Com'on Baby Light my
I bought a 40lb aluminum
horizontal vapor draw propane tank. Getting this thing was an
effort in itself. AmeriGas was very helpful. I got a dual
stage regulator, hoses, valves, etc. I assembled all the pieces
and then realized I needed an easy way to ignite this inferno.
I got a push button piezoelectric igniter, and installed the
"tip" on the burner.
We'll it was time to test
this out. I turned on the gas and pressed the igniter and "Whooosh",
this puppy came alive! I lit it with the inside manifold turned
on (which has 14 burners), then I opened up the outer manifold
and all 48 burners ignited. I made the manifold with 2 separate
areas. An inner area (in RED below) has 14 burners which is
used to light the fire and for times when the engine will be at
the station, etc. The outer burner is used for full blast
You can see the 2
connectors at the bottom of the manifold. I rigged up brackets
to hold it in place on the boiler.
After I did some testing
with this setup, I found that the burners near the gas inlet
would not stay lit. I guessed it had to do with the higher
pressure or some turbulence in the manifold. I decided to add
additional inlets to the opposite ends of the manifold. My
thinking was to even out the gas inlet areas for a more even
distribution. Here it is, showing the additional inlets and
Well it did the trick.
All the burners stayed lit and were burning blue. I also
added another electrode for the piezoelectric starter at the
other end of the manifold because the push button starter had
outputs for two of them. This is the stainless steel plate
that I put over the manifold to make sure all the air was coming through the
primary inlets on the burners. This also cuts down on the cold
air getting into the firebox.
Things I learned...
Made MORE changes. I decided that
I wanted a pilot light to light the inferno more easily, especially if I
turned the manifold valves too far and cut off the gas supply. I first
modified a regular propane torch that you find on those hand held
propane tanks and connected it to the low pressure propane line. You
can see the torch tip in the picture below with an electrode for
lighting it. Well the problem was that the torch would barely stay
lit. I then realized it was designed for a high pressure propane bottle
and NOT a low pressure 11" WC (about 0.4 PSI) system. I tried drilling
the jets and other modifications but I couldn't get it to work, so I
trashed that idea.
I started searching the internet
for a low pressure pilot light. After some time, I found what I
needed. I also got a tiny needle valve to adjust the pilot flame. You
can see the lit pilot in the picture below along with the electric
igniter. I used a 1/8" copper supply line for the pilot.
I had intermittent problems with
the igniters. Found out that when I put both positive and negative
leads together in the harness, they would short out and spark in the
harness. I separated the positive and negative wires and used more
insulation on the positive wires. That seemed to fix the problem.
You can barely see it in the
picture below, but the inner manifold is lit. I should have taken the
picture at night so you could see it better. The pilot needed to be
adjusted (yellow flame).
Below shows all the burners fired
up. All were burning a real nice blue (again the pilot still needed
I finally adjusted the pilot.
Below all the burners are lit but can barely be seen.
I marked out where I wanted the
propane control valves to be in the cab. The best place for me was on
the cab floor.
Here's underneath showing how I
secured the valve manifold.
All these changes made everything
work perfectly. I was happy with the flame and the lighting mechanism.
I'm amazed all this operates at
the low propane pressure of 11" of WC (0.4 PSI). I know of live steamers
that run their engines on 10 PSI and higher. This thing will put out
over 120K BTU's and suspect I will be getting better fuel efficiency using a
low pressure system compared to a high pressure system.
After all was done and I was
finally satisfied with the results, I attached the burner under the
firebox and installed the boiler on the engine for (I hope) the last
time. Now for the piping...
Please see section
#57 Fuel System Mods for modifications to
the fuel system.