Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Ashpit


Above is a well known 1918 postcard of the Delmar Railroad Yard. Locomotives, when they came into Delmar, were pulled off the main line for a quick service.  In about two hours fires were shaken down and ashpans cleaned out, and fresh fires started.  Then there was oiling, cleaning the engines, polishing the bell on the engine, tightening up, filling the big domes behind the smoke stack with sand (sanding- the big dome is on top of the engine to keep the sand dry) and inspection then the tender is filled with about 18 tons of coal for a run in either direction.   In the center of the postcard is the ashpit.

Closeup of ash pit in postcard

Above is the ashpit in Delmar, just a hole in ground with tracks over top of it.  As coal is shoveled into the fire box

The coal lies on top of a grate and burns.  The ash falls though the grate to an ash pan.  The ashpan could hold about 2,000 pounds of ash.   Sometime the coal being used had a large amount of impurities in it, such as metal ore and that would melt and form with other melted impurities creating large clinkers.  Those clinkers would have to pulled off the grate when the ashpan was dumped into the ashpit.  So the locomotive would pull over top of the ashpit and ashpan would be dropped so the ash went to the ashpit. 

The locomotive would then powerwash off for the remaing ash that didn’t fall into the pit. The above photo is not Delmar

The ashpit would have to cleaned out by railroad laborers and the ash used as ballast under new rail track or sold off as construction material. Again photo below is not Delmar

Since the ashpit was an open hole there was a certain danger working around it.  The workers would usually be paying attention to the train they were working on and not where they were walking.  On occasion they would fall into the pit.  Since the ash was usually still hot from the engine there was danger of having severe burns. Oddly enough there was also the danger of drowning since the pit would fill with water in heavy rains.

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