Author Topic: He Didn't Exactly Have Her Hooked Up To Center  (Read 3959 times)

Roger Whitney

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He Didn't Exactly Have Her Hooked Up To Center
« on: September 15, 2011, 07:50:38 AM »
He Didn’t Exactly Have Her Hooked Up To Center

      “He didn’t exactly have her hooked up to center.”  This is one of my favorite quotes from the Monson Railroad Chapter in Linwood Moody’s book on page 36. Moody was a master of understatement at times!
      Moody was talking about the grade between Monson Station and the Monson Maine Slate Company plant .57 miles north of the station………and the position of the Johnson Bar.  This was a lever in the cab which not only controlled the direction of the locomotive, but it’s power also. More on that later.
       With today’s wonders of technology (GPS, Google Earth, etc.) and the help of an old topo map, we can do a little figuring on this grade. It is about .57 mile from the plant to Monson Station and the first .3 mile was quite a steep grade.  Moody thought it looked like 10% but stated it was probably less.  From the Monson Maine Slate Company plant yard at 743 feet, the MRR had to climb 59 feet in the first .3 mile for an average of 3.7% to where it leveled off at around 802 feet in elevation.  Probably some sections of this grade were steeper for short distances, maybe even 5% confirming Moody’s observation and hinted at in Harold Morrill’s correspondence. For the rest of the .27 mile to the station, it went from 802 feet to 815 feet, a less than 1% grade.
         Anyway, back to the Johnson bar. When “down in the corner”, steam was admitted for most of the stroke of the piston for maximum power and when “hooked up to center”  steam was admitted for a small part of the stroke, using the expansive properties of steam when less power was needed. The engineer had to have had her “way down in the corner”  at full stroke to get the maximum power from the cylinders and the throttle pretty far open to get the power to push the two loads up from the slate plant.  And the fireman had to have a real hot fire too!
           The good news was that with the locomotives facing south and going uphill from the plant, the crown sheets were fully covered with boiler water much more than usual due to the tilt of the locomotive. It is interesting speculation that the reason why the locomotives were facing south and never turned may have been because of this.  Someone would have to work the geometry on this, but I bet if the locomotives were facing north going down that steep grade, the water over the crown sheets would be dangerously low, if any covering the sheets at all.
          Most of the pictures I have seen of the Vulcans climbing that grade show the engine pushing instead of pulling. In a letter to Geo. F. Barnard, general manager (transcribed by long time Monson historian Merwin Wilson) dated March 14, 1913, Harold Morrill stated that the new Vulcan #3 could easily haul two loaded cars of slate up from Monson Maine Slate Company. That seemed to be the test for Monson locomotives.