Coal fired UP and range fires

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Tue Aug 1 08:03:33 EDT 2017

Good afternoon from  sun drenched (it cannot las long) UK, 


Re 4005. I was not able to get alongside the loco to assess its overall condition. Superficially it looks fine but will bow to judgements as to what happened to it to get it to its present location. I hope the cutting activities were not fatal.  I suspect it might be a bridge too far to even think about resurrecting it.  The outdoor collection at the Baltimore Museum gives concern as to the deteriorating state of some of the exhibits there. 


Locos have however been rescued and restored from worse conditions as described. Check out the “Duke of Gloucester” which was complete wreck in a scrapyard with cylinders and valve gear missing. It has been re-built and modified and is a star performer (Check out Duke of Gloucester flattens South Devon Banks on You tube). It took a lot of time, effort and money but does demonstrate what can be done. The loco was built originally as late as 1954 as a one-off for a wrecked loco. It was a flop when new and had a reputation as a coal eater. Checks on drawings identified problems with air flow to the fire box and the draughting arrangements in the smoke bow. A bit of wizardry and the loco now breathes freely and performs brilliantly. 




Phil Mortimer 


From: NW-Mailing-List [mailto:nw-mailing-list-bounces at] On Behalf Of NW Mailing List
Sent: Sunday, July 30, 2017 4:29 PM
To: nw-mailing-list at
Subject: Re: Coal fired UP and range fires


Follow up on something I forgot regarding the Denver #4005. Trust me, that engine is NOT in good shape. When it was moved into the spot it sat for many years, there was a curve and in order to "make it fit" where it was desired back in the 1960s, I was told the frame was torched or something along those lines, to get it into the last 50 or 100 feet. Then again, it has also been sitting uncovered, outdoors for all these years, subject to wind, rain, freezing, etc. It might look nice but trust me is not. That is a lesson the WM Scenic has sadly learned from the #1309 which sat out of doors, unprotected all these years and available to all sorts of wind and rain. What was it someone more recently stated regarding that: worn out and put away wet?


Anyone who think the railroads gave away mint condition steam when consigned to parks, when all they wanted to do was get rid of them is sadly mistaken. SP torched the piston rods on #4460 and UP I was told did it to the BIG Boy in Dallas, and the list can go on.


Oh, we lament why wasn't any of this or that class or railroad's engine saved, but the larger ones were several thousand dollars in scrap steel, never minding weighing many tons to go over local roads, and even back in the 50s and 60s, not cheap to move.


Let's be glad for what WAS saved. Out of nearly a quarter-million steamers which graced American rails from the 1820s until today, something less than 2,000 survive in one vegetative state or another.


Bob Cohen


On Sat, Jul 29, 2017 at 10:20 AM, Bob Cohen <orlco96782 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




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