The Engineer's Notebook Blog

The Engineer's Notebook

The Engineer's Notebook is a shared blog for entries that don't fit into a specific CR4 blog. Topics may range from grammar to physics and could be research or or an individual's thoughts - like you'd jot down in a well-used notebook.

Previous in Blog: Working on the Railroad: Ball Signals   Next in Blog: Working on the Railroad: Instruction Car
Close
Close
Close
8 comments

Working on the Railroad: Water Standpipes

Posted May 05, 2011 8:30 AM by Steve Melito

Water standpipes like this one in North Conway, New Hampshire are used to fill the tender tanks of steam locomotives. If coal is the food that steam engines eat, then water is what they drink. The coal, of course, is burned as fuel, and the water is heated to produce steam.

During the 19th century, most tenders featured a fuel bunker surrounded by a water jacket. The fuel bunker held coal or even wood, and was sloped toward the steam locomotive to provide easier access. The water jacket was U-shaped and could, by the early 20th century, hold thousands of gallons of water.

Water standpipes may seem quaint or archaic, but steam locomotives are still used today. The device in the picture above was erected in 1978, and stands in the yards of the Conway Scenic Railroad.

According to a plaque at the North Conway train station, the metal spout was salvaged from a wooden water tank that once served the Maine Central Railroad at North Belgrade, Maine. The pipe that goes from the ground to the spout seems a bit narrow, however. Is it a support instead of a conduit? Compare it to the one in the picture below, which is from the Catskill Archive. Now that's a pipe!

The tender tank for the Conway Scenic Railroad's steam locomotive No. 7470 holds 6,600 gallons of water, and is topped off at this facility or a similar one inside the roundhouse at least twice a day. That's lot of water, but just a fraction of the billions of cubic feet of water that were once used by the nation's steam locomotives each day.

Photo Credit: Catskill Archive

Reply

Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 1294
Good Answers: 35
#1

Re: Working on the Railroad: Water Standpipes

05/05/2011 8:57 AM

Re: That's lot of water, but just a fraction of the billions of cubic feet of water that were once used by the nation's steam locomotives each day.

That seems like a lot--do you have a reference for that? If we assume (I know) that, based on the 6600 gallon capacity you mention earlier, topped off at least twice a day)--that is 13,000 gallons or about 1500 cubic feet. Say we double that, to 3000 cu. ft. If that is anywhere near the typical usage per day, that would mean something like 333,000 locomotives to use one billion cu.ft. per day.

What is the number of steam locomotives that ever existed in the US?

Reply
Guru
United States - Member - New Member Technical Fields - Technical Writing - New Member Popular Science - Weaponology - Organizer Hobbies - Target Shooting - New Member Engineering Fields - Nuclear Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 3464
Good Answers: 32
#2
In reply to #1

Re: Working on the Railroad: Water Standpipes

05/05/2011 1:37 PM

Thanks for the comment, rhkramer. The "billions of cubic feet of water" reference is from the Catskill Archive. Specifically, it comes from the fifth paragraph:

"The railroads of the United States use enormous quantities of water for locomotives and other purposes. It is estimated that the railroads consume around 80 billion cubic feet of water each year. This is enough to fill a reservoir 1,000 feet wide, 10 feet deep and 1,515 miles long."

Unfortunately, that reference doesn't contain a date or date range. I'll have to do some more research to find out the number of working steam locomotives that are still in the U.S., and the greatest number that ever existed.

Reply
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 1294
Good Answers: 35
#3
In reply to #2

Re: Working on the Railroad: Water Standpipes

05/05/2011 2:20 PM

Thanks! You don't have to go any further. If they use 80 billion cubic feet each year, that is not billions every day, but more like 1/5 of a billion every day, or something like 200 million cubic feet per day.

Assuming the 80 billion / year figure is fairly accurate, dividing that by 365 gives about 220 million cubic feet per day.

Reply
Active Contributor

Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 11
Good Answers: 3
#4

Re: Working on the Railroad: Water Standpipes

05/06/2011 12:26 AM

If the spout has about a one foot diameter at the base and about 10 inches at the outlet, it probably was fed by being closely coupled and attached to a large water tower. The framework is clearly support structure which might schematically indicate where a few of the tank supports might have been located.

__________________
With age comes wisdom, or sometimes it comes alone.
Reply
Guru
United Kingdom - Member - Indeterminate Engineering Fields - Control Engineering - New Member

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: In the bothy, 7 chains down the line from Dodman's Lane level crossing, in the nation formerly known as Great Britain. Kettle's on.
Posts: 30413
Good Answers: 819
#5

Re: Working on the Railroad: Water Standpipes

05/06/2011 9:03 AM

In the UK they are known as "water cranes". Each pre-1923 company had a range of standard patterns. In the absence of building achitecture style it is still possible to identify the operating company in an old unlabelled photograph by reference to the station or loco depot water crane, with the style of signalling installation being used to confirm it.

__________________
"Did you get my e-mail?" - "The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place" - George Bernard Shaw, 1856
Reply
Guru

Join Date: May 2010
Location: in optimism
Posts: 4050
Good Answers: 129
#6

Re: Working on the Railroad: Water Standpipes

05/06/2011 9:15 AM

That top shot looks like a pretend one for the tourists.

__________________
There is no sin except stupidity. (Oscar Wilde, Irish dramatist, novelist, & poet (1854 - 1900))
Reply
Power-User

Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 166
Good Answers: 4
#7

Re: Working on the Railroad: Water Standpipes

05/06/2011 8:48 PM

The spout itself is merely a funnel. In the old days it was fed from an elevated tank that someone was lucky enough to have the job of filling. The transfer was relatively quick. The modern version shown is for a novelty system in which speed is not a driving factor, so a smaller pipe driven by municipal water pressure is acceptable as time is not of the essence.

Reply
Guru
Technical Fields - Technical Writing - New Member Engineering Fields - Piping Design Engineering - New Member

Join Date: May 2009
Location: Richland, WA, USA
Posts: 20984
Good Answers: 781
#8

Re: Working on the Railroad: Water Standpipes

05/07/2011 12:24 AM

"I'm a little big teapot, short tall and stout..."

__________________
In vino veritas; in cervisia carmen; in aqua E. coli.
Reply
Reply to Blog Entry 8 comments
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to
this discussion and receive notification when new comments are added.
Copy to Clipboard

Users who posted comments:

34point5 (1); Gazu (1); Karl Petersen (1); PWSlack (1); rhkramer (2); Steve Melito (1); Tornado (1)

Previous in Blog: Working on the Railroad: Ball Signals   Next in Blog: Working on the Railroad: Instruction Car

Advertisement