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Stoked: 1901

Stoked: 1901

Chelsea, Michigan, circa 1901. "Boiler room, Glazier Stove Company." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Not so old!

I worked in Brooklyn, on a pair of Stirling's, that had been converted, first to coal dust, then to bunker oil. They were awesome beasts. Prone to fouling and dusting of the later mandated safety electric eyes in the ducts, but, God, could they put out BTU's. Still, I'm happier with my modern HVAC!

Boiler Reamer Memories

Back in 1970 (while still in high school) I worked in a furniture factory in eastern Wisconsin as a night watchman and had a wide range of jobs. Being part of maintenance I also acted as "fireman" and helped with routine maintenance including boiler tube reaming.

The factory occupied about three city blocks and most of it was four stories high. There were two active boilers, each about three times the size of the one shown here. They operated at 160 PSI and had been converted from pulverized coal to natural gas. Both boilers also were capable of burning sawdust that the factory generated.

The doors above the pressure gauge are access covers to the boiler tubes, where the water passes through and boils into steam. Behind the doors is another bulkhead with many small access covers that need to be removed for maintenance. A long air-driven reamer is inserted into each tube and the slag (from minerals in the water) need to be cleaned from the inner walls of the tubes in order to maintain proper flow.

In the summer they would shut down one boiler and we'd ream the tubes and inspect the interior walls (and patch with a asbestos mixture, without ANY masks).

It would take about a week for the boiler to cool down enough to enter it.

A third boiler was three times bigger than the two that were in operation. It had been taken offline sometime in the late 50s when a set of steam driven electric generators were removed.

This picture brings back many fond and HOT sweaty memories!

Oh. And during the energy crunch (1977?) there was fear of having the natural gas cut off so we installed two 300,000 gallon oil tanks and added oil burners to both boilers.

My last name

One of the first things I noticed on the picture was my last name. It says "Stirling," a last name my family had at about that time. It originally was "Starling" when we were in England, then it was "Stirling" when we moved to the USA and Canada, and now it is Sterling. I just thought it is pretty cool.

Volga Boatmen

Wonder why this song is going through my head?

On the wall, to the right

Now that's a man's fireplace-poker set!

The clock

The dial indicates steam pressure. Which would be going down as the open door is cooling the firebox, punching holes in his fire, and cooling the flues, risking a leak. No wonder the indicator and our friend are in motion.

Stirling Water-Tube Boiler

According to the 1895 Catalogue of the Stirling Water Tube Safety Boiler, the boiler at Glazier Stove Co was rated at 66 horse-power which is at the smaller end of Stirling boiler power range.

The Stirling Water-Tube Boiler, Babcock & Wilcox, 1912

The Stirling Boiler in Service

Stirling boilers have been in operation since 1890, and their performance since that time has clearly demonstrated their right to all of the claims of excellence which have been made for them.

The ease with which the Stirling boiler may be cleaned, its efficient and substantial baffling and its flexibility under varying load conditions, have caused it to be adopted extensively in plants representing practically every industry throughout the world. Over 3,000,000 horse-power of Stirling boilers are in use in electric light and power plants, street railway power stations, coal mining plants, blast furnaces, rolling mills, smelting and refining plants, heating and lighting plants in educational institutions, sugar mills, breweries, cotton mills, lumber mills, ice plants, oil refineries, and their allied industries.

The Stirling boiler has proved entirely successful in the use of anthracite and bituminous coals with both hand and stoker firing, lignite from the various lignite fields, oil fuel, wood and saw mill refuse, green bagasse, tan bark, blast furnace, coke oven and natural gas, and waste heat from brick kilns, cement kilns and smelting furnaces.

100, not 275.

Or maybe 99.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego said

It's cool in the furnace man, oh yeah!

A airy 275 degrees.

Upside down doors

I guess that you couldn't get good help even back in 1905.
At 275 PSI pressure, that boiler probably furnished power for all the machinery in the factory.

An Awfully big boiler!

This is far more heavy duty than we would expect for just space heating. Note the 2 furnaces, and below them the doors for emptying the ash (a messy but routine duty for stokers). It looks like the doors above the gauge, needed for cleaning the gas side, might have been installed upside down -- note that the shield seems to be inverted. The equipment was made by the ___ Stirling Co. in Chicago.

The gauge says the pressure is 275 pounds per square inch (or maybe the temperature is 275 degrees F) -- either way it's more than you would need for space heating. Note the pipe coming out of the steam drum to the gauge and the wonderful little petcock (in the open position) that you could use to isolate the gauge from the steam should the device leak. No electronics here -- just a spring and bellows, or whatever, that needs a direct connection to the fluid to be measured.

Now I wonder what all that steam is being used for -- generating electricity? Turning machine tools by a network of belts and linkages, driven by reciprocating engines?

I've been to Chelsea, Michigan, in 1978 -- a nice little town almost entirely made of red brick. Was it a company town for the stove maker?

You know the old saying

"It takes an oven to make an oven."

It's in the Details

Even something as functional and mundane as a boiler has intricate and artistic metalwork. It was a piece of machinery most people would never see. Proof that someone took pride in their trade.

Hold still!

Missed his chance for immortality by moving.

Close Enough

Judging from the logos just above the dial -- those doors are installed upside down. Workmanship is alive and well!

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