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Piston Fits -
The Worship of the Standard Idol -
A Revolution in Cylinder Design -
Frames and Binders

The general manager's car was on the tail end of No.3 Saturday, and at Granger he caught sight of Skeevers climbing into the smoker - he sent his porter after him.

"Skeevers," said the Old Man, benignly, "I jest want to 'gas' with you from here in; we'll have a bit of supper here and, well, perhaps I'll open the safe. Oh! ye needn't laugh - they are there! I keep 'em locked from Snowball here. The Sphinx left most of a box when he used the car last; he told me they were fifty-five a hundred - but such cigars you never put your lip over, Skeevers; finest thing I ever - what the devil is up now?"

"Emergency for something," said Skeevers, rubbing his head where it hit the partition.

The Old Man pushed a dent out of his hat, replaced it on his head, and followed Skeevers to the ground and "up ahead."

The engineer and fireman were taking down a valve stem - the right-hand piston rod had broken in the cross-head key-way and taken out the front head, slick and clean.

Skeevers went up behind Murray and asked: "Can you handle 'em over Hard-scrabble Hill, Jerry?"

"If they don't stop me at Lowers, and I get a swing at 'em, I'll get over with one side; but, Jim, you know how like a log Old Frosty's hearse pulls?"

"Well, by ginger spruce!" exclaimed the general manager. Mr. Wider was originally from Connecticut, and on rare occasions some of the strange oaths of that strange country would escape him.

"Oh, howdy do?" said Murray, with a smile; "didn't know you was around - but, Mr. Wider, that car of yours does pull awful. Blow the whistle, Billy, we're ready, and the whole trainful of people are on the ground."

"Old Frosty" and Skeevers went hack and climbed on the smoker, never a word being spoken until they had walked back to the private car.

"'Old Frosty' and his 'hearse!'" exclaimed the old man - "well, by ginger spruce! oh! say" Then he went over and fumbled with the lock of the little safe in the corner.

"Take one of them, Skeevers; wash your mouth out and taste the nectar of the gods - I guess it's nectar, 'er nicotine, er sumpthin' else - it's good, anyway, especially for a 'hearse.'" Then he laughed loud and long.

"I tell ye, Skeevers, it takes the boys to name things and name 'em right - 'Old Frosty and the hearse' - well, by ginger sp - ho, ho! Say, Skeevers, I forgot - ain't we breakin' altogether more pistons than the law allows - 'pears to me I hear of a case about twice a week."

"I think about three a week would be nearer the truth," said Skeevers, blowing a couple of blue rings above his head.

"You're so darn cool I dassent jump on ye, Skeevers; for I know you've got one of them object lessons around to floor me with. I'll bet I can guess it, too - Shaver's poor material, ain't it now?"

"No; I think that the fault is entirely that of the head of the mechanical department."

"Well, by gum! that's refreshing, anyhow - why don't ye stop it? You're a great standard man; why don't ye get to a standard on this piston-rod business?"

"We are to a standard - that's what's the matter."

"I smell one of your object lessons. Let her all out now, Skeevers."

"Mr. Widcr, our pistons all break in the cross-head key-way, or just outside the cross-head - never broke one anywhere else. We have used all kinds of material - good, bad and indifferent. That piston rod that broke on this engine was Coffin toughened steel; ordered it myself. When we use that, or Taylor iron, or any good material, we have less breaks than with poorer materials-but good materials can't make up for bad design, can it?"

"No; that's a law."

"Well, sir, if there is one thing about the ordinary American locomotive that shows bad engineering it's the cross-head fit of piston rods. Ours is the usual stiff taper, with a square shoulder and a key - worst thing that could be gotten up if we tried. In the first place, we reduce the area of the rod about a quarter to make the taper; then we leave a square shoulder so the rod can break easy; then we cut a key-way through the already reduced section, reducing it nearly a half, making a sure breaking point; then we drive a key, with a very slight taper, through the key-way, and pull that rod into the cross-head, putting a breaking strain on the rod before the steam is used at all. I'd be willing to warrant every one of them to break - there's something the matter with those that don't. On some roads they just taper the fit without cutting down a shoulder, without letting the rod bottom; others have a short, stiff taper back of the key-way - but they all have the key, and the initial strain, and trouble."

"Well, Skeevers, if a bridge engineer found a girder too light for the load he'd increase the size - why don't you make a bigger rod at the fit?"

"Ah! there is where our sacred standard gets in its work. We have standard cross-head reamers - probably cost a hundred dollars - Massey made them eighteen years ago. Every shop has a stub-end standard sample fit for piston rods, and a square block of cast iron with a standard reamed cross-head hole, all fitted with a standard key. Every engine this company owns has those standard-size piston rods, except those last moguls - I let the builders put their own there to see what modern practice is - it's no better than ours. Massey's standard fit was adopted when the largest engine on the road was a 17 x 24 eight-wheeler, carrying a boiler pressure of 140 pounds. Our 19 x 24 ten-wheelers, carrying 190, have the standard piston fit - and I am ashamed to say it."

"Why don't you throw the gum-sizzled reamers away and make 'em bigger?"

"Can't do it; cross-heads are nearly all of cast iron, and the piston bosses are as light as they ought to be now - a new standard fit means new cross-heads, and new cross-heads means a big appropriation to cover the expense.

"That's different," remarked the Old Man, thoughtfully.

Skeevers and "Old Frosty" smoked in silence for ten minutes; then the Old Man broke out:

"For the Lord's sake, Skeevers, let's don't have standard fits on these ten new engines we're talking of - I ain't so sure I won't commence having fits of some kind myself."

"I shall ask you to approve of several innovations on those engines before the order is given."

"I'll do it now; what kind of piston rod fits will you suggest, though?"

"Well, I have several plans: One of them is to leave the rod straight, cut a standard thread on it, make the cross-head in halves, tap threads in the cross-head fit and clamp it on to the rod by four bolts. Another is, to make the rod perfectly straight, let it bottom in the hole, and use the same key we do now. Perhaps this last is the best and cheapest; the strain of the key would be back of the key-way; it would cause no bursting strain on the cross-bead boss, and it would be strong like this" - Skeevers took out his note-book to make a sketch, the Old Man looking over his shoulder as he turned the pages.

"Hi, there, Jim! what's that ye got tbere?"

"Well, to tell the truth, Mr. Wider, it's a collection of innovations that I didn't intend to show you yet; just some stray ideas in memorandum form that I hope some day to find a chance to try, but not yet."

"More 0. L.'s, hey?" asked the general manager.

"0. L.'s?" asked Skeevers, taking his cigar out of his mouth and looking at the Old Man.

"Yes, yes; 0. L.'s - object lessons, of course."

"Oh!" said Skeevers.

"Well?" said Wider.

"I don't suppose you have a very good idea bow much trouble we have from cracked cylinder saddles, cylinders loose on frames, frames broken, steam pipes leaking and other diseases due in a large measure, I think, to the general use of the half-saddle cylinder. Now, there is a sketch of a half-saddle engine, as usually made. The lightest part of the affair is at the point where frame is fastened on. Through this casting there is a cored hole that forms part of the steam pipe, another one that forms the exhaust passage, and four holes for the bolts that fasten on the frame. In making this an expensive pattern is necessary and an expensive casting produced. This must be planed at the joint with its mate and bolted together. It must be planed at the frame fit and on the seat, to say nothing about steam and exhaust-pipe fits and stud holes; but most expensive of all is the fit of the saddles to the smoke arch - which must be done by hand. If anything happens to the cylinder - well, take the '86,' in the shop now; struck a car and cracked cylinder - all the joints and fittings must be made anew, a new saddle supplied, the engine pulled apart, and the loss of its use for two weeks or more. After about two years' service our big engines commence to crack their saddles - and there is no cure but renewal. Constant trouble and expense in this line led me to study on a plan to avoid it, and the more I planned the farther away from the standard half-saddle cylinder I got. I find that our old eight-wheelers do not break saddles nor get frames loose, while all the '180' class do, as well as our moguls. 'Why?' I asked myself. Well, sir, I went out and spent the best part of a day lying on running boards and front ends, and came home convinced that it is caused primarily by the constant weave, come-and-go of the frames; the engine on one side jerks the frame toward the cylinder in one direction, and the other side shoves them apart, and then they reverse - you can see 'em move. 'But why didn't the old engines do the same?' you may ask. Because they couldn't; the frames were tied together by long, heavy trusses at each end! The big deck plate saved the old engines. The new ones, with long fireboxes on top of the frames, have only a narrow tail-piece. Those two Rogers moguls have an angle-iron bolted on back of cylinder saddles and a flat piece of boiler iron riveted to it and the frame makes the cylinder saddle longer, but not long enough. I propose to cast the cylinders separate from the saddle" -

"That's what our old Schenectady engines had," said Mr. Wider.

"Yes; but they had a cast saddle separate from the rest. I won't have any other casting but the cylinders."

"I'm listening, Jim."

"In order to accomplish what I want, I shall flatten the front ends of the frames; so that, instead of being 4 or 5 inches square with half their metal cut away for holes, with hooks to go each side of the saddle and wedges to go between the hooks and the saddles, I shall have two frames, 8 inches wide and only 2 inches thick. Then I will buy a piece of 1-inch steel or iron boiler plate, 5i inches wide and as long as I want, and lay it flat on my frames, as you see it in the sketch. Then I will cast my cylinder, without saddle, but with a long lug, or rib, on one side. This rib will be 8 inches or more wide, and will be planed up on the under side. This I will lay flat on the big plate, and bolt the three together with bolts I/s or 1/4 inches in diameter. Don't you see I will have room to stagger my bolts? They will be short and large, and the holes can be easily reamed. I will be able to put in fifteen or twenty instead of four, and will have three or four times the strength of the ordinary cylinder fastening. You see, the deck plate, or whatever you may call it, can be as long as there is room for or as is required. The lugs on side of cylinder can be longer than the cylinder if it is thought necessary. Just see how easy it is to put on a new cylinder if one gets broken. Just see what a truss that inch plate is edgewise, remember; all the work is done on it edgewise. Why, sir, you couldn't budge that kind of a layout with four times the pressure in cylinders four times as big. You couldn't"

"But, hold on, Skeevers; where's your saddle, and what is that sewer on top of the steam chest for?" asked the Old Man, pointing to the sketch.

"Oh, yes; why, properly speaking, there will be no saddle, as we know it. On the bottom of the smoke arch, which will not be all cut away as it is now, we will rivet - rivet, mind you - two flanged steel plates practically the shape of the sides of our present saddle. These two sheets of pressed steel will have flanges at the bottom that set down flat on the deck plate, and their edges will abut against the cylinder lugs. I will hold them down with four or six bolts; the front and back can be closed by plates of any thickness, either fastened to the side pieces or not. When I want to take my boiler off, I shall take out the bottom bolts, knock off her rear anchors and lift it off - saddle and all - with the crane. One saddle fitted in boiler shop when the engine is new will outlast the boiler. The center plate can be wide enough to fill between the frames if necessary. My steam pipes will come from the nigger-head straight toward the bottom of arch, and then turn, going through side of arch, and have a ground joint on side of chest. That 'sewer' is the exhaust pipe. The valve will be balanced and the back cut out of it; and the exhaust steam, instead of going up under the valve, down into the exhaust port into the saddle, and then up to the nozzle, will come up out of the cylinder, up through the valve, and up through the pipe and the stack - no turns, no baffles. This may not look pretty, but it's ideal piping. Don't you see that there isn't a trap or a pocket in it anywhere. A drop of water in either the steam or exhaust pipe must run, by gravity, into the cylinder and out of the cylinder cock. I may have to make my valve a little larger; but if I do, I will shorten my steam ports and decrease the useless clearance. I think such a plan would stop all trouble with cracked cylinders; stop leaky steam pipes and broken frames, cylinders getting loose; reduce the expense of replacing a broken cylinder by half; be lighter and better and - well, homelier than anything we've got. What do you think?"

"Sure it would know it belonged to the railroad when it looked in the glass?"

"I think perhaps it would recognize itself as a locomotive."

"Don't think it would suck cows, or nothin' like that, Skeevers?"

"Alas and alack!" exclaimed the designer, in mock despair. "I knew you would not see the improvement - plain as it is. I am like all the rest of the benefactors of mankind - ridiculed, laughed at. Why, Mr. Wider, in the language of Colonel Sellers, 'there's millions in it'; millions of kegs of dollars - and two 12-inch bungholes in each keg!"

"Take another cigar, my boy; it will quiet your nerves," said Old Frosty. "Lemme see that sketch again. Looks kinder English, er French, er some kind of foreign. Say, Skeevers, I want one of them to run on that club train - them anglo-maniacs that smoke pipes, roll up their pants and play golf. Bet you it would just tickle 'em to death. We could name her 'Prince of Wales,' or 'Lord Algernon,' or something - but say, Jim, what kind of a checker-board is this?"

"That is the front frame of the 'Prince of Wales.' You see, it will be 2 x 8 in front, and I taper it back, keeping the same area of metal, and near the jaw widen it in a vertical direction, cut away half of it, and do the same for the frame ahead of the jaw, and bolt them together with short stiff bolts. I have then a frame with twice tlie strength of the ordinary frame, without keys, with less fitting than the old splice, as shown in the sketch below. I can take that apart easily, and it is not in the way of anything. Again, it lets me widen the foot of the jaw and cut a wide slot, say 2/2 inches, clear across it to take in a lip I will make on my binder. Did you ever notice our regular binder? Well, it is heavy; but we cut it almost half in two to make a fit over the end of the jaw, then we bore a hole in the weakest point to hold it up - it's no wonder they are chronically loose. My binder will have a stud-hole through the strongest part - where the rib is - and the rest of it will be straight. I will put one big stud there, and it will pull up right in the proper spot, and keep pulling."

"Do all these changes necessarily go with the new cylinder rig?"

"No; but they are in the line of improvement"

"Skeevers," said the old man, solemnly, "you may now kneel down and receive my blessing; I'll just have one of the new engines built your way."

"You go down East with a drawing of that in your pocket and the builders will have you put in the asylum."

"Well, what would you do?"

"I'd quietly put it on the '38'; she's in with both cylinders and her front frames smashed up, anyway, and we can experiment with her."

"Do that, Skeevers; do that. Be quiet about it, though, and for heaven's sake don't say I told you to!"

"If I rebuild the '38,' she will be the worst example of anti-standards of the G. A. L. that you ever saw!"

"Standards be cussed, by ginger spruce! We'll show 'em some standards that ain't so old as Methuseler! But, Skeevers, listen; if the Sphinx should happen out and I wasn't here?"

"I'd have to say it was the invention of an outsider - one of our biggest shippers, and - well, here we are, home again, sir."

"Say, Skeevers, don't forget, if any of them reporter cusses come around, jest tell 'em - hem! lemme see - well, that we expect to have the yellow fever down on the Gulf branch this year, and that this thing is an automatic sewer deodorizer and atmospheric disinfector, and that the G. A. L. proposes to take care of its patrons, body and soul, yellow fever or no yellow fever!"

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