Fireless engine called up for duty
The start of the First World War in the summer of 1914 stimulated a wave of new ideas and technologies designed to assist on the battlefield. Engineers played a huge part in this, putting forward novel designs that would help boost war-time efforts.
One seemingly small, yet important contribution was the use of the fireless locomotive. The Engineer’s 1914 archive describes one such vehicle that was supplied to the Admiralty for use at an explosives depot where traditional locomotives posed a serious safety risk.
’The locomotive, as indicated by its name, is without fire or heating apparatus of any kind,’ said the article. ’Its reservoir, which is partly filled with water, is charged with high-pressure steam from a boiler placed outside the danger zone. The locomotive is taken to this charging station from time to time as required.’
Designed by Andrew Barclay, Sons and Co of Caledonia Works, Kilmarnock, the fireless locomotive is described as standing for 12 hours in ordinary air temperatures with only a small loss of steam. The Engineer added: ’It could run back to the charging station under a very low steam pressure, say, 15lb per square inch.’
The article continued: ’The locomotive is easily handled and acts in exactly the same way as an ordinary steam locomotive. The engine is not only fireless, but the rubbing surfaces, such as the brake blocks, and impact points, such as the buffers are rendered sparkless by the use of special facings’.
Between 1910-1961, Andrew Barclay produced 114 vehicles and became the major British builder of fireless locomotives. Today, more than 20 of these fireless locomotives designed by various manufacturers are preserved in the UK.