Smoke Preventing -
Jim Skeevers and the Fourth Vice Try Experiments.

There is going to be a reform on Jim Skeevers' road about smoke-making; or smoke-preventing. We know there is going to be a reform because the fourth vice-president says there is, and he knows.

The Fourth Vice has read three scientific books on combustion, and all by his lone self wrote out a bulletin notice about preventing smoke, that showed he was master of the subject. When the boys consulted the bulletin board one morning they read the following: Official Order, No. 39. (The Fourth Vice was educated at West Point and married the president's daughter.)


The careless habit of enginemen in allowing black smoke to issue from their engines must be discontinued from this date. By firing in such a way as to distribute the carbon evenly on the grates and admitting about four-fifths of the total volume of air to the ash-can and one-fifth above the fire, the oxygen and hydrogen will mix and all smoke will be consumed before reaching the flues, thereby abating a nuisance and showing a great economy in fuel. Controllable air jets will be put on all passenger engines at once; but men on freight can prevent smoke by putting their fire door on the first notch of the latch for one and a half minutes after each new supply of fuel, then closing it. When the engine is standing, open fire door and put on the blower slightly.

The penalty for a disregard of this rule will be instant dismissal from the service.

Approved, A. Verry NEWE, Fourth Vice-President.

Of course, all the boys knew that the Old Man, John Massey, was never guilty of writing anything about oxygen and hydrogen, and that he knew too well how heavy the trains were and how much coal they had to burn per hour; then, years ago, the Old Man fired and run, and he would just as soon expect the men to obey an order to hold their left hands on the seat of their pants when passing all mile-posts as to half close the fire door for one and a half minutes after each fire.

Skeevers pulls the express freight. It's heavy, the time is lively, and the "93" never was, known to go over the road without burning coal; never was known to burn much coal without some smoke; never was known to steam any too well with the fire door shut; and never was known to steam at all with it half open.

Skeevers determined to work in an object lesson on the man that wrote that bulletin. (Skeevers' specialty is object lessons.)

Skeevers went home and put on his store clothes and presented himself at the office of A. Verry Newe, fourth vice-president.

He worked his way past the outside guard, made the grand hailing sign of distress before the altar of the "assistant to" and was permitted to send in his name and business on a little piece of paper. He wrote:

"Skeevers, engineer '93'; come to get help and advice about smoke-prevention."

He was admitted to the holy of holies, salaamed before the Fourth Vice, hung his hat on his left thumb, and said:

"Mr. Newe, I am very much interested in smoke-prevention. I think it can be entirely stopped if the men are instructed right. Now, what I called for is this - I think if you can get one engine to run without smoke you can make the other crews do as her crew does, and the job is complete; it would take two years to instruct all the men on the road. Now, I want the honor of having the first smokeless engine. You know that my train - the express freight - is considered of the most importance on the road. You sidetrack passenger trains for it every day. Now, I thought I could get you to put on some old clothes and go out with us this afternoon.. You know more about smoke-prevention than anyone else because you have made a study of it (the Fourth Vice smiled here and stroked his mustache approvingly). The signals are so thick and the importance of time so great that I cannot watch the fireman and give him the right instruction; but if you would sit on his seat for half a trip and tell him when to shut the door and when to leave it on the latch and prevent him from using too much coal at a time, I think the '93' would throw no smoke and be an example to all the rest."

The Fourth Vice agreed to Skeevers' plan, and Skeevers went home with a pay-day smile on his phiz.

That afternoon as the "93" backed down on to her train, A. Verry Newe, fourth vice-president, stepped upon her hurricane deck, and Skeevers introduced him to the fireman, Pete Doyle.

"Mr. Newe; my fireman, Mr. Doyle. Pete, Mr. Newe is going over the road with us to give us a few pointers on smoke-preventing. You fire just as he tells you; I am anxious that the '93' should be the first to run without smoke."

Pete said "All right, sorr," but there was a sneer under the coal dust as he glanced at the "dood collar" and effeminate face of the Fourth Vice.

The Fourth Vice got a clean piece of waste to wipe his hands, and looked around nervously. He had never been on an engine before with any responsibility at all.

Skeevers oiled around, and then shut himself upon his side of the boiler - the "93" was a mogul - and said to Mr. Newe:

"I shan't be able to notice you much, as it keeps me pretty busy with the signals and all; but Pete will do just what you tell him, and I am sure we shall learn something before we get over the road. But here's the orders. Are you all right, Pete? Well, we're off."

The "93" picked up her twenty-four loads and started out of the yard.

"Phwat about the firin', sorr?" asked Pete of the Fourth Vice.

"Well, fire lightly, and don't close the door at first."

"Shall Oi putt in a foire now?"

"Well, yes, I suppose so; fire about as often as you do regularly."

Pete jumped for the shovel and fired in three or four scoops of fine coal; the black smoke rolled the second the door closed; the Fourth Vice glanced at the stack and spoke sharply to Pete:

"Open that door on the latch, sir; don't you see how the smoke is coming out?"

Pete opened it, waited a couple of minutes, then the Fourth Vice motioned with his hand to have it shut.

"That's the way to do it, my man; do you see there was no smoke at all?"

"Oi do, sorr, but she dropped foive pounds of stheam, do ye moind, and it's harder to git than to lose."

There was just the trace of a wrinkle on the brow of the Fourth Vice, as he glanced at the gauge.

"Shall Oi putt in another foire, sorr?"

"Yes, if it's time."

Pete chucked in three shovelfuls, well distributed, and the Fourth Vice watched the stack with joy - there was no smoke. Pete turned his shovel over and held it in the door for a second, looked up at the stack, and jumped for the tank, commencing to fire coal into the furnace like mad.

Skeevers was wrestling with the sand-lever, for the "93" was slipping.

"Stop!" shouted the Fourth Vice, "are you crazy? you put in ten shovels of coal there at once; leave that door on the latch."

"But she jerked a hole in her foire, sorr."

"How's that - a hole in her fire?"

"In course, phwen he slipped her she histed the coal off the front av her grate, the foire wor too thin."

"She didn't throw smoke until you put in the fourth or fifth shovelful."

"Oi'm onto that, sorr; phwen there wor no smoke I knowed there wor a hole, an' all the draft wor goin' in there."

Skeevers kept himself busy and apparently paid no attention to the play on the deck.

The "93" lost another 5 pounds of fog.

The Fourth Vice, Pete and Skeevers each had a wrinkle on his brow now, and Skeevers looked at his watch, then at the steam gauge anxiously, whenever the Fourth Vice looked his way. This kind of anxiety is catching.

Pete left the door on the latch one-and-a-half minutes by the watch after every fire; fired as he was told, worried to see the steam go down, sweat like a butcher and wished the Fourth Vice was in Halifax.

Skeevers kept his eagle eye on the rail and looked anxiously at his watch. Steam was down to 105 pounds, ten miles out, and at Peeksboro he was four minutes late and there was a red flag out.

"Please put Pete on to the way to use that blower and door to prevent smoke; there's an ordinance against it in this town," said Skeevers.

Skeevers went to the telegraph office for orders, and returned with this message:

"Report cause of delay to your train at once. J. E. B."

This he handed to the Fourth Vice.

"What's this for?"

"Bluff wants to know what has delayed us. We were four minutes late and he has held us six more to ask us a useless question; does it every day we get three minutes late."

"Don't pay any attention to him."

Skeevers jumped onto the engine, glanced at the gauge and said:

"Pete, why in the devil didn't you blow her up and get her hot? She ain't gained a pound."

"The gintlemon said, kape the doure open and the wind-jamber on aisy loike."

It was hard starting with 105 pounds of steam, and when they got back to speed they were fifteen minutes behind time, and had to lay back one station for the Flyer. Skeevers pretended to be mad at Pete and raved about being disgraced; never was so late before. Why in the - couldn't he keep wind on the engine?

"Is it fog yer wantin', Misthur Skeevers?"

"Yes, here's a sixteen mile hill ahead of us, thirty minutes late, and no steam."

"Well, sor, Oi can fix ye out if ye will let me foire this kittle for stheam; but Oi am foirin' her now under instructhins fur shmoke, and yez can have yer chice."

"Well, get her hot anyway, now."

Pete shut the door, opened the blower wide and then fired in a half-dozen shovels of coal. She smoked, but the finger on the gauge commenced to crawl up toward a hundred and enough.

Mr. Newe, don't you think that if we could get more oxygen to combine with the hydrogen over the fire that we could complete combustion better?" asked Skeevers.

"Well, I don't know but we could; but what we need is in"-

The Flyer went by here, and the Fourth Vice didn't finish, for the "93" was tugging at her train when the last sleeper passed. Pete and the Fourth Vice "fired her for, smoke," and the "93" laid down half way up sixteen mile hill and had to be "blowed up."

At Hilltop they got another sassy message about delay of train, and at Sumerton they were an hour and five minutes behind the schedule and had delayed most of the other trains on the road - the "93" hadn't done such a thing in years.

The coal dust and sweat mixed with the wrinkles on the brow of the Fourth Vice. As they were taking water at Springvale he asked Skeevers how much steam he needed to keep the train on time.

"One hundred and sixty."

"Do you generally have it?"


"Why don't she keep it up now?"

"Oi can give yez a straight tip on thot," said Pete, sliding into the pit.


"Foire her for stheam."

"Well, fire her for steam, then; we've got to get this train over the road some time," said the disgusted official.

"But she'll schmoke a little, sorr."

"Damn the smoke."

"That's what Oi say all along, sorr."

The Fourth Vice slid off and took NO. 4 back to town.

Pete, the "93" and Skeevers finished the trip with 160, and, well, she did throw some smoke.

When they got home the next day there was a note for Skeevers to report to the general superintendent at once.

He reported.

"Old Calamity," as the boys called the general superintendent, was in a swearing rage.

"What's the matter with your engine, Skeevers?"

"Nothing at all, sir."

"How came it, then, you lost an hour and forty minutes yesterday, missed your connection, delayed half the trains on the road and raised hell in general?"

"Experimenting to save smoke."

"What right have you got to experiment all the trains on the road late, tell me that ?"

"I wasn't doing the experimenting."

"Well, who was?" -

"The fourth vice-president, sir."

"What in the name of the bald-headed Abraham does he know about smoke?"

"You saw the new bulletin about it didn't you?"


"Well, any engineer who can't burn soft coal with a forced draft at the rate of a hundred or two pounds per square foot of grate per hour without smoke is to be discharged."

"Who says so?"

"The fourth vi"-

"The fourth jackass."

"I asked him to show my fireman how to combine the hydrogen and oxide and the choloric and the carbolic and the debolic, so as to do away with smoke - and that was what was the matter with the '93' yesterday."

"She didn't steam?"

"Pete says she was fired for 'schmoke.'"

"Well, you make time, smoke or no smoke; I know you fellows make too much smoke around stations and can prevent it some; but you can't burn coal without some smoke any more than you can boil water without making steam."

"Well, what about the bulletin? There are already a lot of rules and orders in force that if obeyed would stop every train on the road. You officers know we have to disobey them to do our work, but if anything happens we were disobeying orders. Mr. Newe might just as well have ordered us to have burned no coal at all - it's one or the other, which shall it be; smoke, steam and time, or no smoke, no steam and no time?"

"That bulletin will come down and the man that put it up will take it down. I'm getting tired of this kindergarten railroading."

"What about stopping a train that is three minutes late to ask what delayed it, and give it five minutes more in the neck?"

"It's bad business; they do that on the G., M. & T."

"They do it right here."

"Who the h -"

"Read that; ask Mr. Newe, he was with us," handing him the message received about delay.

"Look here, Skeevers; you knew how this smoke business would come out, didn't you?"

"I could guess fairly well."

"What did you let this Newe go out to bother you for?"

"To teach him an object lesson."

"Well, what do you suppose he learned?"

"That you can figure out more about smoke preventing on a mahogany desk than you can show in practice and do the work at the same time. That it would be easy enough if all you had to do was to prevent the smoke, and that there was more cry than wool in this smoke nuisance howl, anyway. That what can be done with a big stationary boiler with natural draft, burning twenty pounds of coal per square foot of grate per hour, cannot be done on a locomotive burning more than a hundred, any more than a Corliss valve-gear will do on an express engine."


"You put up a request something like this and you will have little cause for complaint, and take down the old one."

Then Skeevers sat down and wrote out a bulletin:

"Considerable complaint comes from various towns about the throwing of heavy clouds of black smoke. The management of the road recognize the fact that the enginemen cannot burn coal without some smoke, but know that where they try, they can, in a large measure, prevent it in towns and villages by intelligent firing, the use of the door and blower.

"Away from towns smoke is of little consequence. Fire then so as to keep an even and full pressure of steam with the least fuel.

"Those firemen who are the most successful in preventing smoke at stations will be given the best engines to fire, and this record will not be forgotten when it becomes necessary to promote men.

"The company has no set rules or pet plans of firing, but leaves this to the judgment of the men on the engines; you will be judged by results, not by methods."

"Try that on 'em and see if you don't have less trouble."

"Old Calamity" put on his specs, read the order over twice and then said:

"That's worth trying, young man; it's worth trying, and damme if I don't think you'd make a pretty good railroad official yourself."

"I think so, myself," said Skeevers, "but the president has no other daughters, and I'm married, anyway."


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