How a Good Thing Gets Introduced -
James Skeevers, superintendent of motive power of the Great Air Line, was in trouble.
A superintendent of motive power is generally in trouble.
Skeevers has a new general manager, who is young in years and experience and is trying to make a reputation.
Like many other men who inherit or marry a "pull' that puts them in positions of command, the new general manager had an idea that to be familiar with all the details, and run them, would show his ability to swing everything on a big railroad.
The new general manager had been taught in his youth, as most of us have, that old, old chestnut about looking after the pennies and the dollars would look after themselves.
This proverb is good for boys and in the small affairs of life, but it's suicide for a man in charge of a big railroad.
The new general manager had been to a dinner of railroad men, where the irrepressible oil crank read a memoranda of the miles his engines ran on a pint of oil, and showed what a saving in pints his management had made.
Mind you, he didn't say a word about dollars - for the saving in them wouldn't pay his salary for three days.
Well, the new manager took notes of the miles and the pints, and when be got home he compared them with the performance sheet furnished by Skeevers - then he wrote Skeevers a letter.
It wasn't a letter asking if he couldn't get the boys to do better on oil, or if there were any local conditions that prevented a better showing - there wouldn't be any authority in that - it was a letter stating that the amount of oil used was out of all reason and must be stopped at once, that so-and-so many pints for valves and so-and-so many pints for engines was enough - all other roads used, and all this road was going to use; "please see that these instructions are carried out forthwith," etc., etc.
Skeevers read this letter over twice, put his feet on the window-sill and commenced to think.
Skeevers thought of a way out of the difficulty.
There was one way - a first-class machine shop had offered him a job as superintendent; but that seemed like a retreat to Skeevers, and Skeevers is not much of a retreater.
Skeevers came up from the ranks on this very railroad, learned tbe trade in the shops, fired and run engines for years, and knew a lot of things about oil and the craze on skimping it.
For one thing, Skeevers knew that the amount of money wasted in oil was not very large, and he also knew that he could save more dollars in coal than pennies in oil, and yet the oil problem was not to be despised, and must be met.
While he was looking out of the window Jerry Sullivan backed his big mogul down near the office, and took his long-spouted can and two hundred pounds of engineer down to oil 'round.
Jerry is a good careful man with oil, and everything else, and Skeevers watched him.
The Great Air Line furnish the plain, mongrel breed of tin can, with 22-inch spout, a filling plug and, generally, a gob or two of solder around the bottom, where it has been repaired. Jerry started at the back driving-box, made a quick dive with the spout between the spokes, lifted the sheet metal box cover with the spout, and with dexterous turnings of the wrist put the thin oil on wedge and shoe and box packing, and then withdrew the spout with a quick drop of the right elbow - this to stop the flow of oil.
For all this care - and Skeevers couldn't have done it better - there was a nice little canal of oil across the hub of the wheel; but Jerry wiped it off and went on. When it came to the links and eccentrics Jerry couldn't help pouring a steady stream of oil from one small oil hole to another, as it was impossible to stop and start the flow of oil for each. Skeevers watched him oil around and back down for his train, then he went out and looked the ground over.
There was a very complete plan, in oil, of Jerry's engine; every driving-box and truck box, eccentric and link was properly located on the ties.
Skeevers went back and figured that Jerry or the "109" had lost at least a quarter of a pint of oil - and Jerry was probably the carefulest runner on the road.
Then Skeevers figured out that an engine in service gets, probably, three good oilings in a hundred miles, or an average day's work, to say nothing of extras for guides, eccentrics, etc., between times, and that he had in service 217 engines. If he could save the waste in oiling, the engines would not get skimped, and it would make a show.
Skeevers made a bee-line for the tin-shop.
"Josh," said he, "we've got to get up a valve oil can that will shut the spout with a valve and spring, something like this," and Skeevers fished out a pencil and made a rough sketch on a sheet of tin.
Old Josh didn't say a word, but went to a cupboard and got out half a dozen cans, of all shapes and sizes, in all stages of decay - and all of 'em had valves. He picked out one that was a twin sister to the one Skeevers had pictured.
"Well," said Skeevers, "what was the matter with that one? I remember they were tried a long time ago; but I never got one then, for I was running out of Granger, and all the new things were tried up at this end of the road."
"'T wan't no good," said Josh; "least-wise it didn't work, sir; cost twict as much as a good tin can - yes, three times. Allus needed fixin', and the engineers didn't like 'em - dog-goned engineers never do like nothin' new, anyhow," muttered Josh.
Just here John Melvin came into the tinker shop to get a new bottom put into his tallow pot - isn't it curious that the boys will call 'em tallow pots yet, when valve oil superseded tallow fifteen years ago?
"John," said Skeevers, "you were here when all these cans were tried - what's the matter with 'em?"
"Well, sir," said Melvin slowly (Melvin was a careful man), "they were a nuisance, mostly because they were no good anyway, and some because they was made poor and took care of poor. Now, this one, as you can see, has a valve up in the spout; a crooked wire goes down the spout, makes a turn in the can, and comes up through this stuffing box with a thumb button on it. When you press this button the wire pulls the valve down into the spout. If the least bit of waste or ravelin' gets in there it will stop up the can, and you can't get it out - the spout is soldered on.
"Well," continued Melvin, "Massey (the ex-superintendent of motive power) got up this here other can to overcome the objections to that; it's got a big valve right at bottom of spout - flat disk on end of lever opens down. This drizzles about as bad as any can when the valve is shut, because the spout is full of oil. The filling hole is higher than the valve, and in this case was a good brass plug screwed in, with a knurled top. Why, Massey got a patent on that can! He'd a made a go of it 'cept for Doc Kellogg. Didn't you hear of that? Well, Doc was firin' for Jerry Sullivan then; he filled one of them cans one cold day, and run it over, of course (that's the way to tell when they are full); then he screwed down the plug and set it on the boiler-head shelf.
"Well, sir, ten miles this side of the Springs that can busted, and give Doc a shot of hot oil right in the neck as he was puttin' in a scoop of coal. The door bein' open, he took fire and was bad burned - got the marks of it yet. He jumped into a snowbank and saved his life. Jerry climbed out on the running board to get away from the fire, and the '98' had a cab burned off before he got her stopped.
"Old Man Wider came up to the shop the next day, and you ought to a heard him lay down the law to Massey. All the patent cans was took off the engines that night, and we ain't been bothered with em since.
Skeevers went back to his own office.
"Supply man here," remarked his clerk; "left a note for you and a package; said he was going over to see Massey; be back to-morrow."
Skeevers' clerk was very laconic; he was washing up, for it was five minutes of six, and he had a new wife in a new house.
Skeevers opened the note and read: "Mr. Skeevers: Here is an oil can that is all right; take a look at it, try it, criticise it - see you to-morrow.
"P. S. - Price $1.50 each - last three tin cans. R. USHER -"
Skeevers took two cans out of the package - one was cut open on side to show internal economy - looked at them until whistle blew, and then bundled them up and carried them home.
Skeevers spent two hours fooling with that can in his kitchen sink; then he sat down, looked at the sectional one and made notes, until Sarah Skeevers declared for the seven hundred and seventeenth time that if he didn't stop bringing home his worry and work she'd burn every blueprint and smash every brass faucet he brought into the house.
The next morning, after opening his mail, Skeevers took the cans and his note book to the general office. In an interview with the new general manager he told all about his investigation of the waste of oil in getting it on the engines; told the whole story about the old cans that had been tried, and then sprung the new can.
"Now, sir," said Skeevers, warming to his work, "here is the can we need, I think. In the first place, it is made of pressed steel - it will last the life of three tin cans at least. The valve in spout opens up - easy to clean. Valve, rod and spring come off with the spout - get-atable. Fills through spout connection - no plug to leak. Has an air chamber inside that is always open to atmosphere through the lever shaft, which is hollow - but only to can when valve is open. Shuts off oil at right place in right way; engineer can deliver but a drop if wanted. It's a mechanical job, ground joints - no leather gaskets, no packing, to wear out or get lost and make the point of spout point toward handle of can. There are no 'jim-cracks' to get out of order; the whole thing from tip to base is made of No.22 B. W. G. steel; couplings are all brass; spring is bronze, and the whole thing is nickel plated. Why, sir, the meanest engineer on the road would take care of that can. Keep it clean, and he couldn't help using it right.
"I think all the saving you want can be made by using these cans - and the engines will actually get and use just as much oil as ever."
"Ahem! How much did you say that can cost, Mr. Skeevers?" asked the new general manager.
"One fifty, sir."
"And the regular cans?"
"From 45 to 70 cents, according to quality."
"And you, a man in charge of an important department, advise me to spend a dollar extra for each oil can on the road, just to prevent careless oiling by your engineers?"
"Well, hardly that. I ran an engine on this road for more than ten years. I know it is impossible to oil around with a plain can without wasting some oil, especially in getting can to and from awkward places like the links, eccentrics and truck boxes."
"Mr. Skeevers," said the new general manager, with a cynical smile, "this is not the Pennsylvania. We have no money to burn on fads and nickel-plated notions."
The new general manager looked at a card his clerk handed him, and added:
"I shall take up this matter of extravagance in oil personally; in fact, I have already done so - tell him to come in."
Skeevers decided that he was dismissed, and he took his temper and his oil cans back to the shop. On the way to his office he went through the roundhouse, and noticed an indignation meeting of engineers in front of the bulletin board.
The new general manager had posted a red-hot notice about oil economy, with a stinger in every line of it. This was not the first time the new general manager had gone over his head in things mechanical.
Skeevers went to his office and wrote three letters; here they are:
"Mr. M. I. Toping, G.M., G. A. L. Ry.:
"Mr. Jno. Davis, Pres. Davis Manufacturing Company:
Mr. Robt. McVicar, Denver, Colo.: