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Kenawee Smokeless Firebox No. 111

Sitting in our boiler room next to the Weil-McLain 588 is a huge, imposing brick box. This box is a Kewanee Smokeless Firebox No. 111 from 1919. When the new boiler was installed in 2005 it was decided that taking out the old one was too much trouble. There is sits.

We are a condo association formed in 1974. There are heating records going back to 1966. As a bit of an amateur historian, I have taken it upon myself to study this boiler. I have both fuel usage and maintenance records (almost complete for over 30 years).

- How efficient was it?

- Was it maintained properly at all times (same maintenance company)?

- What is its backstory?

For example, this darn thing was advertised as portable! After thinking about the word a bit, I realized that the meaning refers to being able to take it someplace in one piece. This one was installed, and then the building was built around it, just like Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel.

Anyway, I am including a dropbox link to lots of photos, docs, etc.

Does anyone have info on a No. 111? I have found nothing so far.

By the way, if anyone needs the manual for a Hastings Adjusto "V" gas burner from 1972, there is one there that I scanned. Feel free to download it.

I have attached a coal receipt. Could someone interpret what "gross" "net" and "tare" mean in terms of the figures? There are three numbers usually, with the two zeros being smaller and so added on, I assume. Are these dollar amounts, or weight figures?


<a href="https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zbpg8gu8ec8dpfv/T5q0Uu0OsT">https://www.dropbox.com/sh/zbpg8gu8ec8dpfv/T5q0Uu0OsT</a>


  • HoyteKing
    HoyteKing Member Posts: 85
    20,100 pounds of coal in one delivery!

    There were deliveries like this every month for around 3-4 months every winter for a nine unit building. Could it actually be 201 pounds?

    Just how much coal got burned in these boilers back then? It sounds apalling, what with the grime and smoke spewed out into the atmosphere.

    I spent a bit of time in West Berlin in 1988. East Berlin was still using coal, and I remember the smell. I also remember reading articles in the Cleveland Press from the beginning of the 20th century about how women would put the wash out to dry, and come back to find it dirty with soot.
  • BobC
    BobC Member Posts: 5,479
    one ton = 180 gal of oil

    2000 pounds of coal equals 180 gallons of oil; if its a large building it would take a lot of coal when you consider the efficiency of those old monsters.

    Smith G8-3 with EZ Gas @ 90,000 BTU, Single pipe steam
    Vaporstat with a 12oz cut-out and 4oz cut-in
    3PSI gauge
  • ChicagoCooperator
    ChicagoCooperator Member Posts: 355
    edited February 2014
    Late Conversion

    It seems your building was a holdout on conversion to gas. The building I grew up in (6-flat) replaced the coal-fired boiler in '65 or '66 with an all new boiler - probably prodded by one of the shareholders who was instrumental in getting home garbage incinerators banned in Chicago, as well as the labor saving advantages of gas. The meeting minutes (coop conversion in '55, still is one to this day) raved about how great it was not having to stoke the boiler and having heat all night and in the morning. They removed the entire original boiler, which had been open to the laundry room I think.

    I've been in one double-courtyard building where the original boiler, which was truly massive, was still partially in place and resembled a roman hypocaust below the collapsed arches, took up about 800 sf of basement (it had been replaced with a newer boiler at some point which in turn was abandoned with a poorly constructed gut rehab to condos). This boiler was so deep there was still standing water in the base of it.

    I think a lot of bigger buildings Chicago, i.e. taller than 3 floors, built in the 20's had oil heat - at least my building was originally oil rather than coal.
  • HoyteKing
    HoyteKing Member Posts: 85
    maintenance problems after conversion

    Interesting stuff on Chicago!

    I have just started in on our maintenance records after conversion. Almost every year tubes were being replaced. Hayes made a mint off of this building. I am wondering if tubes always had to be replaced, or if it was because the boiler was designed for coal, and then converted in 1972 to gas.
  • ChicagoCooperator
    ChicagoCooperator Member Posts: 355

    It would have depended upon how well the system was maintained before conversion and it was just fixing years of neglect. We just had three or four tubes replaced on our boiler after several years of neglect (and unperformed but claimed servicing). Our guy has just replaced a relay on the burner which hopefully has cured the burner shutting off (after nearly every cycle the past few days).

    Our boiler growing up, according to my mom, was serviced every year and "knocked down" or the like during the summer.

    I've heard that Hayes is resting on their laurels - one of my friends buildings has them on a service contract and they have to come out whenever there's a problem, but they're happy with Hayes.
  • Mike Kusiak_2
    Mike Kusiak_2 Member Posts: 604
    Replacing tubes

    One problem with replacing tubes a few at a time is eventually you have the situation where the boiler has a combination of new tubes,40 year old tubes, and all ages in between. This virtually guarantees that you will be replacing a few tubes each year.

    We have three large Scotch Marine boilers with 80 tubes each, built in 1981. We had a similar problem with a few tubes failing each year during the heating season, and doing emergency repairs and replacements. Finally we decided that it made more sense to do a complete retube on each boiler.

    Actually it was quite cost effective to do this as a complete retube cost about the same as 3 or 4 years of plugging leaking tubes on an emergency basis and piecemeal replacements. Since the complete retube of each boiler, staggered over the past several years, there have been no tube problems at all. Sine all the tubes in each boiler are new and the same age, we can expect minimal failures for many years to come.

    Something you may want to consider if you are replacing tubes on a continual basis.
  • ChicagoCooperator
    ChicagoCooperator Member Posts: 355
    Emergency Repairs

    The tube replacement was done as part of emergency repairs primarily to another aspect of the boiler. For an 88 year old neglected piece of equipment it does all right heating our units.

    Funny thing is the "poshest" building in our block has the most delightful white steam coming from their chimney at most times, even in mild weather.
  • HoyteKing
    HoyteKing Member Posts: 85
    boiler catalog from 1915!

    A big thanks to Dan Holohan for sending me the 1915 Kewanee boiler catalog. I found my boiler in there at $955. It is also portable and weighs 8,200 pounds.

    A link to the catalog: