Lighting the Fire for the First Time


Now we were ready to light the fire for the first time! The objectives were:


(1) To see how much steam could be produced, i.e. how many kilos per hour;


(2) To make a start on the techniques of dealing with the copious flow of steam;


(3) To evaluate the overall controllability of the procedure.



The first step was to load up the burner box with 1/4 ton of coal, piled on top of some cardboard and wood for tinder.

You can see the duct for the air blower, set up to blow air into the flaming pile.....



And here is the air blower itself.....



This shows the steam distribution manifold, ready to be mounted to the boiler....



And here it is mounted....



The whole setup is now ready for ignition! Note the shiny metal steam distribution tube..... and the simple plastic water supply tubes, which subsequently proved to be a weak point!



Next I put a few liters of diesel in there to zip it up....



And lit it up!



The smoke started almost immediately....



And got worse....



And worse....



And worse....



At the early stage of boiling shown in the above photo, very little steam is as yet being evolved into the manifold. I actually think that most of the smoke was due to the diesel, rather than to the coal or the wood.... Maybe I was a little too enthusiastic there....

Anyway it didn't take long for the firemen to arrive! By the time they got there the smoke had greatly diminished, and the steam was flowing nicely. So they went into a watchful-waiting mode....



Fairly obviously, the white is the steam and the black is the smoke...



The steam was really gushing out here....



And, at the height of its operation, the boiler produced enormous quantities of steam...



The fire then started to get out through various gaps. The plastic air and water supply tubes were melting with the radiated heat, the improvised support for the air duct caught fire, and flame gushed out from a crack between the burner box and the boiler - so we mutually agreed that it was better to call a halt to proceedings!





Actually the boiler is perfect; it works superbly. The firebox and burning arrangements want a bit more attention though.... I don't think coal-firing is really a practical system.... The answer to query (3) above - the overall controllability of the procedure - was, LOW, at least as far as coal is concerned.

The fire chief commented with great gusto upon the entire episode with a remark he must have been aching to make for a long time: "Well, back to the good old drawing board!".....

By the way, my digital camera is now dead; the firemen soaked it thoroughly with their hoses, and I was very lucky to get any pictures out of it.... Ex pocketum resurgam!





Next you can read here about converting the system to oil-firing, and mounting it on a trailer....




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