• Feedwater Heaters

  • Discussion of steam locomotives from all manufacturers and railroads
Discussion of steam locomotives from all manufacturers and railroads

Moderators: Typewriters, slide rules

  by Statkowski
The New York Central, the New Haven, the two major Canadian roads all seemed to favor Elesco feedwater heaters, yet the Pennsylvania favored Worthingtons.

Any idea why?
  by ExCon90
It could have been simply a matter of where the manufacturer was located (I tried searching Wikipedia, but couldn't find anything). The PRR bought virtually all of its signaling equipment from Union Switch & Signal, Swissvale, PA rather than from General Railway Signal in Rochester (and we all know what railroad served Rochester). PRR stations did not have escalators--they had Moving Stairs; I've always assumed that escalator was a registered trademark of Otis Elevator, Yonkers, NY (and we all know what railroad served Yonkers), and couldn't be used by other manufacturers. If the manufacturer of Worthington was on the PRR and the Elesco manufacturer wasn't, the PRR would be expected to buy their product and could have lost some freight business if they bought from a competitor. A railroad which didn't serve either of two major competitors was considered neutral ground and could order from anybody it wanted. That may not have been the reason in this case, but that factor was always present--it would be instructive to know where the respective feedwater heaters were manufactured.
  by Allen Hazen
I've got the reprint of the 1940 Locomotive Cyclopedia, and when I get a chance I'll look to see if ads from the companies give any indication of whether their headquarters were in different places. ("Elesco", b.t.w., was a brand name used by the Locomotive Superheater Company. Seems to have been a popular way for early 20th C companies come up with trade names: witness the Standard Oil company's use of the brand name "Esso".)
My sense is that the Worthington feed water heater was more efficient than the Elesco, and also that its relative popularity grew over time. So one possible factor is that railroads that adopted feed water heaters early (and I think the New York Central went in for them in a big way before the PRR did) had more Elesco-equipped units, and that later steam locomotives were more likely to have Worthington: lat New York Central steam locomotives were more likely to have Worthington than Elesco, I think.
(And there were other "also ran" types: for instance the Coffin feed water heater, used -- with aesthetically disastrous results -- by a number of railroads and decently concealed within the smokebox on some New York Central J-1 Hudsons.)
  by Allen Hazen
Worthington Pump and Machinery's (*) headquarters was in Harrison, New Jersey. The Superheater Company, supplier of Elesco feed water heaters (and also of an exhaust steam injector which they advertised as an "open-type" feed water heater, evidently wanting to compete with Worthington in the market for open type f.w.h.) had its headquarters in New York City. And Coffin, which was still advertising feed water heaters in the 1940 Locomotive Cyclopedia, had its headquarters somewhere in New Jersey. Not sure where their actual factories were. Given the degree to which the PRR and NYC's areas served overlapped, I am a bit doubtful as to whether the two railroads' feed water heater preferences can be attributed to favouring on-line industries... but you never know!
(*) Which later merged with Studebaker, a former manufacturer of horse-drawn buggies that had moved into automobiles. The merged company, Studebaker-Worthington, bought Alco in the 1960s.
  by Statkowski
Quite possibly Elesco came out first, so early users put it to use - LNE, CNJ, NH, NYC, CN, CP, etc. Then Worthington built a better mousetrap. Those engines that already had Elescos kept them, but newer engines received Worthingtons.
  by ExCon90
Many thanks for the research.
  by TrainDetainer
My grandfather worked for NYC at Baker Street (Corning) as a machinist. Said the shop men hated working on Worthingtons. Would rather have Elescos any day. They were simpler and less finicky.
  by Allen Hazen
Train detainer--
Thank you for reporting that! Testimony of people who worked with steam when there was working steam is immensely valuable!
My guess is that, if the maintenance workers found Worthington "finicky," management might have noticed that locomotives with them required more man-hours of maintenance than locomotives without. So maybe -- here I'm speculating, going WAY beyond any evidence I have -- Worthington f.w.h. (more efficient when they were working properly) made sense on the locomotives that were wanted for the highest performance service, but not for those with less pressing duties...
Possible confirming evidence for this: The New York Central's Niagara 4-8-4 had Worthington f.w.h. (You really want the most efficient f.w.h. on a locomotive that's going to be on the point of the 20th Century Limited!). The A-2 Berkshires of (NYC subsidiary) P&LE were obviously a related design (the A-2 boiler is just a slightly shortened version of the Niagara boiler, operated at a much lower boiler pressure), but didn't: they had exhaust steam injectors, which were, as I understand it, were a cheaper and simpler device for getting SOME of the efficiencies of an open-type f.w.h.
Maybe management listened to what people like your grandfather?
  by Engineer Spike
There must have been some efficiency increase with Worthington. It seems to have become moe universal on later power. A good example is on the B&M. They had initially used both Coffin and Elesco. Much of the later power, such as the P4 Pacific, and R1 Mountain classes had Coffin encased by jacketing on the smokeboxes, but the last group of R1 had switched to Worthington.
  by RSD15
I'm not sure New York Central had a preference for feed water heaters. At the end yes they used Worthington on all Niagaras and the last Mohawks L-4. Before that they were all over the place with Mohawks using three types, Worthington,Elesco,and Coffin. One sub-group L-2a used both Elesco and Worthington. Even the famous Hudsons used all three, mostly Coffin and Elesco with a small group using Worthington.
  by Allen Hazen
You may well be right. I HAD thought that the New York Central showed a change in preference, toward the end of steam, for Worthington, but this was based on only two "data points" the Niagara had Worthington, and the Streamlined J3 Hudsons, originally built with Elesco, got Worthington when rebuilt non-streamlined. But with a longer view, it's hard to see any sort of trend. A quick glance at a couple of Stauffer's books reveals:
---The majority of L2 Mohawks had Elesco. (The earlier ones had the "beetle browed" mount with the feed water heater hung in front, the later ones with the feed water heater neatly recessed into the smoke box, with only the ends of the Elesco cylinder showing, as on Hudsons built with Elesco heaters. One tendency DOES show in New York Central steam designs: they really liked aesthetic elegance!)
---Most L3 and perhaps all L4 had Worthington, but some (perhaps only the Lima built L3b) had Elesco: nothing to suggest that NYC had come to a strong preference for Worthington by that time.
---J1 Hudsons were built with, as you say, Elesco, Coffin, and Worthington. No obvious pattern to the choices of Elesco or Coffin, but the Worthington heaters seem to have been used only on the last batch, the J1e.
---J2 seem all to have had Coffin, both the ten Also built and the ten Limas.
---Despite the experience with Worthington heaters on J1e, the J3 were built with Elesco.
  by Engineer Spike
I think that various CMOs had their own preferences of which parts to use. Maybe it was what worked best in his railroad’s operating territory. It could be as simple as which supplier gave best service, or whose salesman stroked the CMO’s ego.

New Haven in a few examples would have an appliance from company A on engines 1-10, and the competitor’s on 11-20. That way a real side to side comparison could be observed.
  by Allen Hazen
Re: "New Haven in a few examples would have an appliance from company A on engines 1-10, and the competitor’s on 11-20. That way a real side to side comparison could be observed."
------A policy, or habit, or eccentricity, or... that they continued into the early phase of dieselization: the new haven had a class of ten GE-built 600 hp switchers (DEY class, I think, numbered 901-910)... five with Ingersoll-Rand engines, five with Cooper-Bessemer! Somewhere I've read a story to the effect that the two had been offered as alternative designs, with the New Haven deciding to get some of each... and asking for a sub-base to be added to one of the engines to make them completely interchangeable!
  by Allen Hazen
If someone (with more patience than I feel right now!) wants to TRY to discern a policy trend at the New York Central with respect to feed water heaters... One of the resources at George Elwood's marvellous "Fallen Flags" rail image site is the New York Central's 1946 locomotive data book. Section C has a detailed list of locomotives, with the type of feed water heater they then had (so, for instance, you can see which J3 Hudsons had been re-equipped with Worthington f.w.h. by that time). So MAYBE it will show some pattern...