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Another person posted on water tower bands, which triggered me to ask the question, "How'd they keep those towers from freezing up in very cold weather?" I assume the small structure underneath housed the pumps, but they'd freeze even faster.

Thanks,

Les W.
 

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Damn, I must have missed that episode!
 

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In places like Maine, they completely enclosed them in another structure, which then included a coal stove for heating the inside of that structure. Yard hands were tasked with keeping the stove stoked to keep the water from freezing 24/7 during winter. Keep in mind the stove wasnt there to keep the insides toasty, all they had to do was keep it above freezing, so if it was only a sultry 40 degrees, thats all that mattered.



Typical Maine enclosed water tower
 

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Hi,

They didn't really have pumps - it was set up so gravity did the job if at all possible!

The box from the ground to the underside of the tank was called a frost box and could contain a stove, but more likely is insulation on the water main riser, feeding water in (assisted by the pump IF, fitted.

The tank feed therefore had to be arranged from as high as possible, when taken from a river(therefore very low level) there was a separate pumphouse, that had a boiler and a steam pump inside it; plus storage for the boilers fuel.




Keeping the boiler/pumphouse separate was for safety, boilers can have nasty habits of blowing up!




Here is my pumphouse being built - it was not finished at this stage. Note the proximity to the tank, there should be a pie from the pumphouse to the tank, mine is supposed to be undergrounfd, thay could be in the open though. The book on the CCRR (Up Clear Creek on the Narrow Gauge) is ny source of plans and has just been re-printed if that area covers your interest. It is about HO gauge but the plans can sson be enlarged!
 

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One other early method of feeding water to the tank was done by windmill, but it proved to be unreliable long term.
 

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The dog was just refered to as "dog", but was played by "Higgins" who went on to play "Benji" with Edgar Buchannon (Uncle Joe) in the movies.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Peter,


The approach you are using is, overall, the most sensible representation of real-world conditions. I'm aware that gravity was the preferred method--but. Streams and rivers aren't at a constant level, let alone located above a tank, speaking gravity. Obvious, but neglected. And many places must've been w/o such handy sources. As one who's seen rivers go dry 'that never happened before' (ca 1954) I doubt a revenue-must-generate business (a RR) would depend wholly on that.

One salient consideration has escaped mention: the valve that lowering the spout actuated. I know from personal experience that valves freeze up pretty quickly. The volume of water in the tank would likely be the last thing to freeze, in fact, I suspect it rarely--if ever--happened because that'd tend to spring the wooden sides of the tank. (The only kind I'm interested in).

My RR, set ca1875, is going to be low budget (crude) from the get-go. I remember this 'old guy' who related to me how they'd take the head off a huge Fairbanks-Morris that provided electric for the small town and the RR, heat the piston red hot w. a blowtorch, put it all back together and try to start it. Sometimes it took a crew all day to get it going. I'm not talking just RR needs, but the town pumps, because many homes/businesses didn't have wells and depended on City Water.

Thank you for taking time to post your thoughts.

Les
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Vic,

Yeah, and I intend to use that method too on my layout. But it passes by the question of freezing tanks....
As an old farmer I have a lot of exprience with weather extremes. Had I thought more conscisely, I'd have specified the spout valve. Now, I understand steam engines (are there any other kind?
) needed water frequently and had a 'steam outlet' of some sort on the boiler. Maybe they used boiler steam to unstick frozen valves?

Thanks for taking time to post.

Les
 

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Not quite on topic, but...

From:
“The Story of American Railroads”,
by Stewart H. Holbrook,
Crown Publishers, New York,
Copyright 1947.
(Chapter V, The work of the Age.)

“Some of the farmers must have sat up nights figuring how to trim the Erie. One of them, who had a worthless place on a hill near Middletown, heard that the road was looking for good sources of water for the engines. The road ran through this farmer’s place, and at one spot went through a cut where the ground was higher than the locomotive. On a level spot above this site the farmer dug a sizable reservoir, lined it with clay, and by means of small ditches and a little patience, filled the depression with good rain from heaven. Then he called on President Loder of the Erie, who happened to be in Middletown. He told Loder that he, the farmer, was a most fortunate man indeed, in that God had put on his fine farm a wonderful pond of never failing water, fed by deep springs; that the pond was handy to the Erie tracks and that for a consideration of $2,500, modest in view of the circumstances, he would sell to the Erie all rights to the pond.

“Loder and Major Brown, the Erie’s chief engineer, went to look, and sure enough there was a pond of water sufficient to fill the tanks of all the locomotives possessed by Erie. They paid the man his $2,500, and set a crew to work laying iron pipe from the pond to a tank built beside the tracks. When the valve was opened, the tank filled up wonderfully fast, but in doing so the pond went stark dry, and dry it remained."
--

Back to the question. Some tanks did not have a "valve" other than a flexible coupling (leather hose). When the spout was "up" the water just reached a level point below the raised opening of the spout... water flowed when the spout was lowered... of course that could (and did) freeze in cold weather. Others had the valve deep in the tank where the water itself would insulate it. The tanks seldom froze all the way through, but the part that froze could deplete the amount of liquid water available to fill the tender. In areas where there were sustained freezing temperatures the tanks had heater shacks adjacent to them, but where the weather was milder the tank held enough water that it never froze all the way through.
 

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I think they were pretty effective when full of hot coke, which gives out a very good heat. The 'ole devils' were used for a great part of the time over the years steam locos operated in the UK. I am sure there were occasions due to wind and unusually low temperatures ( for the UK) that they were not. But as most stations had water supplies there was soon, not far up or down the line, another place that water could be obtained.

We don't have the extreme cold and long distances that are encountered in the States.


There was something quite exciting about standing near to a brazier on a cold night. As a youngster, when watchmen guarded road works here, they always had a small open tent with the brazier plus cups of tea and toast. That was, of course, in a more civilized period of time.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
Allen,

Yes, there's a good deal of cold weather in the US. Down in the Missouri Ozarks, in a hard winter, I've seen running creeks freeze to a good three or four inches, enough for boys to skate on. Across the shoals, the water froze solid. And that country is definitely not known for extended cold. The prairies, and especially the Rocky Mtns, get seriously cold.

I'm aware the tanks likely wouldn't freeze all the way through. It's enough if the valve freezes, though, and there's always a danger of 'springing' the tank walls.

In all the pixes of water tanks I've seen, there never was shown a method of warming the water. Or, it was there and not identified.

Opps! Wife is rattling my food dish!


Les
 
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