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I changed out the stack on mine for one that Torry of Pikes Peak made for me. Even my coal fired vertical boiler Shay which has a VERY hot fire didn't like having a screen spark arestor on the stack (although it was a much finer mesh) so I just leave it off. I don't like the look as well but it was a compromise I'll live with.
There are two other open cab Shay's in our merry band of Upstate Steamers and neither of them have any trouble. One, in fact, doesn't even snap, crackle and pop like so many do without Bruce's "spitinator".
Maybe clean it with simple green or other oil solvent periodically to keep the draft flowing?
Have fun,
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