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Downdraft coal boilers??

When I was in grade schoo (until 1952)l, I  knew the engineer who ran the steam boilers that heated the building. There were three, and he fired two at a time. The funny thing was that he put coal in at the top (as usual), and air came in from the top and  the smoke (when he ran it, there was little smoke, but when he retired, the knucklehead who replaced him produced lots of smoke) came out the bottom and up the cheminy. Clearly, the coal burned from top down, so the ashes were on top. The coal was bigger than the stuff my father burned in his furnace at home.

<strong>How were ashes removed from these things?</strong>

There were pneumatic thermostats in each room, and a pneumatically operated valve at the top of one end of each radiator. There was a drain (return) at the bottom of each at the other end. My memory says this system  operated at fairly high pressure; it was very noticible when one of those valves opened.
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