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Ok, here's a question for you old-time steam experts out there. When did locomotive builders, railroads, etc. begin installing a deck plate at the back of locomotive cabs? It seems that the older engines I've seen do not have them, but by the time of steel cabs they were standard equipment. Also, would older engines hae been retrofitted, or would they remain unadorned until the end of their days?
 

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Hi Jim,

The tender deck plate is a (generally) slightly curved plate that is fixed to the back of the cab footplate, and is pivoted – this plate fills the gap between the cab and tender, and rests of top of the front plate of the tender. Early ones were almost flat: I wonder if the were sometimes caught on the tender, or perhaps the edges of the firemans boots did?

It will stop the fireman getting his boot caught in the gap which changes in size as the loco and tender move, for instance on curves but they can do it on straights as well!

Here in the UK they were in use from 1870 or so (from photos).

Looking carefully in the book on Baldwin Locomotives I think there is one on a wood cabbed consolidation from 1881. They are difficult to see with your narrow american style cabs (depressed centers, which were on top, or possibly below the top edges with some loco's, of the bar frames, with higher sides above the driving wheels ), as the rear support brackets get in the way of seeing them!

Cabs like this I think would have had a narrow version of them, possibly slightly wider the the depresses center: though I am not sure. Rear photos of the cabs are a bit 'thin on the ground'.
 

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Dear Peter, The term is "fall plate" and as you say hinged onto the loco cab footplat and rose and fell as the tende moved about. yes the fireman sometimes lost the heel on his boots if he got caught in an open part. The edge towards the tender had recesses to allow for movement so as not to bind on the tender handbrake or waterscoop handle. Sometimes when we went into collieries with tight curves we would hold the "fall plate up to prevent it getting buckled. Another use for this plate, it prevented coal from the tender shovelling chute falling down onto the track.
For the young diesel gentemen the firemans job description could be -manual fuel transferer !
Jim Brodie potential steam engine cleaner.
 

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Whether they were retrofitted or not I do not know, but I know we have engines at the B&O museum that date back to 1848 (the Memnon) that have deck plates. The Lafayette replica (1927 copy of an 1837 loco) also has one, whether this was copied from the original or not, I do not know. When I was at the throttle of the William Mason a few years back my fireman did get his heel caught by the deck plate in a tight curve. No injuries, but it can be a tad unnerving.
 

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I imagine they came into use when somebody related to somebody significant had an accident.
 
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