Downside to Driving a Camelback

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Millhouse
Conductor
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Downside to Driving a Camelback

Postby Millhouse » Sat Apr 22, 2017 12:26 pm

Spotted on Facebook this morning, posted by a Dave Henderson...though I am not sure if the photo was originally his, I'm just linking to it.

The caption at the bottom speaks for itself.

Image

John Bohon
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Re: Downside to Driving a Camelback

Postby John Bohon » Sun Apr 23, 2017 3:15 pm

The danger of a camelback is obvious. Not only are you sitting over the over the rods but there is absolutely nowhere you can go to get away in the event of a failure. Still I have always wanted to run and fire one of these things at speed. The idea of hand firing a firebox so wide it needs 2 firedoors is interesting to say the least. I would love to take the CNJ 582 out of the B&O Museum and restore it to operating condition. It would be worth all the work just to see the look on the FRA inspectors face when he saw it for the first time. One can only imagine picking an OSHA inspector up off the floor if he saw one running at 60 MPH. One of the great losses of the early preservation era was the scrapping of CNJ 774, the last camelback of any size still in service in the USA. It ran a few excursions after the end of steam on the CNJ but was eventually scrapped. With 592 in the B&O Museum and few other places that could accept the engine no takers were found. Being a large ten wheeler it would have been a great locomotive to get preserved.

Injuries from broken rods and crank pins are not limited to camelbacks though. Engines with no trailing trucks or very short trailing trucks sometimes have the engineman sitting over the rear connecting rod. I know of one occasion where the rear crankpin snapped at speed and an engineer friend of mine suddenly had the rod tearing apart the front of his cab each time it went around. Fortunately he was not hit directly and lived to tell the tale but it must have been some experience. Another friend of mine from many years ago had the rear mainrod snap on a 2-8-8-2 just ahead of the cab. Not only did the rod tear up the right side of the engine as it slung around but on the downward swing it would hit butt end on a crosstie and jack the engine over toward its left side. The rod lifted the old mallet so far that to his last day my friend did not know what kept the old girl from turning over. The really odd part of this event was the rod broke while drifting down a long grade. With a big train behind it took nearly a mile to get the train stopped. How would you like to have taken that ride?

Steam locomotives are dangerous. They were built in a time when loss of human life and serious injury was common in the workplace. Owners and managers thought little of such events. In many company towns if a worker got killed on the job his widow and children would be given a small amount of cash and allowed to stay in the company house they lived in for a short while. After the initial shock wore off in the community, often a few weeks at most, the family was thrown out of the house and left to fend for themselves. After all, the company needed the house for the next man and his family. I hear people say how we need to go back to the good old days. As far as I am concerned I say to hell with that. I enjoy things like coming home safely, flipping a switch and the lights come on, and turning a valve and fresh water comes out.

John Bohon

Mark D
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Re: Downside to Driving a Camelback

Postby Mark D » Tue Apr 25, 2017 2:06 pm

But John, I think a lot of people would like to go back to the 'good' old days in some respects, but not in all respects. I doubt anybody would like to go back to the medical treatments of even the 1970's, which are now archaic compared with what we have today... The down side being that they can take a brain injured person who is in the process of dying from that injury and stabilizing the patient so he stays alive, but cannot get them beyond breathing and sometimes the ability to speak in a limited form. I'm not so sure that treatment is very good for the patient.

If steam locomotives were still in use today I believe there would be a lot of safety oriented changes to their design that nobody thought about back in the days of steam. They'd still be dangerous, but less so.
I also think that in these times the poor widow and children would be better treated. I base this on how all industries have changed their treatment of employees and their families. Largely by Federal decree but also somewhat from knowing it's the right thing to do.

That said, yes, steam locomotives are actually extremely dangerous. There is so much that can go wrong at any instant, and usually at the worst possible moment according to Murphy, that if the diesel locomotive hadn't come along government mandates would have forced huge changes in the design and operation of all steam locomotives.
They'd still be dangerous. It's pretty darn difficult to make a big steel barrel with even only 250 psi steam pressure inside of it truly safe. Yes, there are all these inspections and maintenance requirements and minimum allowable specifications etcetera. But they can still blow up. Operator trouble can be a good part of that and that's one thing that hasn't yet been solved.
But they're SO COOL! The only reason steam runs today is because of its 'cool' factor.
Every time I'm on the engine over the night, a task I really like, I do wonder what they'd say if they came in the morning to run the train and they found the boiler scattered for three blocks around and nothing left of me? They might blame me, but I always wonder if some unidentified crack somewhere in the shell might allow the whole backhead to blast open right in my face. Highly unlikely, but I imagine things like that at 4:00 AM. Then I go back to work. Keep it happy, it will (hopefully) keep me happy.

We once were blasting along at track speed and a car stopped on the grade crossing ahead of us. No way to stop in time. I was one of the two firemen in the cab at the time. I was scooping coal into the corners and any holes. The pilot said to me, "Get way back, we're gonna; hit! Instead I put myself right against the backhead. I figured that if we hit, there's be a lot of hard deceleration and I'd rather be against it than hit it at full force. I said as much to the pilot after the car, apparently never ever seeing us, moved ahead with traffic just shortly before reaching the impact point. The engineer got off the brake and opened the throttle again and we continued on.

They can be dangerous even if they were completely safe mechanically, which they will never be.

All the stories above of rods breaking seem to happen on the engineers side. The fireman is just as open to a breaking too, isn't he? Or do the rods hate the engineer?

Mark D.
Mark D. - The bottom of the information curve

Millhouse
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Re: Downside to Driving a Camelback

Postby Millhouse » Tue Apr 25, 2017 2:13 pm

You and John both carry great points.

Seems I posted an article some time back about a piston from a modern diesel locomotive flying out of the prime mover and hitting a house. I can't find it at the moment, but ... subjectively speaking, you're correct Mark, nothing is truly 100% safe.

I think the steam excursion industry is a lot safer today than in the days when the steam motive power was used for actual revenue.

SOO2719
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Re: Downside to Driving a Camelback

Postby SOO2719 » Tue Apr 25, 2017 5:25 pm

That picture is from the book Train Wrecks, a book I practically memorized way back when.
There are at least two preserved Camelbacks, correct?
Richard "Tony" Held

"Trackside with Tony"
http://www.tonyheld.hoboandbowser.net/category/trackside/

Fitz
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Re: Downside to Driving a Camelback

Postby Fitz » Wed Apr 26, 2017 4:03 pm

Weren't the firemen back on an aft deck behind the firebox? I always thought that would be a terrible job in the winter.
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