Monday, April 11, 2005

CP 153 Young America

From: "Larry Mullaly"

A report given in 1925 by SP Chief Fuel Supervisor, JN Clark states that Steven’s applied oil burning apparatus to the CP No. 153 Young America in 1879. Is there any evidence that supports this opinion?



Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Wendell Huffman"

Larry, I looked through my newspaper notes for 1878-1880 and find nothing relevant. However, FWIW, most of my notes for those years are Gerry Best's newspaper notes – I have not read the Sacramento papers for those years myself.

It occurs to me that oil was tried fairly early on the ferry boats, and the Solano was built and placed into service during that time. It might be worth determining whether it was built as an oil burner or coal burner, and also something about conversion of ferries to oil. It may be that if the boats were being tested and or converted during that period that a trial was also made on a locomotive. I did not note the date, but somewhere during those three years there was a Best note to the effect that Ione coal had been tried unsuccessfully in Sacramento shop boiler and in ferry boats. So they were definitely still looking for the magic fuel.


4/12/2005 11:04 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Larry Mullaly"

I am trying to remain open to the idea that something may have been done with the Young America in 1879. But I think we can rule out the relationship of such experiments with the Solano. The first conversion of from coal to oil fuel of a SP vessel took place in 1884 on the ferry steamer Oakland. Extensive testing, changeovers were made the next year to the ferry steamers Solano and Piedmont.

The last paragraph in the fine 1890 engineering article referenced below confirms that the Solano was built for coal:

Since this paper was printed, I have received the following information from Mr. Arthur Brown, Superintendent Bridges & Building Department, Southern Pacific Company, in response to recent inquiry:

"The use of petroleum, as a fuel for making steam on our boats, was discontinued because it was found that, as the boilers were not constructed for such fuel, its further use might result in injury to them. It would seem that for liquid fuel, boilers should be of special construction."

It would be interesting to know if oil was tried out on any other vessels in the West prior to 1884.

Larry Mullaly


Here is a technical paper about the Solano.

4/12/2005 7:31 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

I found a few period references on the subject of oil fuel.

National Car Builder Nov 1878
Notes experiments with oil fuel at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. I wonder if the article was an inspiration to A. J. Stevens? There had also been periodic articles about oil fuel used on a Russian railway since 1874 (or maybe earlier)

California History Summer 1996, p. 117
Mentions Evan A. Edwards in California oil business starting in 1876. Patented an oil burner in 1882, used on tanker ship. Same article claims Stevens experimented with oil fuel as early as 1879.

Railroad Magazine Nov 1946
Says Stevens experimented with oil unsuccessfully in 1879. Then inspired by 1885 use of oil in Egypt, successfully converted ferries. Next did CP loco #162 - unsuccessfully.

National Car Builder July 1885
Speaks of Stevens converting steamer and shop boilers to oil. Says they can get steam up in a boiler of cold water in about 30 minutes (this in a large steamer boiler . . . .)

National Car & Locomotive Builder Feb 1887
Notes experiments by CP using oil in steamers being given up - difficulty keeping boilers tight. Furnaces wore out rapidly. With added expense of furnaces, coal cheaper. (Gee - do you think the 30 minute steamups might have had anything to do with that???. Do note that all this is before the steamer Julia blew up. That was Feb 27, 1888 - just shortly after A. J. Stevens dies.)

Railway Age Nov 15, 1885
Talks of substituting oil for coal on CP steamers. Indicates Solano was first. after some months of success, other steamers followed.

American Machinist Aug 1, 1885
Reprinted Railroad Gazette Nov 2, 1888. Drawing of Stevens oil fuel burner for Solano.

Railroad Gazette Nov 27, 1885
Experiments by CP with petroleum fuel on some steamboats, including Solano, Thoroughfare. Notes 19,858 barrels of oil produced in California in 1879. More than 100,000 barrels produced in California in 1884. California 3rd in production in nation, behind 2nd place New York (and presumably Pennsylvania), and ahead of 4th place West Virginia.

Truckee Republican Nov 30, 1901
Notes Solano converted to oil fuel. (for second time)

National car Builder June 1885
CP will hereafter burn petroleum instead of coal in Sacramento and other large shops.

Kyle K. Wyatt
Curator of History & Technology
California State Railroad Museum

Note my work address has changed to:
My personal address remains:

4/13/2005 10:30 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Dale Darney"

H.M. Yerington of the V.& T. R.R. was interested in converting from wood to ether coal or oil. But it was reported at the time that oil burned the firebox out in short order. It seems it was a combination of development of a good burner and proper arrangement of the fire brick, before oil was fully adapted.
Dale Darney

JANUARY 24 1887 Yerington papers A. J. Fillmore
Jan 24 1887
San Francisco
My dear Mr. Fillmore,
If not inconsistent, I wish you would tell me why it was you discontinuing the use of crude oil on the Solano, and other steamers, of your Co. & took to coal again – was it dearer than coal? or did its intense heat injure the boilers? or what was the matter?
I have personal reasons for asking this information and if you will give it to me I shall consider what you tell me as being strictly in confidence!
I remain truly yours,

4/13/2005 10:39 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Larry Mullaly"

The Yerrington correspondence is very interesting. Oil burned was estimated to burn an average of 500-600 degrees hotter than coal and if the flame was not carefully tended the heat could [cause] considerable harm [to] stay-bolts and flues. Howard Stillman, an SP employee who trained firemen during the Harriman era, recalled: "it cost a good many fireboxes to determine the best arrangement."
"Oil Burning Locomotives," Railway Age Gazette, March 15, 1912, 38: 555-562 (1905), p. 483.

4/14/2005 8:33 AM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...

From: "Wendell Huffman"

It is easy to fire oil "wrong" – that is by opening the fuel valve wide when you needed steam, and shutting it down when you didn't need steam. This is "wrong" because it causes a wide fluxuation in firebox temperature. This was undoubtedly the basis for some of the complaint about oil fireing, though it is anyone's guess whether this was the basis for the CP's complaint with it loosening boiler joints. With coal the fireman had to fire way ahead of steam need – know the road and the engineer and anticipate the need for steam. You just couldn't built the fire up in a hurry or drop it when you came to a station. As a result, the temperature in the firebox remained fairly constant, and the resulting stresses on the firebox itself were minimized.

I read somewhere that the SP instructed their firemen to run their injectors when standing at the stations – when there was less demand for steam – thus using cool water to cool down the boiler and avoid lifiting the pop without having to drop the fire as far down as they would with the injector. Ironically, at NSRM we are cautioned against running the injectors as well as lifting the pop valve while at the station. So the only thing you really can do is drop the fire.

4/14/2005 6:01 PM  
Blogger CPRR Discussion Group said...


I'd also love to know what provision CP made for storage of fuel oil on board "Solano" and the "other steamers" while trying out that fuel. That they were able to switch back to coal suggests temporary liquid fuel storage was figured out, but what kind? The amount of fuel oil required to operate those boilers must have been considerable, so I wouldn't imagine they were using barrels. Does anyone have any idea of what was done in this regard?


4/15/2005 6:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. We are not historians or “ship guys”, but we have built a scale model of the Solano and so have gathered quite a bit of info on this great ferry. The Benicia Herald, in an article dated Mar 10, 1905, mentions “last Saturday’s issue of Scientific American” and quotes from that issue…

“…The Steamer has eight steel boilers, 24 feet 10 inches long and 84 inches in diameter, and carrying 40 pounds steam pressure. Six of these boilers are in use every day. Once in three weeks two are laid off, when the scale that has accumulated is removed with crude soda. Petroleum is used for fuel. Every twenty-four hours 8,300 gallons are consumed. The tanks hold 8,300 gallons. It takes 50 minutes to fire up...”

So sometime after the 1890 Transaction article was published and before March of 1905 the Solano returned once again to oil.

Early plans of the Solano (bundled with the that Transaction article) show that each of the original ferry’s 4 boiler sets had 2 boilers located side-by-side (we guess that was so the guy could shovel the coal into both boilers from one spot). The 1905 Scientific American article suggests that further boiler modifications had been made …perhaps new boilers? We don’t know.

We do know that shortly after Solano’s sister ferry, the Contra Costa, came on the scene the Solano was once again overhauled -- this time in a major way. Photos and an undated plan of the later boat show that her boiler sets were now tandem instead of side-by-side. The plan also shows 4 mysterious dashed-lined rectangular shapes located below the deck and directly under the outer tracks, one near each boiler set. Could these have been the oil tanks?

Thomas Rubarth

5/02/2005 3:04 PM  

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