QUESTION: How were steam locomotive water tanks cleaned?

GWR72318

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Dear railforums, I recently heard that fish could be transferred to steam locomotive water tanks. I was wondering how for example a fish and other debris would be removed from a saddle tank locomotive’s tank. Would stuff just build up there until the tank was removed for overhaul? There doesn’t seem to be any opening in photos I’ve seen.

Thanks!
 
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Taunton

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On tender locos certainly the water filler hole on top is large enough to squeeze down through, a bit like getting into the firebox through the firehole. Not for the claustrophobic though. The tank had drain plugs at the bottom so the water could be let out first, then the residue could be flushed out through that.

If the loco was down for a special duty, royal train or a key test run, it was normal to clean the tank out beforehand.

Someone wrote that at Kings Cross steam shed it was common for the junior cleaners to go inside an emptied tender tank and play cards without the foreman seeing them. The day described was however the one where the foreman had caught them in there.

David L Smith, in his classic books about the G&SWR a century ago, described that some drivers purposely kept fish in there to eat the vegetation matter that poorly sieved water supplies let in.
 

GWR72318

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On tender locos certainly the water filler hole on top is large enough to squeeze down through, a bit like getting into the firebox through the firehole. Not for the claustrophobic though. The tank had drain plugs at the bottom so the water could be let out first, then the residue could be flushed out through that.

If the loco was down for a special duty, royal train or a key test run, it was normal to clean the tank out beforehand.

Someone wrote that at Kings Cross steam shed it was common for the junior cleaners to go inside an emptied tender tank and play cards without the foreman seeing them. The day described was however the one where the foreman had caught them in there.

David L Smith, in his classic books about the G&SWR a century ago, described that some drivers purposely kept fish in there to eat the vegetation matter that poorly sieved water supplies let in.
Thanks for the answer! I guess saddle tanks also had drain plugs through which debris could be flushed
 

Taunton

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ISTR Thomas had this problem once, and it was resolved by rod and line.
Rev Awdry generally based his stories on something he had read in railway books or magazines. The David L Smith chapters in his well-known book were gathered together from articles in the Railway Magazine during WW2, just before Awdry started writing. While the fishing rod bit is nice children's fiction the account of a fish in the tank likely came from here.
 

geoffk

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I read that eels were the speciality at St. Philip's Marsh.
 

30907

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Rev Awdry generally based his stories on something he had read in railway books or magazines. The David L Smith chapters in his well-known book were gathered together from articles in the Railway Magazine during WW2, just before Awdry started writing. While the fishing rod bit is nice children's fiction the account of a fish in the tank likely came from here.
Thanks. The GSW tale (tail?) was new to me but I had also put 2 and 2 together.
 

Taunton

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I wonder whether a "washout", commonly thought of as something done over a day or two to the boiler interior, extended to the tank as well. Any boilermakers here?

The fish Smith wrote about that the driver kept in the G&SWR tender tank was an eel as well.

If St Philips Marsh, Bristol, needed to do the same it may well have been the Taunton water supply. Both the troughs at Creech and all the columns around the station and shed were supplied from pumping houses drawing from the adjacent Bridgwater & Taunton canal, which the railway owned, principally it seems for water purposes. No longer used for navigation, this had a thick surface of weeds along its length, and much as it may have been filtered at the pump houses there must have been some got into the locos.
 

hexagon789

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Yes. A filter was installed to stop detritus reaching the injectors or feedwater pumps.
Sadly insufficient to stop fish in the tank afflicting Flying Scotsman herself once - causing both injectors to pack it in and the crew to have to resort to shovelling the fire out of the firebox.
 

LSWR Cavalier

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Can fish live in the dark? Do they find enough to eat in a water tank? I think they would not survive for long.

What about water tanks on preserved railways?
 

83A

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Yes locos and fish were common. I saw a pick of a steam engine at Exeter with seacows and a shark :)
 

Gloster

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Returning to piscine matters, I wonder if the water quality at those depots which obtained their locomotive water supplies from canals, rivers, etc. was such that it contained enough goodies to keep fish alive. This might not be the case where the water came from the town mains, something that the railways were not keen on, so there might be a sudden appearance of dead fish in a tank if a loco was reallocated.
 

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