosening of the rolled in tube joints. The shell -is cold during fire up and does not expand. Steam Locomotives take many hours to start and shut down, it is purpose driven practice, they are -allowing the whole boiler to heat slowly and evenly to mitigate thermal stress related issues.

¶Poor internal circulation, another factor related to lower steam generation.

 

Water tube boiler types encompass many different design types, a common type in vehicles is the Ofeldt which consists of a vertical center drum and an array of vertical coils about it's circumference. There are other types like the Derr boiler that many later Stanley's and others used, but we're focusing on early steamers. The Ofledt boiler was sold as a whole steam system that many early steamers were retrofitted with. The advantages are many and disadvantages few, one most important advantage was the Ofeldt Blue Flame burner which would run reliably on Kerosene, most early steamers would only burn gasoline which is much easier to vaporize and burn, the problem was, no insurance company would cover a garage where a gasoline burning steamer was housed. In the winter time it was common practice to leave the pilot light burning and throw a horse blanket over the car - a recipe for disaster. Apparently it was common for vehicle fires with the much more volatile gasoline, which incidentally in a steam car is a more serious safety concern versus the steam system. I only use stainless braided high pressure fuel lines, many folks use copper for fuel lines which I deem dangerous, copper can work harden and fracture easily. Copper fuel lines are illegal per the DOT regs. As are copper hydraulic brake lines for this very reason.

 

Advantages:

¶Quick steaming due to the high steaming rate and low water capacity of typically only one gallon. I can fire my car up making steam in a bout five -minutes. A friend of mine uses an Ofeldt with a different burner configuration, he can make steam in about three minutes.

¶Light weight about one half to one third the weight of a comparable firetube type.

¶Less expensive to build

¶Less easily damaged, an all welded steel Ofeldt can withstand being ran completely out of water while under fire without harm.

¶Excellent internal circulation owing to the much higher steam generation. This can be most easily explained by water on a hot griddle, where -heat is applied to a griddle underside, the water on top will be pushed away, this is called "Departure from Nucleate Boiling" or DNB. Boilers -with low internal circulation have little defense against this condition which results in exposed internal hotspots that aren't creating steam. -High circulation, keeps water moving over these areas and generating steam. Getting the most out of the heated surface. This is one of the -reasons in the steam community one will often hear about "forced circulation", whereby a pump is used to force the water at high velocity -through the generating coils, this is theoretically a superior design, however, I do not know of one operating.

¶Some reserve for more stable operation compared to other water tube types like the Derr boilers that use no accumulator drum. The Ofeldt -can be operated manually, the low -reserve types need automatic controls as water and fire demand are very frequent.

¶Less prone to carry over. Carry over is when under high demand water is carried in to the steam line. This is a problem with water tube types -that have no reserve. Water going to a steam engine can be catastrophic, water will not compress so the engine is usually damaged, i.e. broken -or bent rods, broken cylinder heads etc. The D-valve type engines are less susceptible to being damaged as the valve can lift off the face and -release trapped water, if this happens with a piston valve engine, better dust off the lathe :)

¶Thermal expansion issues are virtually non-existent, the coils which are similar to a coil spring can elongate and contract without damage to -the joints.

 

Disadvantages:

 

¶A bit less water reserve vs the firetube, which means firing and water tending is more frequent. Typically running, once off and on for each per -mile.

¶Less reliable reading sight glass, the internal circulation is turbulent which results in occasional erratic readings, but overall the readings are -reliable.

¶More difficult to repair. All welded steel construction and difficult to reach weld joints.

 

As one can see, there are not many disadvantages to the Ofeldt, and of those they are of little concern in normal operation.

 

Added some pictures of my Ofeldt. I run it at 250, but the components have a working pressure of 2400 psi. and burst rates of 10,000 psi.

 

-Ron

 

 

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Edited by Locomobile (see edit history)
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Posted (edited)
21 hours ago, alsfarms said:

How many Locomobile steamers are up and running, this spring after winter hibernation?

Al

 

I'm about to get mine out of storage soon and de-winterize it which is just flushing the antifreeze out of the system. I'm in the process of getting it registered to drive with an antique plate on the street for tours, so far so good, I will report here how I did that without a title or previous registration, works with any car. These cars never had titles.

 

-Ron

Edited by Locomobile (see edit history)
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Thanks for your write up.  I have read about some of the information about the Ofeldt boiler.  If I were to build/restore a Locomobile I would choose that design boiler.

Al

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Posted (edited)

Al,

 

If my car was all original, which just about none of them are, I would go back with the firetube just to keep it stock. I built mine to drive, so externally and the power train it is near exact, but with the steam system, it is much higher output. the most frustrating issue with operating a steamer is one that will not keep up with steam demand, and the driver has to pull over every so often and build head pressure or simply limp along.

 

That is where the White, the Serpolet and the Doble especially had it over the Stanleys. With their water tube boilers and sophisticated automatic controls they could drive at speed and maintain steam production. A 6000 pound Doble E-20 etc can run 70 mph on the expressway. A good running White, about 35 -40 maintained speed. The Stanley was faster, but for only a short distance. That is the key to a successful steamer.

 

-Ron

Edited by Locomobile (see edit history)
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Hello Ron,

Your thoughts and my opinion are certainly on the same page.  A good survivor automobile should be kept that way.  Anything beyond that allows for safety, operation, performance, serviceability and etc concerns to be addressed.  I have heard about another Locomobile steam engine that is available.  When I learn more, I will get your thoughts as I would consider the engine to be a key component to building a Locomobile steam project/car.  Per your comments above, will or does your Locomobile, with the Ofeldt boiler, ever run out of steam under typical driving conditions?

Al

 

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7 minutes ago, alsfarms said:

does your Locomobile, with the Ofeldt boiler, ever run out of steam under typical driving conditions?

 

Oh most definitely. I don't have (but plan to have) a steam automatic which automatically controls the burner, so I have to control the burner manually. I have my burner detuned with a smaller burner orifice so it is not as erratic, I did this for driving around shows at less than 10 mph. This fall I plan to take a tour, so I will put the larger orifice in, with it, I should be able to maintain 20-25 mph, doesn't sound like much, but on of these, that is about safe top speed for cruising. A water automatic is important as well, I don't have one and these cars never did. A water feedpump automatic feeds water to the boiler at a more controlled constant rate. It goes along with the old firemen's motto on the Locomotive "Little and often" for coal and water for the best performance.

 

These "blokes" explain it quite well:

 

-Ron

 

 

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I have just returned from a nice road trip that allowed my to be with family in Tucson Az for the High School graduation of my eldest Grandson, see some local sites, then on to El Paso where we were invited to visit a new and developing "GREAT" private antique automobile museum, then on to a real "wonder of the world" Carlsbad Caverns.  I would encourage everyone to participate with family for nice events like High School Graduations, enjoy a nice facility that nourishes our interest in old car hobby, (even my wife enjoyed the Museum in El Paso) and lastly natural wonders remind us of how small we humans really are such as Carlsbad Caverns.  Each of the events, on our trip, was good to get me centered again on the right things and to keep life in the proper perspective!  I will post pictures of a nice 1900 Locomobile Steamer that has its pl;ace on the main area of the museum referred to above.  Your thoughts and comments are welcome....

Al

PS:  As you can tell, I had a great vacation!

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