Coal purchase

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Location: Onalaska, WA USA

Re: Coal purchase

Post by Harold_V » Mon Sep 24, 2018 3:42 pm

Something to think about.

Those of you who may have known Ernie Allen (deceased), of New Westminster, BC, likely remember that he used to burn a mix of Drumheller (bituminous) coal and foundry coke. If coke can be used, I'd have a hard time understanding why a mix of bituminous and anthracite couldn't be. That would then open the door to using somewhat lower quality coal, such as that available from Utah. It was used extensively for steam power plants, with 100 car loads leaving the state on a regular basis. Don't know what it costs now, but I was quoted $55/ton just before I left Utah. Tractor Supply anthracite and Utah bituminous. Will this help save coal fired live steaming?

Wise people talk because they have something to say. Fools talk because they have to say something.

Steve Goodbody
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Re: Coal purchase

Post by Steve Goodbody » Mon Sep 24, 2018 4:04 pm

Hi there,
I went through a similar thing a couple of years ago - an engine that would steam happily on Welsh bituminous coal simply could not cope with US anthracite rocks (see thread "Coal Issues"). As others have said, anthracite requires a lot more heat and air to ignite and a continuous draft to keep it burning.

I ended up significantly modifying the drafting to be able to burn anthracite but am happy with the results. I hasten to add that the modifications simply aimed to bring the drafting sizes and proportions into alignment with common drafting design guidelines and nothing more. I concluded that even a poorly drafted engine can steam on Welsh bituminous steam coal whereas anthracite requires the drafting to be spot-on to stand a chance of success.

For a while I mixed bituminous and anthracite 50/50 but now only use some bituminous when transitioning from charcoal to coal during the lighting-up process. I find that I can run okay on anthracite alone once the fire's well alight.

Here's a summary of the changes that I ended up making, this is for a 3" scale traction engine but the principles apply equally to locomotives:

- Reduced the diameter of the blast pipe and installed a simple blast splitter to diffuse the jet.
- Installed a four-jet ring blower based on the DE (Laurie) Lawrence design.
- Installed a venturi (petticoat) at the optimum height above the blast pipe.
- Lined the stack to reduce the internal diameter to the optimum size.
- Repacked the piston rod and valve rod glands so that all the steam goes up the stack.

Hope this helps,

James Powell
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Re: Coal purchase

Post by James Powell » Tue Sep 25, 2018 1:54 am

The answer is, as always, "it depends". As in, it depends on which coal you get. We've got a limited amount of what is reputed to be Pocahontas #2, which burns quite nicely.

By far the best burning coal I had was some pressed coal from Nanaimo. ("and dam'n all patent fuels !"). However, as Nanaimo closed in the late 50's, I couldn't go back and get more...

I currently have 4.5 tons of crummy coal from Quinsam, here on Vancouver Island. We have, in the past, when I had a budget and we wanted consistent performance, purchased welsh steam coal from Signal Fuels. It can and has been done into both the US and Canada. Dad (if he sees this) will probably comment that the last time he got "good" welsh was 1962. Signal were going through the culm (slag), and re-sorting out coal, I think.

So, the problem is one of how big a length of string you want. Decent coal was available 8 years ago, when I chose to get the Quinsam. I haven't looked since, because I have a lifetime supply of moderately OK coal. (it's high in Sulfur, by my standards, but burns fine in the 4" and Britannia)

For instance: ... l-80-bags/


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Location: Beckingham, Lincolnshire, England

Re: Coal purchase

Post by super7b » Tue Sep 25, 2018 2:59 am

On our side of the pond we are able to still source coal from almost everywhere, supermarkets sell it in bags for household use. So, no problem.
The answer to the OP's original question all depends on the coal that you can reliably get and then learning how to burn it. There is no such thing as a bad coal, only a coal that is being burnt in the wrong place/in the wrong way, all coal burns perfectly well the secret is to know what it needs.
Anthracite was being burnt last weekend at an annual event by small 5" gauge (small as in pick it up by one person), large 5" and various sizes of 71/4" all with no problem all running all day, some light engine some with large passenger loads. Once you have a reliable source time can be spent "tuning" the loco to suit the fuel, draughting being to the latest design, blast pipe sizing, petticoat pipe dimensions etc. Also needing "tuning" is the driver's firing technique. One owner, so fed up with his poor running loco announced he was going to sell it and give up, after another club member drove it for an hour and found how to fire it, it was transformed and so was the owner.
In days of old, the various full size companies designed their locos to run on the locally produced coal, after nationalisation and as a result some locos moved from their original locations and were fired with fuel local to their new area and by crews new to them, the result being indifferent performance.
I have used anthracite for around 30 years as my staple fuel and have never had a fire go out, never needed to keep a constant draught etc. If having a break for lunch say the fire will look dead, but the blower, revives it. Can fire with a thin bed, little and often, of fill the box until no more will go in and drive and relax, same amount of steam made.
However to sometimes to spice things up a little I would use coal "borrowed" from a local power station, this provided masses of 1950's style smoke and nostalgia, full of volatiles, lovely stuff! Unfortunately the conditions in the firebox were not to it's liking and after a mile of so, due to it's markedly different ash fusion temperature, it would pancake and that would be the end of any air flow. As I mentioned earlier, household coal sold in supermarkets is freely available and I bought a 10kg bag last week for fun and ditto, lots of smoke, loads of volatiles, but a different AF temp, so it enabled a longer run, but it was mixed with some anthracite.
The only thing that I have changed recently was to fit a rosebud grate, equivalent to fitting a turbo to a classic car.
So my answer is, you can burn everything, once you know how, it just takes time, and patience.

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Re: Coal purchase

Post by flavinny » Tue Sep 25, 2018 10:26 am

It sounds like a 50/50 mix is the way to go. Does anyone have a suggestion as to where is the best place to get Bituminous for shipment to Florida?

timmy wheeler
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Location: So. California

Re: Coal purchase

Post by timmy wheeler » Tue Sep 25, 2018 10:43 am

I'd be interested in more information/pictures of the rosebud grate. I've never heard that term before. Thanks, Timmy
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Re: Coal purchase

Post by super7b » Tue Sep 25, 2018 11:19 am

I believe that Rosebud is the name of a mine in Montana, that produces coal of a dubious quality and hence the "Rosebud" grate was developed to assist in it's burning. Mine is basically a piece of 10mm thick mild steel, drilled with a 1/4" inch dia centre drill at 3/8" centres from the bottom of the grate and a 1/8" drill poked through to reach the top surface. The air then reaches the bed of the fire through a venturi, which is in effect a higher velocity evenly spaced airflow all over the grate . When running the fire can be seen "dancing" above the grate with the result that the grate does not burn. The one I used at the weekend was fitted in January and about 150 miles later the mill scale is still there. Google Rosebud Grate, loads of info and pictures.

timmy wheeler
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Joined: Thu Feb 26, 2009 6:21 pm
Location: So. California

Re: Coal purchase

Post by timmy wheeler » Tue Sep 25, 2018 6:26 pm

Interesting! Thanks for the reply
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