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The Craft of the Fireman

Details

As C Hamilton Ellis once said: "A good journey by steam is a realised work of art." In the heyday of steam, many millions of tons of coal were burnt annually by the railway companies, so any small improvement in the thermal efficiency of the locomotives could have a significant effect on the balance sheet. To this end, locomotive engineers tried a number of innovations over the years, most of which were abandoned on the grounds of additional costs of construction and maintenance. Probably not many people are aware that the biggest improvement could have been effected if the overall standards of firing had been brought nearer those of the best firemen. Footplate observations in steam days showed that some firemen used twice as much coal as the best firemen on the same duty. As a corollary to Hamilton Ellis's comment, top firemanship is an art in itself; The Craft of the Fireman helps to explain why.
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