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Steam Locomotive Explosion NTSB Investigation

If anyone is interested in some not-that-light reading, this was an interesting read. It concerns a locomotive explosion that happened in 1995 and includes an in-depth assessment of the causes behind the explosion. It’s interesting to see a modern safety review of something so old.

It reminded me of some of the steam history in Dan’s book so I thought I’d share. Enjoy!

Homeowner from Providence, RI
Home b. 1897, one-pipe steam with a indirect gravity hot air system using Gold's pin radiators.


  • leonz
    leonz Member Posts: 1,122
    edited September 2021
    Nothing like a lack of maintenance for a coal stoker fired steam locomotive and no useable operation training to ruin a locomotive that did not see much "required" maintenance.
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 901
    When you are dealing with a hand fired coal fired boiler there is no low water cut off or pressure controls. Your safety devices are usually just a high/low water whistle and a visual water level device we call a "sight glass" or "sight tube", and for over-pressure, Steam safety valves. That is it. So when you are firing a boiler of this design, you need to be fully aware of your job and surroundings. I always hated hand fired coal boilers since you always had to be ready for any problem. Good maintenance is paramount.
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,272
    The same sorts of problems -- with a few others, such as what do you do with a solid fuel boiler which has a fire in it and no place to dump the heat -- appear with all solid fuel boilers. At least with a steam locomotive on coal you can dump the fire on the tracks if the water gets low and you can't put any in! I have an uneasy suspicion that we may see more boiler explosions in smaller and residential settings as solid fuel boilers become more popular but are installed with inadequate safety mechanisms.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • retiredguy
    retiredguy Member Posts: 901
    On a few jobs, I had to open the fire doors and pull the burning coal out onto the floor to get rid of the heat.