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Propane burners for locomotives

Brian

Joined: 1-01-92

Topics: 1

Replies: 6

Posted: Thu 13th Feb 2014, 10:45pm
Propane burners for locomotives

I would like to make contact with builders or those running locomotives using propane burners. I'm particularly interested in any current UK guidelines relating to a burner installation.
I Have the boiler and propane burner (see EIM Vol 32 No 12 and following issues).
Brian
 

Replies To This Post

rogerbehn

Joined: 1-01-70

Topics: 0

Replies: 1

Posted: Fri 7th Aug 2015, 6:47am

I suggest contact British Columbia Society Model Engineers as they have several in use. Try 120 North Willingdon Ave. Burnaby, BC, Canada, V5C 6K1
 

king6024

Joined: 1-01-70

Topics: 1

Replies: 12

Posted: Fri 7th Aug 2015, 8:19am

check out locoparts.biz/ they have burners and parts for fitting gas to locos
mark
 

Brian

Joined: 1-01-92

Topics: 1

Replies: 6

Posted: Wed 12th Aug 2015, 11:53am

Hi Guys, sorry for the delay. I was in Germany when the post came in.
Roger, My basic request was to make contact with people who are currently using propane as a fuel for their locos, to exchange ideas, experiences and generally propagate the use of propane as an alternative to coal or oil fuels.
I already have the burner, designed and made specifically to suit my boiler by friends in the US who, you may know, use this fuel extensively. So I do not have a problem with the burner or boiler, my American friends have been more than helpful.

What they cannot help with is our HSE and associated regulations. I did find there is no legislation dealing with this fuel in our locos other than the use of appropriate gas fittings. The implication is I can do what I want, but it does make sense for all to sing from the same Hymn sheet - And without getting bogged down with superfluous rules.
However, from experience, I was finding a reluctance from people (the powers that be?) to adopt this type of fuel and use it safely.
I am prepared to be corrected on the last paragraph as I lost some interest in the subject when I found I had cancer. Things may have changed?
In my initial posting I mentioned the article I submitted to EIM about this burner and it's construction. An example of an American approach and something that isn't allowed in the UK is the 'not suitable' rubber tubing used for flexibility, seen in a photograph of an American pipework installation. In editing my article I completely over looked this practice otherwise I would have noted it.

As you know the address of the Burnaby track (been twice & Train Mountain three times) you may well know Lindsey McDonnell. I am acquainted with him through Doug, from Seattle, the guy who built my burner.

Mark, I don't know the firm you mention but I'll Google it. It may help with piezo's and FFD's (Flame Failure Devices) etc.

Brian
 

Richard

Joined: 23-04-14

Topics: 1

Replies: 2

Posted: Sat 5th Sep 2015, 1:35pm

Had I looked more carefully I would have joined in this conversation about gas v coal rather than starting my own topic. I am very new to this whole thing. I took on my father in laws locos when he died and have joined the 71/4 soc. and the Manx Steam and Model Engineering Club who are great guys and have helped me to learn how to fire and drive but I am just curious about the possibilities of propane as it feels like a good way forward. Where can I get hold of copies of your articles? Thanks Richard.
 

Brian

Joined: 1-01-92

Topics: 1

Replies: 6

Posted: Sat 28th Nov 2015, 9:05pm

Richard, Apologies for the delay. You'll find the information you require in Engineering in Miniature. Volume 32 No12 June 2011 p 398 and subsequent issues to volume 33 No 4 p 130.
In issue Vol 33 No 7 there is a follow up. The drawing for the 'Mixing Head' was missed from the article so is appended in this issue under 'Readers Letters p 253
I will add a correction to photo 05 described by Doug at this point. The image description says 'a rubber hose ---', this picture is of my friends assembly on his locomotive in the States. Over here in the UK this method is unacceptable and needs a proper flexible fitting.
Finally, I must stress that this article was presented as a guide and how my burner was built and to suit my boiler. It may not suit other peoples boilers if copied exactly but, perhaps with some experimentation to suit your own application I reckon you'll be pleased with a propane burner. Google train mountain and see propane fired locos in action. Unfortunately because my wife decided to have a cancer we had to cancel our trip to Oregon this year.
Hope this helps? Brian
 

Mick

Joined: 1-01-89

Topics: 7

Replies: 114

Posted: Sun 29th Nov 2015, 5:02pm

Some time ago I was interested in propane firing for my loco ELLA and also for a Britannia I was building (since sold on in favour of building a Thomas 2). I have visited a number of miniature railroads in USA. As I am interested in heavy passenger hauling I found out from some loco builders that using propane could cause the cylinders to freeze up if a heavy demand was being made on them - even on the Largo Central in Florida! I haven't been to Train Mountain but have seen many photos and videos. Other tracks I have seen in USA seem to be similar to TM in that there are many light engine workings or scale trains of cars being run, but not many heavy passenger trains. There are not many large scale 'narrow gauge outline' locos on 7½" gauge, most are built to standard gauge. I tried oil firing for a while but it was smelly and noisy and I went back to steam coal. I would appreciate any comments.
 

Brian

Joined: 1-01-92

Topics: 1

Replies: 6

Posted: Sun 29th Nov 2015, 8:31pm

Hi Mick, I don't know if you've been to the Burnaby track, Vancouver? Member Lindsey McDonnell runs a propane fired Britannia and it runs well and can pull a fair load of passengers as I noted at TM and at Burnaby. Regarding freezing of the gas cylinder when in use. I had this occur driving my friend Doug's 'Lil Lima' (Lead photo of the article I wrote) at the Kitsap club near Seattle. I had just arrived back at their ‘depot and as Doug was close by and I mentioned this problem, he just got a bucket full of cold water and threw it over the frozen cylinder. Freeze up problem solved and set off for another 20min lap of their track. Not sure if this would be acceptable over here it seems to be the way they do it over there. It did teach me that just opening up the regulator does not necessarily provide more steam.
I don’t know the Largo Central you mention but Train Mountains 'Triennial' meets are the place to visit to experience passenger haulage and see lots of 7 1/4" N.G. locos working the trains you are interested in. The next 'Triennial will be in 2018. My place (and I should add my wife too as she is quite adept at running Doug’s propane fired engine) subject to health is booked already. I also submitted to EIM an article about TM in Volume 34 No6 p99 and concluded in the following issue. You’ll see a photo of my wife driving the ‘Lil Lima’ onto TM’s turntable on p200.
Regarding ‘Heavy passenger trains over there I’ll write to Doug for his view of that and if he responds I’ll post it on here.
I might just add that TM also host several different types of ‘meets’ one is an operations meet and trains are run for specific needs, e.g. if some track panels are required up the line somewhere a loco (and it’s driver!) is delegated to collect the appropriate train and run to the required destination where those panels will be required during ‘works weeks’. On delivery the driver contacts control and then is given further instructions. This, is playing real trains, and with over 35 miles (real miles) to run on it’s quite a challenge.

Brian
 

Mick

Joined: 1-01-89

Topics: 7

Replies: 114

Posted: Mon 30th Nov 2015, 8:30am

Thanks for the reply Brian, I haven't been to Vancouver but I knew about the Britannia through Jim Vass. Perhaps you weren't aware my loco ELLA is a Li'l Lima? I was the first to build one in the UK and Keith Watson (designer) has stayed with us a couple of times over here. I've built his later Sweet Creeks over at Roll Models in California. I do follow Train Mountain through Live Steam magazine (I write occasionally for it)and U-tube, and it's on my bucket list. Your comments on regulations here are interesting as in the States they don't seem anywhere near bothered about H & S as we do, but nevertheless propane can be dangerous if mishandled. Another area for 'someone' to develop a code of practice. Even my comprehensive Australian code for boilers doesn't cover propane firing.
 

Richard

Joined: 23-04-14

Topics: 1

Replies: 2

Posted: Mon 30th Nov 2015, 11:13am

Thanks Brian.
I will certainly look in to this, although I have to say I am now getting comfortable with coal after a good few extra hours of running. I think I was going through one of those "I'll never get the hang of this" moments back in September.

Richard.
 

Brian

Joined: 1-01-92

Topics: 1

Replies: 6

Posted: Tue 1st Dec 2015, 11:29am

Richard, You mention the 'Manx' club so you must be in the I.O.M. My initial request on this forum was to contact other propane users to discuss their experiences / construction etc. Not so much as a discussion on 'propane verses coal'.
Mick, I met Jim Vass at TM in yr 2000. I seem to have lost touch recently. Now you mention ELLA being a 'Lil Lima', I have a feeling I know your ELLA and yourself. Did you ever visit a 7 1/4" track on Anglesy? with David Everingham and another couple of guys from Sheffield? If so you have visited my place. I think I met you at David's evening meets whilst I was working at Sheffield University? Would I be right? Back to propane and regulations I was in touch with people from MELG who are supposed to be drawing up some kind of 'Code of practice' with this fuel but then my cancers struck (twice in 5 years - ouch!)and I lost interest. I'm fine now and as my son has expressed an interest in model engineering I have some encouragement. Brian
 

Mick

Joined: 1-01-89

Topics: 7

Replies: 114

Posted: Tue 1st Dec 2015, 2:26pm

Hi Brian, you are absolutely right about Anglesey and Sheffield. That's the trouble with the forums, you sometimes don't realise who you are talking to! I've passed your place a few times in the ensuing years and wondered how you were.
 

Brian

Joined: 1-01-92

Topics: 1

Replies: 6

Posted: Tue 1st Dec 2015, 7:42pm

Mick, It was EllA that gave the clue. I understand Doug was in contact with Keith Watson too when he was building his 'Lil Lima'. I have to say, having driven his engine at TM, Kitsap (where I froze his gas tank) and Tom Millers, who you may also have heard of. His is another track with Hills and a fantastic double track trestle! I was very impressed with it and enjoyed driving it immensely. Do you still visit the Anglesey track? Any time you're passing, please feel free to drop in. A phone call would help so as not to disappoint. Err, how do I give you my phone number privately? Brian W
 

Mick

Joined: 1-01-89

Topics: 7

Replies: 114

Posted: Tue 1st Dec 2015, 7:57pm

Brian, please email me at micksavage@talktalk.net. My details are all over the internet so it won't cause me any trouble.
 

peter

Joined: 18-10-00

Topics: 0

Replies: 2

Posted: Sat 28th Jan 2017, 6:05pm

There are regulation covering the use of gas, Europe and BS. Experimenting with gas unless you are competent and or qualified person is not permitted under the gas Safety Regulations. This has H and S implication and insurance validaty.Public running with a home brew kit is not recommended.
I am an Industrial gas engineer and work on burners up to 20 MW but even small burners when a part fails make a mess! If you are contemplating gas firing seek the advise and help of a qualified person. American regs are not as good as the British and as safe. Gas engineers in the UK are examined every 5 years. If you already have a gas system get is check out. Let's enjoy are obsession and be safe. Peter
 

Brian

Joined: 1-01-92

Topics: 1

Replies: 6

Posted: Tue 31st Jan 2017, 8:42pm


Peter, Thank you for your post though I do feel you have been very presumptuous. Might I suggest you re-read my posts carefully and you'll find I've tried to engage knowledgeable people (dare I say enlightened people who are not so negative) in conversation on this subject of propane burners for our engines. Though very few constructive comments have been forth coming. You'll also find I've written about the necessity of safety.

Some time ago I was in contact with MELG regarding appropriate regulations and issues with propane burners and I was informed (reluctantly I felt) there are no specific regulations for propane use in our steam engines, though boats, caravans etc. etc. a plenty.
However, I'm prepared to be corrected on that because during and since my two cancers I lost some interest and not followed the subject up. Oh, and I'll add a well known insurance company was only interested in that the boiler had it's appropriate certification.

Without writing out my full CV I'll just add that I was installing gas central heating boilers when central heating was in it's infancy (c 1964)and then, it was what was known as 'town gas' Six years later I started work in a University Chemistry department until I retired some 12 years ago. On and off I was involved with far more lethal gasses than propane (for this conversation we'll ignore the safety devices on the Cobalt 60 source!)
So I'll kindly ask you not to lecture me on H&S and other issues you raised.

However, In view of your experience with burners up to 20MW (for interest my burner runs at a very quiet and efficient 3-4 PSI. giving me about 30,000BTU's?). It would be good if you can offer some constructive advice/comments on how we can move forward with this fuel, particularly in transportation, the supply line between gas cylinder and the burner. I know, but it would be good to come from someone as knowledgeable as yourself).

It appears there is a great aversion to the use of gas fired locomotives. I've no idea why, for if installed correctly with the appropriate safety devices (like FFD's / anti-blow-back devices, which the Americans don't generally use (I don't know what the Germans, Australians, and Canadians do but all use propane to some degree).
It can be safer than than a coal fired loco (re- the recent accident on the Beer Heights Railway). How much quicker is it then to simply turn off the gas supply than fiddle around trying to find the appropriate tool to drop the fire! True, one might still get scolded from the water but the injury is not compounded by red hot ashes as well.

We must also remember the environment which, as understand it, propane is more environmentally friendly than coal).

So, it would be nicer and a great advantage to all if you could offer sound advice rather than dismiss propane as though it were an atom bomb. After all, how many propane fuelled cars are there now on our roads?

Brian Watson
CC: A.V. Rueden, D. Wilkinson USA

---------
 

WembleyLion

Joined: 1-01-87

Topics: 2

Replies: 34

Posted: Wed 1st Feb 2017, 10:45am

Hello Brian,

This is letter that I sent in to the News back in 2003 regarding an LPG fired loco. In the light of further information I have added to the original text.

I hope this helps in your quest for knowledge on this interesting subject.

John

Dear Mike,

The last few issues of the News have spoken of the Ulin Locomotive Works Mason Bogie Locomotive built by Richard and Linda Ulin of Colorado U.S.A. Photos of this wonderful loco graced the centre pages of issue 105, Summer 2003.

I met Richard at Roy & Marion Pickard’s 2 mile long Comanche & Indian Gap Railroad in Texas U.S.A. and was lucky enough to spend some time riding behind Crescenta. I thought members might be interested in some of the details given to me by Richard. 

Crescenta is in 2 ½” scale loco based on the 2-6-6 Mason Bogies supplied to the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad c. 1875.
 
Richard is an accomplished exponent of lost wax casting. Crescenta uses over 300 components cast by this method. The detail is exceptional especially on the ornate bell mounting and the over boiler weighshaft assembly.

The loco is propane gas fired. A barter type multibar burner is fitted in the ash pan beneath a stainless steel grid on which is a layer of volcanic lava rocks, like those found in gas barbecues. The lava rocks serve to diffuse the flame and also to re-light the gas when in spite of the very soft draft it occasionally lifts the flame off the burners and pilot.

Gas fired locos normally seen in the States pull a car with two or more 14lb propane bottles on board, this is because the burners pull too much gas off a single bottle causing it to freeze. Train Mountain and other railroads use refillable (from their own bulk supply) gas tanks (about 4ft long and 2ft dia) mounted on four wheel frames. These are loaned out to visiting loco owners and are charged according to gas used.

Richard uses a bogie refrigerator car immediately behind Crescenta which is in fact the dead opposite of it’s title as it contains a steam heated hot water tank in which is a single 14lb propane bottle. Richard controls steam from the loco boiler to keep the water at 80deg F. and this not only stops the bottle from freezing but also maintains a steady gas output. 

At 2 ½” scale Crescenta is a big loco and the only problem that Richard experienced whilst I was there in 1998 was that he had to keep a very close eye on the fire and boiler pressure as it was very easy to lose pressure and very difficult to build pressure quickly if it went too low. I believe that this is because there is less heat from the gas flame being transferred into the firebox walls than there is with a coal fire.

 British Rail tried oil firing experiments in the late 1940’s and they also found problems with building pressure quickly. The Suez Crises of the 1950’s finished BR’s experiments.

However this problem is not insurmountable and was in fact solved over one hundred years ago by the steam car boys when they designed the Flowmotor control. The Flowmotor is simply a control that uses boiler pressure to adjust the volume of water and/or fuel to the boiler and is universally used in steam cars that have monotube steam generators.

The Steam Car Club of GB is a mine of information on boilers and burners, especially in the Forum pages, and although they use petrol, diesel or a mixture of both as fuel it is vaporised and fed into the burner as a gas in much the same way as LPG.

http://www.steamcar.net/index.html

BES Plumbing, Heating and Gas supply all parts suitable for LPG installations including burners, double armoured flexible hoses, regulators, flame failure valves, pilot lights, etc,etc. They also supply an enormous range of plumbing, heating and refrigeration pipe and fittings, soldered, screwed and compression in copper, DZR, brass, malleable, and stainless steel all at exceptionally low prices.

https://www.bes.co.uk/?gclid=CJuFjvfkmdECFSco0wodhFEEQw
Hello Brian,

This is letter that I sent in to the News back in 2003 regarding an LPG fired loco. In the light of further information I have added to the original text.

I hope this helps in your quest for knowledge on this interesting subject.

John

Dear Mike,

The last few issues of the News have spoken of the Ulin Locomotive Works Mason Bogie Locomotive built by Richard and Linda Ulin of Colorado U.S.A. Photos of this wonderful loco graced the centre pages of issue 105, Summer 2003.

I met Richard at Roy & Marion Pickard’s 2 mile long Comanche & Indian Gap Railroad in Texas U.S.A. and was lucky enough to spend some time riding behind Crescenta. I thought members might be interested in some of the details given to me by Richard.

Crescenta is in 2 ½” scale loco based on the 2-6-6 Mason Bogies supplied to the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad c. 1875.

Richard is an accomplished exponent of lost wax casting. Crescenta uses over 300 components cast by this method. The detail is exceptional especially on the ornate bell mounting and the over boiler weighshaft assembly.

The loco is propane gas fired. A barter type multibar burner is fitted in the ash pan beneath a stainless steel grid on which is a layer of volcanic lava rocks, like those found in gas barbecues. The lava rocks serve to diffuse the flame and also to re-light the gas when in spite of the very soft draft it occasionally lifts the flame off the burners and pilot.

Gas fired locos normally seen in the States pull a car with two or more 14lb propane bottles on board, this is because the burners pull too much gas off a single bottle causing it to freeze. Train Mountain and other railroads use refillable (from their own bulk supply) gas tanks (about 4ft long and 2ft dia) mounted on four wheel frames. These are loaned out to visiting loco owners and are charged according to gas used.

Richard uses a bogie refrigerator car immediately behind Crescenta which is in fact the dead opposite of it’s title as it contains a steam heated hot water tank in which is a single 14lb propane bottle. Richard controls steam from the loco boiler to keep the water at 80deg F. and this not only stops the bottle from freezing but also maintains a steady gas output.

At 2 ½” scale Crescenta is a big loco and the only problem that Richard experienced whilst I was there in 1998 was that he had to keep a very close eye on the fire and boiler pressure as it was very easy to lose pressure and very difficult to build pressure quickly if it went too low. I believe that this is because there is less heat from the gas flame being transferred into the firebox walls than there is with a coal fire.

British Rail tried oil firing experiments in the late 1940’s and they also found problems with building pressure quickly. The Suez Crises of the 1950’s finished BR’s experiments.

However this problem is not insurmountable and was in fact solved over one hundred years ago by the steam car boys when they designed the Flowmotor control. The Flowmotor is simply a control that uses boiler pressure to adjust the volume of water and/or fuel to the boiler and is universally used in steam cars that have monotube steam generators.

The Steam Car Club of GB is a mine of information on boilers and burners, especially in the Forum pages, and although they use petrol, diesel or a mixture of both as fuel it is vaporised and fed into the burner as a gas in much the same way as LPG.

http://www.steamcar.net/index.html

BES Plumbing, Heating and Gas supply all parts suitable for LPG installations including burners, double armoured flexible hoses, regulators, flame failure valves, pilot lights, etc,etc. They also supply an enormous range of plumbing, heating and refrigeration pipe and fittings, soldered, screwed and compression in copper, DZR, brass, malleable, and stainless steel all at exceptionally low prices.

https://www.bes.co.uk/?gclid=CJuFjvfkmdECFSco0wodhFEEQw

 
 
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