Question about coal

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Mike Walsh
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Question about coal

Post by Mike Walsh » Tue Aug 20, 2019 10:04 am

Hi all,

I came across an ad for coal and I will be driving by there on a trip over Labor Day weekend, so I'm considering stopping and picking up a few buckets to try it out.... But wanted to ask the brain trust as to what I should be looking for.... The ad states this, and nothing more regarding characteristics...
Low Sulfur Bituminous Compliance coal of .6% sulfur, 12,000 BTU, makes good blacksmithing coal.
I do not know size, but I figure if it is too big I can try and come up with a crusher to get it down to what I need....

Thoughts, comments (constructive, please) are appreciated.

Mike Walsh

Wayne Davis
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Re: Question about coal

Post by Wayne Davis » Tue Aug 20, 2019 10:32 am

I use what is sold as blacksmith coal and works good in my engine. You might call ahead to see if they are open on a holiday weekend.


Glenn Brooks
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Re: Question about coal

Post by Glenn Brooks » Tue Aug 20, 2019 11:38 am


From what I remember, 12000 btu coal is probably good stuff. Upper end of the range for bituminous. Low grade might be around 6-9 k BTU. Really good high end stuff from yesteryear topped out around 15,000 btu. This stuff is probably as good as you can find these days.

The other thing to be aware of, is ash content. This might be as important as BTU and sulpher. Ash content translates to clinker size in the fire box. The stuff I use now produces a fair amount of clinkers after each run - a real nuisance for 1.5” scale locos as the fireboxes on smaller locos are really small compared to 12” ga. But not a big deal in my Ottaway, You probably won’t be bothered by ash, but just something to keep in mind.

Lastly, any coal you can find these days is likely “good” coal. Out west here, the supply chain has all but disappeared. I mean, nobody, but nobody sells it anymore. So any source you find is likely a rarity. Good idea to buy some while you can.

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Tim B Guenther
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Re: Question about coal

Post by Tim B Guenther » Tue Aug 20, 2019 1:27 pm

The Pocahontas coal from WV sold in upstate NY is sold as "Blacksmithing coal." One load a few years ago was too big and I had to whack it all with a hammer on a steel plate and then screen it. Still great coal!

Steam Engine Dan
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Re: Question about coal

Post by Steam Engine Dan » Tue Aug 20, 2019 8:11 pm

the description of the ad of the coal is one thing, burning it is another. I would say get at least one bag or bucket full. try it out on your locomotive or a friend's locomotive and see what it is like. if the smoke does not bother your eyes, and if it does not clinker in your firebox badly or make a lot of ash. then you got good coal on your hands. and for what it's worth and I say it a lot of coal related posts. sift out the dust and fines. it's a lot of work, but I promise you mike it will pay off. sifting the dust out, cuts down on smoke, cuts down on clinkers and ash in your firebox, cuts down on soot build up in your flues and smokebox. and is easier to shovel in the tender. if sifting the dust is not enough, mix it 50/50 with anthracite for a little more umph. the anthracite also helps with 5 reasons I mentioned.

what I do, is I have a big coal stove scoop. I take one big scoop of bituminous and one big scoop of anthracite with dust/fines. mix it all in one bucket. dump small amounts into my sifter. sift the dust out about 5 times in the sifter into another empty bucket. and then I repeat the whole process until every empty bucket I have is full of clean mixed dust free solid lump coal. it's a long dity job. but as evidenced by the two engines I run. my fathers Hudson and my friend's atlantic. as you can see. I run both engines with a clean stack, lots of steam to boot and I stay clean. the first photo is my fathers Hudson and the 2nd photo is my friends 4-4-2 atlantic. both are excellent engines and are gems to run.

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Re: Question about coal

Post by SteveM » Wed Aug 21, 2019 9:21 am

Ask him to send you a sample in a small flat-rate box or envelope.

Figure how much you will need to fire up once and see how it works and then tell him how many cups you need to test.


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Jacob's dad
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Re: Question about coal

Post by Jacob's dad » Wed Aug 21, 2019 10:14 am

I get my coal at Grandview County Store in Beaver, WV. They sell it by the bag or in tons and it is from the 5-Block seam and does very well in my Little Engines 0-6-0. The store is about 2,000 feet from the I-64 exit on the north west side and the exit is about the third exit east on 64 from I-77. I usually pick up bags when I go and visit family and pass through that area to get where I am going. They will place bags on a pallet and shrink wrap it for you so you can have it shipped, or forklift it onto your truck or trailer. I am very happy with it, and it burns down to a white ash that is very find. It is in big lumps down to house coal size, so I do have to break up some of the pieces, but I still burn everything including the dusty powder on the long grades.

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Re: Question about coal

Post by pat1027 » Thu Aug 22, 2019 2:01 pm

Nothing looks amiss in the brief description. Blacksmith's prefer a low smoke coal that clumps and cokes nicely. The dealer we got all our coal from had discovered blacksmiths like fines and live steamers did not. They screened their bagged coal and added fines to "blacksmith" coal. Coal dealers by and large seem to lump live steam and black smith coal in a common category.

Now Cavalier Coal was the stuff. The club had a bunker with little aluminum tags mixed in from the Cavalier Coal Company. Lots of heat, LOTS of smoke, stink, burn your eyes. I used to burn some now and then just for fun.

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Re: Question about coal

Post by kcameron » Thu Aug 22, 2019 8:59 pm

Good blacksmithing coal should clump up while burning. Some of the work, we make caves in the fire for some operations on the iron. So in an engine, you need to beat the fire regularly to break it up. If you don't it won't let the air into the fire right. And you end up with a choked off fire. That breaking up in the fire also will help to keep the clinker small and easy to pass the grates. For our engines, we'd be happier if it didn't clump too much.
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Re: Question about coal

Post by cp4449 » Wed Aug 28, 2019 9:14 pm

Stay way from Wyoming coal. Or was it Utah?. A guy had some at a LALS meet one year, more black/brown, smoked like the devil. He went around the track, looking like a bad fired bbq. We finally had to tell him to stop
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Steven E. Kuhn
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Re: Question about coal

Post by Steven E. Kuhn » Thu Aug 29, 2019 9:37 pm

LOL!! kidding...

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Jacob's dad
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Re: Question about coal

Post by Jacob's dad » Thu Sep 05, 2019 9:20 am

cp4449 wrote:
Wed Aug 28, 2019 9:14 pm
Stay way from Wyoming coal. Or was it Utah?. A guy had some at a LALS meet one year, more black/brown, smoked like the devil. He went around the track, looking like a bad fired bbq. We finally had to tell him to stop
LALS asked a live steamer to stop running because a steam engine was smoking? Perhaps a name change is in order? :D

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