Fireless locomotive

Fireless locomotive
Preserved Andrew Barclay 0-6-0 fireless steam locomotive, South of Scotland Electricity Board, No. 1 at Glasgow Museum of Transport
Pennsylvania Power and Light "D", a fireless steam locomotive

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.[1]


Motive power types


fireless steam locomotive at railroad museum Bochum Dahlhausen, Germany

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.

Compressed air

Preserved Porter Locomotive Company No. 3290 of 1923.
Compressed air locomotive at Bankhead, Alberta, Canada, formerly used in coal mining.

Compressed air locomotives are used mainly in mines, but have also been used on tramways. (See Mekarski system)


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.

Wheel arrangements

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 58 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.[2]

Another German company, Hohenzollern, built some articulated fireless steam locomotives with a cab at each end. Only one of the bogies was powered, making the wheel arrangement B-2.


Numerous examples have been preserved across the world.

United Kingdom

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.[3]

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.

United States

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.

See also


  1. ^ Industrial Railway Society (2009). Industrial Locomotives (15EL). Industrial Railway Society. ISBN 978 1 901556 53 7. 
  2. ^ Cilician Gates, accessed 2007-09-14
  3. ^ Photo of Lord Ashfield 'in steam'. (Accessed 14 Feb 2008)

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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