Operating a QJ type steam locomotive

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Last update February 2011


This page assumes you are driving a steam engine under supervision of the actual driver of the engine. Most of what I write here is generally applicable to any type of Chinese steam locomotive.


Tasks when entering the locomotive

The first thing everyone shall do when entering a steam locomotive is to check the water level in the boiler. In a QJ there shall be visible water above the bottom of the water level gauges. The water level should move a little. If it is not moving, the canal between the boiler and the water level gauge might be closed by dirt, and then the water level shown may be misleading, a fact which endangers safety.

You also check if the brakes are engaged (the direct brake - the rightmost and uppermost of the two brake handles - should be in the brake or neutral (hold) position and there should be pressure in the brake cylinder - look at the pressure gauge, the red hand should not be at zero!). If this is not the case, the hand brake on the tender front wall may be engaged. Some brake must be engaged!

Finally, check that the throttle is closed and the cutoff at zero. Cylinder valves should also be open, in order to drain any condensing water that is collecting in the cylinders.

These are the most important safety tasks. When taking over an engine, you will actually inspect the whole engine, check for leaks in the firebox and other places in the boiler and check all other equipment. But this is not described here.

You should also inspect if there is steam (steam pressure should be more than 500 kPa (5 Bar) if any movement by the engine's own power is planned) and if there is water in the tender to refill the boiler.

A driver side picture is here.

A drawing of the whole cab (copied from China Rail's QJ manual) is here . A drawing of the valves on top of the boiler, for all the help engines etc. is here.

How to start

Before starting: Make sure you have enough steam pressure and the fire is good. Otherwise wait. After you have a green signal (only after that!): Warm the cylinders (at least after longer stops). Do this the following way: Brake the locomotive (direct brake). Open the cylinder valves. Open the throttle just a little. Very careful. Then set the cutoff all the way to the front, look if steam and water comes out of the cylinder valves. Then, after some 10 seconds, put the cutoff all the way back, observe the cylinders. If the locomotive tries to start, immediately shut off steam. Repeat this procedure a few times. This will assure the cylinder walls are warmed up and less steam will condense when you actually start driving. This will increase power output and decrease water production in the cylinders.
At this time, the assistant driver's task is to pump cylinder oil into the lubrication pointsd at the cylinders. This is done by giving the cylinder oil pump (right hand side of the engine) about 30 turns.

You should only start the engine after being given a signal to do so. When starting a train, the green signal you see in front of you is not enough. You get your start signal from the station master or the conductor. For any shunting movement you normally also get the signal from a shunting conductor, sometimes through the radio.

Answer this (and any other) signal with a short blow in the airhorn. (Any signal you get is answered by a short blow in the horn). Make sure it is safe to move in the direction you want to move. It is your responsibility to check, even if you got a signal.

Signaling if you are driver of the first of two engines on a train: Blow the horn one long tone. Listen until the second engine answers with one long tone. Then blow one short tone. Then start.
If you drive the second engine: wait for the long tone from the first engine, answer it with a long one, wait until the first engine blows another short tone. As the second engine you can also forget about the brake, as it will be switched off (to be controlled from the first engine). But make sure your own locomotive brake is not engaged!

By the way: They use the horn at stations and depots, and the whistle only under way on the line. It seems the whistle is only used if the engine men really want to make sure it is heard from a distance that a train is coming.

Controlling slipping

The QJ will slip when trying to pull too hard. This happens especially at speeds below 20 km/h, in curves and at points. It may also happen at places along the line where the rails are wet or icy (beware of bridges and tunnels, and high snow in winter). Slipping means the machine tries to pull the wheels round, but the wheels do not have enough friction against the rails, and then turn round fast. This means three things: (1) while slipping, the engine nearly does not pull at the draw bar, (2) the machinery may be destroyed by the fast turning, (3) it costs unnecessary steam.

So how do you control this?

One way is by giving less steam pressure, i.e. less opening of the throttle. In most cases, when the train is moving at more than 10 km/h speed, a half open throttle is quite safe in that way. However, the locomotive will then work at lower power output.
When you drive a heavy train in an upslope, however, you will find that there is a certain maximum steam pressure (throttle opening) you can give without slipping. The throttle opening you can operate safely is more on straight line than in curves and tunnels. Less throttle opening, however, reduces the locomotive power output and the train may slow down. In order to increase tractive effort, you may then increase the cutoff. (This is not economical, see actual driving)

Another way to control slipping is sanding. Above and in front of the brake valves, there is a small lever which controls a mechanism to put sand on the rails. If slipping is not too bad, you can control it just by giving sand. Do not sand continuously. Give some sand every few secondsat a time, and only at the spots where slipping is bad (in a curve, on a point, in a tunnel or so). The problem with sand is that it increases the wear and tear on the rails and the locomotive. Sand is an enemy of any mechanical assembly. Never give sand when the locomotive is slipping heavily! Cut off the steam supply then or reduce the cutoff!

Sanding is done by moving the sand lever to the front (for forward movement) or back (for sanding behind the wheels) a few seconds at a time. Do not sand continuously, as this just uses unnecessary amounts of sand. Thus, you give short blows of sand every few seconds, about one turn of the wheel, and put the level in vertical position in between.

In general, if you want to drive with maximum tractive effort, you should open the throttle at straight parts of the line (and reduce cutoff), and shut it a little when going into curves, points and tunnels (and increase cutoff).

If real heavy slipping occurs, shut off steam totally. Open the cylinder valves (this helps the excess steam get away). Carefully and slowly open for steam again after slipping has finished.

Slipping may have a worse reason: Priming. Then, water instead of steam will enter from the throttle opening into the superheater and evaporate explosion like. The cylinders will get a lot of saturated steam at full pressure and work wildly. Additionally, water may be entering the cylinders and condensation is high. The cylinder and valve oil film is destroyed. In this case, closing the throttle, reducing the cutoff to zero and opening the cylinder valves may help. To avoid taking water you should not open up steam fast, but always do so gradually.

Some locomotives are extremely slippery. The actual cause is deep furrows in the wheels. Newly repaired engines have nice flat wheel rings, without wear and tear, and they run nicely up grades. However, if there has gone some time, the area where the wheels touch the rail is more and more run down, making the locomotives more and more slippery. I found furrows up to 3 mm deep. Then even more or less continuous sanding doesn't help. Your only way to run such engines is reducing the throttle opening (and increasing cutoff).

Actual driving

This section describes both driving with steam and cruising without steam, not driving downhill and using the brakes.

The most economical way to drive a steam engine is to fill the cylinders with full pressure steam and use a low cutoff, thus letting the steam expand in the cylinders. This saves steam and coal. Full throttle and low cutoff should thus be the typical way of driving. If you do not need full power, just reduce the cutoff. However, this driving style increases the mechanical wear and tear in the engine, as you get full pressure on the driving rods and axle boxes four times for every wheel turn. One problem with the QJ is that axle boxes and crankpins are underdimensioned for full steam pressure driving. This means they will suffer a lot more wear and tear than is good for them, if you drive at full steam pressure for long periods.

For minimizing maintenance of the axle boxes and rod bearings, another driving style is optimal: Lower steam pressure and high cutoff. You get a much more even power distribution on the mechanics this way, but it costs a lot of steam to get the same power out of the engine.

So what do you do in practice? It depends. Every driver has his own style. But they all drive according to some compromise. Cutoff below 30% is seldom used. Below 25% I have never seen. Most drivers open the throttle maximum 80% and use 30% cutoff at level sections with high constant speed, and 40% to 50% in upslopes or when accelerating. Sometimes they use 50-55% cutoff on steeper sections or when low speed requires lower steam pressure (see controlling slipping). Many drivers use a constant 40% to 50% cutoff when driving freights, and only change this when starting a train. I have seen drivers who just let the engine work with throttle and cutoff in one position, all the way from Linxi to Shangdian, and who look like they are sleeping when sitting there. They kind of awake just at the right place, where they have to radio the next station or observe some signals. Mostly the engines will slip a little but find their pace again by themselves.

It all depends on your actual situation. You may use full throttle driving for short periods, just before starting an upslope, to get some extra speed. With full throttle and 40% or more cutoff, the QJ really jumps forward, it is like an explosion of power. At night you may see sparks flying from the chimney like in a volcanic explosion.

If you are in the middle of an upslope, and there is no immediate end to the upslope, you see that the water level is low and steam pressure falling, and you need power, you rather open up the throttle and use LESS cutoff. However, if you have got enough steam and need more power, you rather use higher cutoff. After all, it is all a balance between driving economy and maintenance economy.

If your steam pressure and water level are really low, you may try to let the other engine work and shut completely off to cook water. You may do this at flat places, like when passing stations. Open the blower for that time. Another trick is to close the warm water pump for some time. But be careful to observe the water level then!

You may sometimes open the cylinder valves for some seconds, in order to blow out condensed water. This especially in winter.

To shut off steam, see here. Cruising is done with steam shut off and cutoff at about 15 to 25 % in the direction you are rolling.

When opening steam again,

You do not need to hold the throttle all the time. It is kept in position by a little lock at its handle, and a tooth plate. (On some engines however, the lock is not very good and the throttle will slowly but steadily close itself from the vibrations during running).

Every now and then you want to blow out the sludge which gathers at the bottom of the boiler. They normally do this every half hour or so, at elevated places where there is no danger to hit people or animals when they blow out hot water at the boiler sides. It is better to do this often and little than seldom and much. The handle to do this is located in front of the cutoff handle. Look first if there is someone along the line. If everything is clear, open up by pulling it back, close by powerfully pushing it to the front. The name of the valve: "Feng Shui Fa". Blowing is done for a second or two each time.

If you need to signal to the other machine that it should give more power, the signal is one long blow, followed by one short blow, with the whistle. The other machine should answer this signal with a short blow. If the other machine signals one long and one short, you should increase the power output of your engine.

Signals on your way

You have to observe some signals on the line.

One common signal is the whistle signal. (A square with its tip with the Chinese character "ming" in it). It name is "ming di" (Blow whistle).

Seeing it, you know you are approaching a point of danger, usually a level crossing. The sign is posted 500 to 1000 meters before the point of danger. Blow the whistle one long blow. If you do so, your assistant driver will usually answer by one short blow with the horn. You may use the whistle some more times just before arriving at the actual point of danger.

If you approach a cutting, a tunnel, a large bridge, a level crossing or the entry to a station, people, line work, or any yellow light signal, you whistle one long blow.

If you see people or large animals on the line, blow the whistle until you see they are moving away, and be prepared to stop.

If you approach parts of the line which have low visibility (such as deep cuttings), blow the whistle.

If you are unsure about anything else, ask the driver.

If you approach a station, your driver will radio the station and hear what signals there will be. You may be able to understand either "ting che" (stop) or "tong guo" (drive through). Locomotive 2 has to radio to acknowledge they have understood the communication. Still, you have to follow the actual signals displayed if not told otherwise by your driver.
You will see light or semaphore signals. Whoever sees a signal first, will tell it to the other people in the cab. Everyone has the obligation to repeat (both the hand sign and the word). This is done for EVERY semaphore or light signal you see, both entry and exit signals for stations!
(Semaphore signals have red arms for the main signals and yellow one for indicating the next signal's picture). Shunting signals you find here.

The locomotives at Jitong railways are all equipped with an electronic safety device (ATS) which will brake the train automatically if you pass a signal and sleep. It will activate a horn some five to seven times after you pass the signal. When the horn starts howling, press the red button nearest to you shortly, and the horn will stop. YOu may have to repeat this a few times. This applies even to signals that are green! I am not sure if the device will check speed reduction if you approach a red signal. (Along the line, there are two magnets, one at 1700 Hz, the other at 120 Hz, like the German Indusi system, activating this).

If you want to observe the points on your way: If you see a blue light, it means that the point is straight (i.e. in its normal position), if you see a yellow light, it means that the point points in the "round" direction.

If you pass a station, you will see the signalmen at the entry and exit to the station, and the station master in the middle of the station. They stand with their face towards you, in "attention" pose. When you pass, they turn 90 degrees and look towards your train. Everyone of them either gets a short blow of your horn (not whistle), or you signal with your hand, waving one time up and down. If the signalmen are on the other side of the engine, your assistant driver does the signaling. Be aware that the driver or assistant driver are required to have the locomotive window open when doing this! If the line crew is not informed that you have an official permit to drive the engine, the locomotive crew will want to take over driving themselves through the station!

After passing the station, locomotive one crew radioes the station again to hear if everything was OK with the train. Locomotive 2 crew acknowledges. Finally the conductor in the conductor car at the end of the train will radio to the egnines if there is still 500 kPa brake pressure at the end of the train ("Hai you wu bai qian pa"). Your driver acknowledges this too.

For every signal for your train way, you blow one short blow with your horn. (It means "I have seen it").

Maximum speed

On Jitong line, maximum speed is 80 km/h, between Galadesitai and Jingpeng 55 km/h. Steam locomotives moving backwards are allowed a maximum speed of 55 km/h (safety regulation paragraph 256). Maximum forward speed of a QJ is 80 km/h.

Shutting off steam

If you need less power, you first reduce cutoff. But if cutoff must be reduced below 30% you rather reduce steam pressure by closing the throttle a bit.

If you need to signal to the other machine that you close steam, and it should do the same, signal one long, followed by two short blows with the whistle ( - .. ).

If you have to close the throttle totally, the procedure is as follows:

Starting the water pumps is important especially when you arrive at a top and start running downwards. While you use steam, the water in the boiler will cook and expand because of the steam bubbles in it. Thus, the water level will be higher than without steaming. When you shut off steam, the water level will thus fall. In addition, when you start driving down slope, the water will flow to the front of the boiler, additionally lowering the level over the firebox. Because the water must never fall below the top of the firebox, you should make sure you have a high water level before starting down slopes. The injector run by the assistant driver (right hand side) is not enough to rise the water level fast enough.

Pumping water into the boiler: There is a whole science about this. Cold water leads to stress in the boiler. Generally it is best to fill water when steaming. If you use no steam, the cold water will not mix with the warm boiler so well. Thus, the injectors should only be used for short periods at a time. Especially when the locomotive is standing still, injectors should be used very shortly. Maybe 30 seconds at a time. They should not be used, either, when starting a train. Don't use the injectors when cleaning ash, because then there is also more than enough cold air through the boiler.

Start the driver side water pump in the following way: Press the lever down into the floor as far as it goes (about 10 cm). You have to stand up to do this, maybe step on a little foot pedal on the lever. This movement opens for the water from the tender. Wait about 10 seconds. Then pull the lever all the way up, about 10 cm higher than the original position. If you get a large cloud of steam, the pump did not start and you have to repeat the whole procedure once more. If you don't get a cloud of steam or the sound of blowing steam, the pump has started. You can hear this also. Shut the pump when the water level gets high enough.

If you roll down for many kilometers, in order to maintain the oil film on the inside of the cylinders, you may need to give a little steam now and then (to move the valve gear and distribute oil).

Applying the brakes

The Chinese freight brakes are identical to the Westinghouse type ET-6 and the controlling valve in steam locomotives is identical to Westinghouse H-6 from 1930. The brakes in freight trains are exhaustible, i.e. you have to fully release them after braking before you can apply them anew. Any increase in air pipe pressure will fully release the brake. This is different from European or modern American brakes, the Chinese freight brakes are NOT gradually releasable! Thus, you need special respect for the brakes in long downhills!

I do not provide you with all details about the brake here. It is in the manual, and you should have studies the principles of train airbrakes before braking trains. The 100 or so pages of material this amounts to are too much material to put on these web pages.

Two pressure gauges

There are two pressure gauges, showing four different pressures. All pressures are in kPa. On one gauge you see the main reservoir pressure, typically 800, and the pressure in the equalizing chamber of the brake valve. This pressure governs the brake pipe pressure. It is 500 in running a train without braking, and less when engaging the brakes. On the other gauge you see a red hand showing the brake cylinder pressure of the locomotive brake cylinders. The black hand shows the brake pipe pressure. If you are in the second engine of a double header, you see if the brakes are applied (when the brake pipe pressure goes down).

Different brake pressures

Passenger cars have a lever with which brake pressure can be adjusted for passenger or freight service! Passenger trains are braked with a brake pipe pressure of 6 Bar (600 kPa), whereas freights use 5 Bar (500 kPa). There is also a lever to make sure empty cars are braked less than full cars, somewhere on the side of freight cars, about in the middle of the car. It is in the left position when the car is empty, in the right when the car is loaded. They adjust this at about 40 tons gross weight for a wagon.

Stopping distances

The distance to stop any train on Jitong railway is 800 meters. On China Railways, this distance applies to speeds up to 120 km/h. For lines with a speed of up to 140 km/ the length is 1100 meters, for lines with allowed speed 160 km/h the distance is 1400 meters, and for lines with speeds up to 200 km/h the distance from signal to stop is 2000 meters.

The brake control valves

There are two brake valves: The left one (bigger one of the two) is the automatic train brake, the one you normally use to brake the whole train including the locomotive. Its positions are outlined in the drawings down under here. The right one (smaller handle) is the direct brake or locomotive brake, braking the locomotive only. You use that one in order to hold a train stopped on a level station. The direct brake is normally not used to brake on the line. With it, you directly control the pressure in the locomotive brake cylinders.

Braking correctly is the most difficult part of driving. One of the worst dangers is to exhaust the train brakes. The other danger is braking too hard, thus blocking some wheels or creating large forces in the couplings and the freight. As friction increases at low speeds with the usual cast iron brake shoes, you have to reduce brake pressure just before the train stops, in order to prevent blocking the wheels. The same may be true when the rails are wet or icy.

How to brake a train

When applying the brake you pull the train brake handle back to the position where it comes to the right end of the long notch along its edge (the fifth position from the top in the drawing). It is called the "service position"At that position the valve will reduce air pressure in the brake pipe gradually and the train brakes start braking. This is enough for all normal braking of trains. You have to follow the black hand in the brake pipe gauge, and see that it falls to about 450 kPa. Then you move the handle one position to the left and front, the so-called "lap position". This ends the pressure reduction. However, air may still keep flowing from the main pipe into the air, governed by an equalizing chamber. Keep the brake handle in the lap position all the time while braking.

It takes from 10 to 20 seconds for passenger trains, and 30 to 60 seconds for freight trains for the brakes to engage.

After applying the train brake, you must release the locomotive brake by pressing its valve handle to the front until the red hand in the pressure gauge shows that pressure in the locomotive brake cylinder is 0. (The locomotive should not be braked, as this will let the train press the engine forward, and create possibly dangerous forces in the couplings). You do the samne if you are on the second engine in a double headed train.

When braking to a stop, you release the train brake when speed comes below about 10 km/h and you brake the last few meters with the locomotive brake only, or just roll to a stop. When a train is stopped in a level station, the locomotive brake is good enough to hold a train.

Releasing the brake

When braking in a downhill, you brake until speed is lowered to what you think is reasonable (in down hills typically to 30-40 km/h. Then you release the brake fully by putting it back to the running position. For releasing after normal braking, put the handle shortly in the release position and then back to running position (position two from the top of the drawing). This will increase the brake pipe pressure to 500 kPa, and the brakes release. (Having the handle in release position for too long time may overload the brake system). It takes some 10 to 20 seconds for passenger trains and 40 to 60 seconds for freight trains until all the brakes in the whole train are released!

Filling a train with brake air

For filling up a train that has been parked without air, use the release position (the topmost in the drawing). However, make sure you don't overload the train with too high pressure. You have to check that the brake pipe pressure never exceeds 500 kPa. When pressure reaches 500, put the handle in the "running position or holding position. (Probably they will not let you do this, as it requires a thorough knowledge of how the train brakes work).

The direct brake

(locomotive brake) handle has three positions: The normal position (in the middle, is where the handle will remain by itself if you don't hold it in your hand. This is the position where there is no connection to the locomotive brake cylinder. This means no air in, no air out through this valve. The locomotive brake is controlled by the train brake handle. If you push the locomotive brake handle to the front, you release air from the locomotive brake cylinder. The release position is spring loaded, i.e. the handle will go back to the normal position by itself.

If you pull the locomotive brake handle back, you fill pressured air into the locomotive brake cylinder and thus engage the locomotive brake. Putting the handle to the middle again will keep brake cylinder pressure constant, no matter if there is air in it or not. It requires some feeling to apply the direct brake right. Don't fill too much air into the brake cylinder at once, because then you may block the wheels!

For emergency braking, pull the handle all the way back (lowest position in the drawing).

Before you park the engine, make sure at least the locomotive brake is braked. If the locomotive is parked for a long time, the hand brake in the tender is used.

Braking is more of an art than driving, and if braking is difficult, your driver will probably not let you brake.

More technical details

600 kpa is standard passenger train air pressure.
500 kpa is standard freight train air pressure.
There is a valve to switch a passenger car over to the lower setting, in the event that you are moving it in a freight train.

Cylinder pressure on the freight and passenger cars apply with a pressure of 2.5 * the brake pipe reduction. (100 kpa application of brakes yields 250 kpa in cylinders).

Chinese brakes ARE in fact exhaustible! If you reduce from 500 kpa to 400 kpa, then want to lessen the braking
force by increasing brake pipe pressure to 450 kpa, then you have to release fully first, then brake again at 450 kpa, i.e. you get this "yo-yo" kind of driving. If you want to have this series: 500-400-450, you have to do it this way: 500-400-500- wait -450.

Firing a QJ

Generally, it is most important to fire along the four sides of the firebox. If there are holes in the fire here, cold air will flow up through the grate and cool down the firebox walls, which seriously hinders steam production and introduces stress to the boiler. Always make sure there are no holes in the fire here!

And generally, holes in the fire are a bad thing. If you find any hole, immediately try to close it by firing coal to there.

When you fire, the fire will, for a short time, loose some of its heat, because it needs to use some of the heat to incinerate the new coal. Thus, when you need a lot of steam, you should already have fired a little while before. You always need to know what will happen in the near future, as both the fire and the boiler have a reaction time. Firing too much at a time will decrease fire temperature so much that some of the gas from the coal will not incinerate. Then you generate black smoke and no heat. If you see black smoke from your chimney, you should wait until it clears before you fire more. The trick is to fire little and often. You may also fire throwing coal on only half of the fire at a time, the other half helping to generate the heat.

When the locomotive is standing still and you need more fire, you distribute coal in a thin layer over the whole grate area. This means you have to throw some of it quite far into the firebox, into the front end. You fire evenly over the whole grate area, maybe a little more along the walls. It helps to use small showels. Before starting a train, make sure you have a good fire, especially on the sides and in the back corners. You should not fire when starting the train, as the powerful blows of exhaust steam will pull too much cool air through the firedoor, and they will pull the fine coal right into and out of the chimney. Wait until your driver has reduced the cutoff.

The Chinese seem to ignore the rule to not fire when starting the engine. The Chinese coal is also so dusty that it catches fire immediately, thus the need to fire BEFORE steam is needed is also not som important there.

When the locomotive is moving more than about 10 km/h, the story is different. You fire nearly only into the back half of the firebox, and much of it to the right and left, both the back corners and in general the sides. Like a horseshoe. Somehow the coal is moving forward by itself by the movement of the locomotive and the grate incline. You fire a little to the front and middle, however (maybe 20%). The difficult thing is to fire into the back corners and distribute the coal there evenly. The firemen have a nice technique to make the shovel rotate. If you don't rotate the shovel, you end up having a not burning black heap of coal on both back sides, instead of a nice thin layer which easily burns.

Before starting a train, you have to build up the fire. Put on the blower. Fire most where you see bright flames. Get a lot of fire, and if you get too much steam pressure, fill extra water into the boiler (but not above what you see at the highest level of the water gauges). Especially fill a lot of coal into the back corners. You may use some 50 to 150 shovels , depending on how little fire you have from before. Don't fire too much at a time. Look at the smoke. If there is black smoke, wait until it turns light. If pressure is rising too fast and you cannot fill more water, shut off the blower.

During driving you fire some 10 to 15 shovels at a time. Look at the smoke to find out if you fire too much. If you generate black smoke, rather wait half a minute. Also have a constant look at the water level and steam pressure. Every engine is different. Some of them need little coal, and you could easily get the safety valves to blow, whereas others formally "eat" coal without producing steam. Generally try to keep steam pressure as near the upper boundary (1500 kPa) as possible.

You should at some times have a look into the firebox, in order to see if you are firing evenly enough or you create holes in the fire. This is done by putting the shovel into the fire hole in such a way as to lead cold air on the surface of the fire. Then you can check the area where cold air is blowing at. In general, fire more into areas where you see the brightest glow, and less into areas where you don't see flames. If you find a hole in the fire, try to throw coal there. However, if you see areas in the fire that are black, it either means there is too much raw coal, or there is slag, which has stopped all air flow into that area. Slags kills the fire.

When speed is high, the crews typically use more and small showels. When speed is low and work is hard, they use large showels.

When they have to stop, the driver will give you a signal. The assistant driver will open the blower. Then you should not fire any more. Often you need to fill water into the boiler to keep pressure from rising above the safety limit. (Use the large pump, the handle of it is near the fire door valve on the cab's bottom.

Here is the pattern you should shovel coal like. The table symbolizes the firebox. Firedoor is from the middle below.


And here is the average amount of coal to showel into every area, as an average over time. Firedoor from below.

180 160 160 180
180 120 120 180
210 150 150 210
250 230 230 250

How to fire when you have a mechanical stoker: The stoker pushes coal onto a plate, from where it is blown into the firebox by steam. The stoker seems to do all the work, only in the back corners some hand firing is needed. However, coal may accumulate on the plate sometimes, and then you have to remove it with a little steel hook. Some crews prefer to use the stoker only when driving hard, i.e. when the fire has been very warm some time, while other crews are using it all the time.

The coal pusher seems to work only after some coal in the front of the tender has been used. It is not enough to use the coal that falls onto the chute by itself. You will typically need to pull down some more coal using a showel, pick-axe or another tools. Only after the height of the cola in the middle of the foremost meter of the tender is reduced to about one meter, you may use the coal pusher. It is a 50 to 60 cm diameter steel cylinder going back and forth in the foremost 1.5 meters of the coal tank.
It works fine as far as there is coal to fall down into the hollow in the front middle of the tender from the sides and behind. Things normally turn worse some place after Galadesitai or Xiakengzi on the Jingpeng pass. Then one man must go back into the tender and get some of the coal from further back, or from far on the sides, to fall into the reach of the coal pusher. In winter, frozen coal may block the coal pusher altogether. You have a handle on the driver side on the front of the tender wall. Moving the level will push the coal pusher back or forth. (Make sure pressured air is supplied, there is a valve on the locomotive driver side in the cab to open for air). It is a bit different on every locomotive. Ask the crew for the "Tui Mei Ji Feng Fa".

Then you turn towards the front wall of the tender. On its right side about one meter over the floor, there is a handle. Typically you push it left to push back the coal pusher, then coal will fall down into the area, and when you then put the handle to the right, it will push coal forward. But on some engines the whole thing works just the opposite way, or the handle is mounted moving front and back. Look at how your engine people do it!

If you have a stoker, it is also depending on coal in the front of the tender. You may have to use the coal pusher even then.

When the locomotive works at full power, and speed rises above 40 km/h, you will have an extremely hard time to keep up steam pressure. The Chinese firemen and assistant drivers change jobs every ten or fifteen minutes when driving hard. However, at low speed, especially at the grades of the Jingpeng pass, you stand a good chance of keeping up stream pressure. This is because at lower speed they use less steam. The main difficulty is distributing coal in a thin layer evenly over the fire, not creating big heaps that will take a long time to start burning.

Make sure you clean the cab floor and the slope in front of the fire door of coal some times. It both hinders your firing, and it is dangerous, as it might start to burn. The Jitong operating procedures tell cab crews to keep their cabs clean from coal dust for safety reasons!

Make sure the coal you fire is wet. Coal should be wet because it creates less dust, and because it sticks better to the existing fire, instead of just blowing away through the chimney. There are several ways to make sure this is the case. There is a pipe above the tender door where you can drizzle water into the coal, there is a rubber hose you can use, and you may climb on the tender and empty buckets of water into the coal. Using the rubber hose normally requires the cold water pump to be switched on. (On some engines, it is mounted somehow differently). - On electrified lines, never climb the tender or use the water hose!

Well, there is a lot more to it...

The job of the assistant driver

The assistant driver is sitting on the right hand side of the cab. His task is to look out for signals etc., inform the driver of what he sees and blow the horn or whistle if needed. His task is especially to either inform the driver about signals seen or repeat what the driver reports to have seen.

The other major task is to watch the water supply of the boiler and the blower .

There must always be visible water in the water level gauges, and the level should be moving (which indicates the water level gauge is functioning). The absolute minimum level is indicated by two indicators: For driving upwards or on flat terrain there is a red mark in the downmost half of the water level gauge. Minimum is the top of this red mark. For driving downslopes the lowest level is the lower boundary of the water level gauges. The water level must NEVER be below the minimum!.Most of the time you should have a water level between half and three quarters of the glass. When steaming, the water level will rise some centimeters, as steam bubbles develop in the water. Thus, before shutting off steam, make sure you have a level well above the minimum. A water level near the upper boundary of the glass or even above the glass increases the danger of priming. Different crews prefer different levels, but typically half glass level should be OK when driving, and near the top is nice when starting a train before entering a long upslope. If you have a high water level and steam pressure is falling, it may be wise to let the water level sink rather than the steam pressure. Try to keep steam pressure near its upper boundary.

The water should normally be supplied through the feed water heater and the warm water pump. There is a gauge for this on top of the boiler. During steaming, the warm water pump is switched on, until the gauge shows about 400 liters per minute. The cold water pumnp for this system should show a level of about 50. You have to get a feeling for what is the right level. Lower speed needs less supply, higher speed needs more. The warm water pump must be shut off when steaming finishes.

You also have a cold water pump (injector). The lever is standing up from the floor to your right, near the outside wall of the cab. To switch it on, step on the foot pedal on your right for a few seconds, then move the lever all the way to the front. If the pump does not start (you get a cloud of steam), repeat the action. Observe if water is flowing down on the rails after pressing down the foot pedal, then try again with the hand lever. In summer you may need water flow for some 10 seconds, because the pump must be cold to start. If you feed water with the cold water pump, make sure you switch it off when steam pressure has been reduced by 0.5 Bar (50 kPa). It is better to feed water little and often than a lot and seldom with the cold water pump.

There is one more cold water pump, the large one, with its lever on the cab floor near the firedoor on the driver side. It is normally operated by the driver or fireman, and only when shutting off steam.

The blower is used to create draught through the boiler when no steam is used in the engine. You switch on the blower when the driver shuts off steam (and shut it after some 30 seconds or so). You also put it on when you need to fire and increase steam pressure on a standing or not working engine, and you put it on for a few seonds just when the driver opens steam.

Every now and then you blow out the sludge in the boiler. There is a lever in front of you. Pulling it will open the valve ("Feng Shui Fa") and blow a powerful column of steam out of the boiler side. Check if nobody is near who can be hurt before you open that valve. Do this for up to three seconds and close the valve by pushing the lever back to the front. Normally, the driver will tell you when to do so. In general, the crews blow down every 30 minutes or so. The engines all have a screw to put on the right hand side blowdown valve outside the firebox. This will lead steam into a box hanging far down near the rails. They put the dirty wool used to clean the engine there. Blowing steam through it rinses the wool. It is done by carefully blowing, not at full opening of the valve, maybe for one minute. Then, they take out the wool and hang it some place above the boiler to dry, and take of the screw.

Checking the engine

Check the engine when you have stopped. Go round the engine and feel at the stern of the wheels, and at the ends of the rods, if anything is so warm that it burns your hand. Any temperature warmer than is good for your skin is potentially dangerous. (However, they consider 55 degrees centigrade for the trailing wheel bearings OK).

You may also check all screws on moving parts, and the top locks of the oil containers on the rods, if they are loose. Look for anything hanging loose, and for uncommon leaks. Look if the air doors along the firebox are open. Look for broken springs, and any signal that anything may crack or break or come off.

In general, this task requires long training and you really have to know the engine to know what may be in disorder.

One task before start at larger station is to have oil on vital parts. The last parts you give oil are all the flats between bearing plates, along the axle boxes and bogies of the locmotive. You also give the cylinder oil pump (right side at the front) 30 turns when the locomotive driver warms yup the cylinders just before start of a train. Otherwise, filling grease in the roller bearings and cylinder oil into the cylinder oil pump is a firemans task, whereas filling axle oil is the assitant driver task. The driver olny does checking.

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