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There is no benefit in large ash pit capacity if engines cannot be handled freely to and from the pit. For satisfactory and dependable ash pit service, a well planned and generously proportioned track layout is absolutely essential. The operating demands are given in the "Summary" and will not be stated here except to emphasize the advantage in giving preferred attention to certain engines which can be done readily where there are three or more tracks over the ash pit and to emphasize the absolute need of standing room off the pit, so that engines may be moved forward even though the turntable is in use. Where several separate pits or conveyor units are used, a careful check of the layout should be made for freedom of engine movements, switching of cars and slight movement of loads and empties to avoid need of switching.

Ash pit layouts are built to condition power for revenue service. The greater and more exacting the demands for high class service, the more justification for high cost per engine handled. The most economical ash pit is not necessarily the one of lowest cost per engine, but the one that gives certain required operating service without needless investment or expense. At the same time, the number of engines handled year in and year out at a large terminal make the cost per engine an important consideration. Such cost per engine properly includes operating cost, maintenance, interest on the investment and depreciation or obsolescence. For temporary investments over five to ten years the obsolescence charge may be a material factor in the choice of a pit.

A check of operating payroll costs at quite a number of ashpits of different types, seemed to show no such radical difference in cost per engine as might logically be expected from the different designs. Your Committee then decided to make more extended checks of cost over a 28-day period for each common type of pit. The railroads very generally assisted in making such a check and the results are given in tabular form in Exhibit "A,” “Cost of Cleaning Fires and Loading Ashes Into Cars.” The reported costs were in response to the following request: “Report total payroll cost due to cleaning above number of locomotive fires and handling ashes into cars. (Do not include supervision, overhead expense, or any maintenance charges for power and upkeep. If men are employed also on other work, include only such part of their wages as is due to cleaning fires and handling ashes.)” Kind of locomotive was requested by cylinder diameter, stroke and wheel arrangement rather than by grate area, as it was thought doubtful if proper reply would be received if grate area were requested and also because grate areas would not indicate class of power to many operating officials.

Careful examination of the submitted costs will show how unwise and unfair it would be to try, with this small amount of data, to draw any conclusions as to the most economical type of ash pit. The lowest cost reported would be increased four times but for employment of . forces on other work. The highest cost is due to special service and is not fairly comparable with that at any other terminal. The variation in these reported costs, even for the same type of pit on the same road with similar power, indicates how easy it is for interested parties or those with strong opinions and prejudices, to find plenty of data to

support their contentions. In spite of the unfairness of direct comparison,
average figures by type of pit are interesting and are here given for what
they may be worth.

(This data not fairly comparable for reasons given in text.)

No. of No. of Fires Average Cost
Type of Pit

Terminals Cleancd per Engine Robertson and N. & W. Conveyor. 14


80.2c Deep Water


95.1c Shallow Water


14,205 87.7c Depressed Track


99.60 Miscellaneous


20,439 117.9c

All Types

95 161,544

97.3c The unfairness of comparison with cost data at lower labor rates and somewhat smaller engines can be inferred from report of similar costs made in 1915 covering five terminals (two water pits and three depressed track pits) for 7,013 fire cleanings, where the cost was 28.5c, 33.1c, 35.0c, 42.0c and 61.3c, respectively.

The cost of cleaning a locomotive fire so far as discharging the ashes into the pit are concerned is a matter of labor rates, supervision, etc., and may be thought of as independent of the type of pit, or the cost of ash removal into cars. However, if engines do not arrive at a terminal at a fairly uniform rate, the fire cleaners will have much idle time. The use of this time to reduce cost of handling ashes into cars is what helps some types to be economical at small terminals and yet uneconomical at large terminals. Again, fixed charges, that is, interest on the investment and depreciation or obsolescence, must be divided according to number of engines handled, which makes it very difficult to say one type of pit will add 10 cents per engine for fixed charges and another 20 cents. As an extreme illustration, on one road a double deep water pit about 50 feet long is handling nearly three times the number of engines that use another similar pit over twice as long. The first pit is entirely too small and the second one has ample capacity for the next 15 years. Here the feature of capacity and not type of pit makes a difference in fixed charges per engine of nearly 600 per cent.

So far as selection of type of pit is influenced by low cost per engine, there apparently will always be differences of opinion which can be supported under some conditions and cannot under others.

As discussed more completely in the "Summary,” your Committee believes that true economy of railroad operation requires that the ashhandling plant and layout be designed most carefully and liberally, to give required service at all times and under all conditions. Low cost per engine is important, but should not be considered as against reasonable expense to secure dependability of operation and ample excess capacity to care for future growth of traffic or unusual operating demands.

The following “Summary" is submitted as a more complete statement of essential information regarding ash pits and is recommer.ded for adoption and printing in the Manual.

Summary Ash pits in use at engine terminals throughout the United States and Canada and methods used to remove and dispose of ashes from locomotive ash pans vary greatly. They reflect controlling conditions of an operating, climatic, financial or physical nature, and also show great difference of opinion among those responsible for the selection and construction of ash pit arrangements.

Operating conditions require that nearly all freight engines and, in exceptional cases, passenger engines clean fires and dump ash pans on the road between engine terminals. At the terminals, the number of engines handled varies from a few up to several hundred, and even at large terminals, there is great difference in operating requirements due to character of traffic, number of diverging main lines and proximity to large yards and industrial centers. Freight engines often arrive in "Aeets." Engines in passenger and fast freight service require preferred attention to protect train schedules.

Climatic conditions vitally affect the supply and dependability of fire cleaners and ash pit men, who must work in the open in all kinds of weather. Some ash pits fill up with snow or ice in severe winter weather, and cars loaded with ashes freeze so solid as almost to prevent unloading at reasonable cost.

The financial condition of a railroad is often the controlling feature in the construction of ash pit layouts, some railroads being in position to expend considerable sums of money to reduce maintenance and operating costs and to avoid risks to interruption of service, while other roads for financial reasons are compelled to install pits of least first cost. Often facilities for ash disposal have been outgrown, but expenditures for new construction are not warranted until consideration can be given to an entirely new terminal layout. In some cases, operating conditions are not sufficiently definite to justify permanent construction.

Physical conditions at terminals such as topography, nature of foundations available, drainage, cost and character of construction materials and proximity of waste banks are obviously important considerations.

Where personal opinion seems to govern in the selection of an ash pit, the judgment of engineers and operating officials seems to vary most as to:

(a) Method of quenching fires.

(b) The extent to which satisfactory ash pit operation is dependent upon freedom from interference from other terminal operations.

(c) The extent of provisions to assure freedom from breakdown and possibility of continued satisfactory operation under abnormal or unexpected demands.

Types of Ash Pits

Methods of ash disposal and types of ash pits may be classified under six general types or groups as follows:

(1) Ashes discharged directly onto ordinary track construction, and thence removed by hand to waste banks or cars. This method is most generally used with ashes dumped on line of road.

(2) Ashes discharged into shallow pits 12 to 30 inches deep, with the rails supported either on non-combustible walls or on metal ties. This method is used at very small terminals and in some yards located distant from regular engine terminals.

(3) The depressed track pit, where engines discharge ashes onto a platform a few feet below the rails, from which the ashes are shoveled into cars on an adjacent depressed track. This type of pit is in general use throughout the country at terminals handling from a few up to one hundred or more engines per day.

(4) Deep water pits, where ashes are discharged into a pit 8 to 15 feet deep, nearly full of water, from which the ashes are loaded into cars with clam shell buckets operated by various types of cranes. This type of pit is in general use at terminals handling from forty up to three hundred engines per day.

(5) Shallow water pits where the ashes are discharged into long shallow pits constructed between the rails and nearly filled with water, from which the ashes are removed with clam shell buckets operated by overhead traveling cranes. This type of pit is in use at terminals handling from fifty to one hundred and sixty engines per day.

(6) Pits where ashes are discharged into hoppers or a series of buckets, and thence removed by a great variety of mechanical arrangements. Among these in common use are the Robertson and N. & W. types, where the hoppers discharge into skips which are hoisted with ables on an incline track, and dumped into cars placed on an adjacent track. Another common arrangement has an underground chamber or tunnel built transversely to the tracks with track hoppers located above. A small car operates in this chamber to receive the ashes from the hoppers, and is itself operated to the end of the chamber where it is either dumped or hoisted and discharged into an ash car placed on an adjacent track. Most of these special mechanical arrangements are in use at terminals which handle from twenty to one hundred or more engines per day.

When Robertson or N. & W. type conveyors are used, the larger terminals require the installation of several units.

For a more detailed description and discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of these various types of pit, and for a tabulation of seventyfour representative pits in service throughout the country, see Proceedings of 1921, Vol. 22, pages 622 to 647 inclusive.

Locomotive Fire Cleaning

Ash pit design and layout must be based upon a correct understanding of the methods used and work done in cleaning locomotive fires, and the actual operating requirements surrounding such work. The essential facts are as follows:

As locomotives are handled over ash pits, fires may be dumped entirely to allow boiler washing, inspection and repairs or to stand engines "dead,” fires may be cleaned and banked so that engines may be quickly placed in service; fires may be thoroughly cleaned and engines, especially switch engines, be returned immediately to service, or fires may be re-cleaned as engines with banked fires leave the engine house outbound to be placed in service. Proper terminal operation requires that all engines have fires cleaned without unavoidable delay, and demands that certain engines, such as switch engines, short turn freight and passenger engines, have fires cleaned immediately following arrival at the ash pit tracks. Usually two men work together cleaning a fire, one man in the locomotive cab shaking the grates, and pulling clinkers out of the fire door, and the other man on the ground, dumping the ash pan. With the larger engines, three men can often work to advantage, and often a fourth man can be used for a few minutes only.

The laws of both Canada and the United States require locomotives to be equipped so that ash pans can be dumped or emptied without the necessity of any employe going under them. With most engines, ashes are dropped by gravity, while with a certain proportion of engines, possibly ten per cent, the ashes are discharged by flushing and blowing them out with water and steam from one or more blowers connected with the boiler. Up on the sides of the ash pans, ashes are apt to pack hard, and these usually have to be pushed and washed down by men working on the ground at the side of the engine. This requires suitable piping for hand hose, although part of the washing is done with the overflow from injectors. Some locomotives have ash pans which discharge ashes both outside and between the track rails, but this is an unusual arrangement, and most engines have only inside ash pans with from one to three hoppers. The width of discharge openings seldom exceeds twenty-four to twenty-seven inches. The length out to out of discharge openings of hoppers varies generally from a few feet up to eight feet, with some engines having a greater length, up to ten feet. Some ash pans discharge on a slope, and ashes pile up beyond the edge of the hopper openings. As a general statement covering the classes of engines in common use, ashes may be said to be discharged from an area two feet wide by ten feet long. Receiving hoppers or pits should be enough longer to properly take care of the spread of the ashes, and to allow for not less than two feet variation in spotting engines.

The amount of ashes per locomotive is a vital feature of design. It varies greatly, according to the grade of coal, local operating conditions, length of run, and proportion of engines with small and large grate areas. It also varies according to the character of cleaning done; that is,

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