Mechanical Stokers

Discussion in 'Railtours & Preservation' started by Yank 119, 16 Jun 2010.

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  1. Yank 119

    Yank 119 Member

    29 Jul 2008
    Florence, South Carolina, USA
    Greetings everyone, I wasn't sure where to post this, but since it's a historical question, I figured this would be the right audience to aim it toward.

    After doing a little searching, I find little evidence that many domestic British steam locomotives were fitted with mechanical stokers. I see that some export locomotives were.

    What locomotives were fitted with them, and why didn't the technology really catch on? These devices had their advantages on larger locomotives and made the fireman's job easier. But I can also understand it adds cost and complexity to an otherwise proven method. Are the fireboxes on the larger British kettles relatively manageable with a scoop and some good manpower?
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  3. Ploughman

    Ploughman Established Member

    15 Jan 2010
  4. Daimler

    Daimler Established Member

    5 Feb 2009
    The only locomotives that I know of (there may well, of course, be others) that were fitted with mechanical stokers were a couple of 9Fs - None of the preserved examples are so fitted, however.

    I understand that a major problem with mechanical stokers was that they were far less efficient than a fireman (who knew when and where to put the coal, rather than just shoving it in). Considering the relatively modest (by US standards) size of British locomotives, they were also not seen as necessary.
    Last edited: 17 Jun 2010
  5. Old Timer

    Old Timer Established Member

    24 Aug 2009
    On a plane somewhere at 35,000
    Those 9Fs were used on the Water Orton - Carlisle's I believe.#

    I know that Saltleyman or Lower Quadrant will be able to answer the question so if they are not on here soon then why not PM them ?

  6. DaveNewcastle

    DaveNewcastle Established Member Fares Advisor

    21 Dec 2007
    Newcastle (unless I'm out)
    I have some very dim and unreliable recollections about these.
    If correct, then they were a very exciting and welcome development for the obvious liberation of the fireman from the incessant labour of shovelling in the horrid conditions of a unique combination of icy cold air (and sometimes rain or snow), scalding blasts of flame from the firebox, and sharp and sooty material to be scooped onto the shovel. All of this on a wobbling shaking shuddering and very unforgiving footplate.

    But the downsides were quickly apparent:
    Moving from one side of the cab to another was no longer a simple movement (the conveyor was in the way);
    the flow of coals onto the conveyor was inconsistent and unreliable as the consumption progressed;
    the stuff just got dumped into the end of the firebox (any fireman knew where to aim the shovel to keep a decent fire buring efficiently, the conveyor didn't).

    With hindsight, we'd compare the modern fuel delivery systems of coal powered power stations with steam locomotives, but the specific environment of a moving footplate, sharing fuel delivery with driving controls and windows on both sides is not a true comparison.

    It was a neccessary step forward, but the timing of its introduction was too late - steam was already condemned to expire - the internal combustion engine, electric power and other unsuccessful power devices were in favour.
  7. John Webb

    John Webb Established Member

    5 Jun 2010
    St Albans
    The other major problem was that mechanical stokers needed coal of an optimum size to work efficiently otherwise the conveyor (an Archimedian screw arrangement, usually) would jam with obvious problems for the crew. So there was an extra expense of seeing that the coal was broken up into the right-sized lumps as well as maintaining the equipment, hence the lack of popularity.....
  8. StoneRoad

    StoneRoad Member

    6 Jan 2010
    IIRC I read somewhere (a long tome ago) that the 9F stoker used brickettes (roundish ones) to help prevent jamming, but I'm not sure how well it worked.

    I'll have to try and find the reference!

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