A fireless locomotive is a type of locomotive designed for use under conditions restricted by either the presence of flammable material (such as in mines) or the need for cleanliness (such as at a food factory). Thus a traditional steam locomotive is ruled out because of its open fire and the possibility of hot embers ejected from its chimney.
There are two types of fireless locomotive – fireless steam locomotives and compressed air locomotives. Diesel and battery electric locomotives fitted with equivalent protection are described as Flame-proof.
Motive power types
A fireless steam locomotive is similar to a conventional steam locomotive, but has a reservoir, known as a steam accumulator, instead of a boiler. This reservoir is partly filled with water and charged with steam from a stationary boiler. The locomotive can then work on the stored steam until the pressure has dropped to a minimum level, after which it must be recharged.
European fireless steam locomotives usually have the cylinders at the back, while American ones often have the cylinders at the front, as in a conventional locomotive. Major builders of fireless steam locomotives in the UK included Andrew Barclay and W.G. Bagnall.
Several hybrid locomotives have been built that have either used a fire for part of the time, e.g., Fowler's Ghost of the Metropolitan Railway, or have used a fire to superheat stored steam, such as the Receiver Locomotives built by Sentinel Waggon Works. None has been a success.
Most fireless locomotives have been of 0-4-0 or 0-6-0 wheel arrangement but there have been some 0-8-0 and even a few 0-10-0. Some 600 mm (1 ft 11 5⁄8 in) gauge 0-10-0 fireless locomotives from the German company Henschel were used in the construction of the Baghdad Railway, probably to avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning during the boring of tunnels.
Numerous examples have been preserved across the world.
One notable example is "Lord Ashfield" (Andrew Barclay works no. 1989 of 1930) at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. It ran in limited service in the 1990s sharing a steam supply with the stationary exhibits.
The Ayrshire Railway Preservation Group is currently in the process of rebuilding its Andrew Barclay 0-4-0 fireless locomotive (Works Number 1952 of 1928) and intends to operate it as part of a demonstration freight train.
The North Carolina Transportation Museum in Spencer has a fireless steam locomotive, the North Carolina Power and Light #3 0-4-0.
National Cash Register 0-4-0 "Dayton" is preserved at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth, Georgia.
- Advanced steam technology
- Bagnall fireless locomotives (preserved)
- List of fireless steam locomotives preserved in Britain
- List of steam technology patents
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