Coal fired UP and range fires

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Sun Jul 30 12:24:55 EDT 2017

Let's not put all the blame of the range (or other) fires on steam locos alone. Many fires are set by dragging breaks,etc.during diesel operation. The local fire dept. is called on yearly on many leaf fires set by diesel freights. Diesels throw sparks too . Ron H 

    On Sunday, July 30, 2017 8:25 AM, NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at> wrote:

 Good afternoon from the UK,

 There is a Big Boy in the museum in Denver. It is an impressive piece of
 kit. I was lucky enough to see this a few years ago. It is in good

 Was the range fire problem a big issue when steam was in full operation on
 the N&W and the UP?  In our rain drenched conditions in Britain this is less
 of a problem other than in dry spells of which we seem to have very few. It
 is raining now!


 Phil Mortimer
With regard to the question from the gentleman from the UK, my understanding is that in the years since the end of steam, coal-fired steam especially on the UP, the weeds grew closer and closer to the rails without the 'natural control' which was maintained back when in the glory days of steam. In addition, the spark arrestor on Challenger may either have been no more or otherwise no longer operating properly or even at all. In any event, there were lots of range fires and the UP found it had to follow the train with a tanker and hose to douse the problems wherever they appeared.
As for oil-firing, when the engine is parked, you turn off the firing valve and then the oil and your engine is parked. No banked fires with a pile of coal. Been there done that, both ways for steam. Always preferred oil over coal: you don't have to shovel that stuff, that's for sure.
Then again, you also had to have a bunch of sand to sand the flues to clear them of the soot buildup periodically. Sure made a Lucius Beebe type sight with all that black soot/smoke blowing out. Might not make EPA pleased but what the heck.
When we see a Big Boy freely roam the rails again, it will be oil-fired. Just remember that UP's 8400 class were all coal-fired when received from Alco and were converted over to oil as time and convenience went on. Several survivors exist from that class but only the last new steamer purchased by UP, the 844 remains active and is the ONLY Class 1 carrier's steam locomotive to have never been retired in the US. UP will surely get-it-right with the Big Boy and whenever we see it again under its' own power, it will be the first time since late July 1959 for a Big Boy.
Isn't it great to see these things roam the lands they once called home and not just see them in a glorified over sized petting zoo going chuggity-chug-STOP at tourist museums? 611 has delighted fans trackside many times since 1982 as have others and that is how this animal was meant to be ............. but wouldn't it be great to see it once again go at the speeds it was originally designed for. Weren't there signs once on the RR "Slow down to 90"? I know they existed out west at least.
Oh to dream ................ zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Bob Cohen

NW-Mailing-List at
To change your subscription go to
Browse the NW-Mailing-List archives at

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <>

More information about the NW-Mailing-List mailing list