[N&W] Re: Class A Feedwater Heater Control

nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org nw-mailing-list at nwhs.org
Thu May 6 23:25:47 EDT 2004

[David W. Luttrell asked:]
 > I have a question concerning who controlled the feed water heaters on
 > the Class A locomotives. In photo's contained in the Norfolk Southern's
 > collection at Virginia Tech the feed water heater controls looked to be
 > mounted on the engineer's side of the cab. But on the excursion engine
 > 1218 the feed water heater is controlled by the fireman. When did this
 > change cone about? Was this changed during 1218's overhaul in
 > Birmingham, Alabama for excursion service or was this accomplished by
 > the N&W some time prior during there normal service life?
Normally the fireman handled the feedwater system and the engineer used his
injector, if required.

David -

On the N&W, the engineer controlled ALL the water on the big power and lots
of the smaller engines.  This was a practice dating from the twenties and
maybe before; you'll find scads of photos of Es and M2s and Z-1s and Z-1as
with both injectors on the right hand side.  Exceptions were the S-1s and
S-1as, and Ms and Ws, with an injector on each side.  But on large road
power, the hogger handled it all.  Engines with water pumps had the injector
on the right side, and that big old water pump handle was to the right of
the throttle, and its gauge was in the clump of gauges in front of the

The 1218 was rebuilt by folks not familiar with that particular policy, and
who didn't want the engineer to have to be bothered with anything but
running the engine.  It makes sense, considering that the engineer only
handled the engine a few times a year, and had to be concerned with a wide
variety of operating conditions.  In regular service, the engines were
handled by engineers who were - or should have been - intimately familiar
with the territory.  Guys that handled As on the Columbus District only had
to know that 99 or so miles of road, unlike the excursion guys that ran from
Birmingham to Roanoke via Lynchburg, and then to Columbus - and everywhere
else, too.

Most roads had the fireman handle the water, and if you talk to their folks
they'll be surprised at N&W's policy.  I had some fun talks with SRs Bill
Purdie in the early '70's - even at that time he was interested in N&W's
power, possibly because he knew the 611 and 1218 existed - and he was very
surprised that the N&W's engineers handled all the water on the big jobs.

Maybe, down in some archives someplace, we'll find something that will shed
some light on why.


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