COAL PUSHERS

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One of the many things I like about this hobby is the sense of discovery.  That comes in many ways, although I would say that I am very fond of finding new things by reading.  Last Fall my very good friend Phil Spencer (an NYCS aficionado, among other loves dealing with the iron rail) informed me about a new book on the New York Central Hudson and asked if he could order one for me along with the one he was getting for himself.  Well, I jumped at the chance and am so glad I did.  Thanks Phil!  Know Thy Hudsons (cover below) is excellent, excellent, excellent…

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This is a technical review of my favourite locomotives, one that includes many original NYCS drawings, large-format photographs (including a fine color section), tables of individual locomotive histories, reproductions of many Locomotive Historical Record Cards, fold-out drawings, lettering diagrams, etc.  First Class production as well, a beautiful volume.  It is a good companion to the important Staufer/May work Thoroughbreds published in 1974.  I enjoyed every page and no doubt I will be re-reading it many times in the future.

Thanks to Phil, I am now aware of many things I was not.  In particular, there is a small section on coal pushers…

The 1941 Locomotive Cyclopedia provides a definition of a coal pusher as “a device placed in the rear bottom of the coal pit of a locomotive tender for the purpose of mixing the fuel and moving it forward within convenient reach of the fireman, thus enabling him to fire the modern locomotive with less labor and fuel“.  This is, of course, a general statement as the Hudson like many other mainline passenger (or freight for that matter) locomotives was fed by an automatic stoker as no fireman could keep up with the demand for fuel at speed.  In this case a Standard Stoker Company (New York, NY) advertisement offers this explanation: “Where locomotives are mechanically fired, the Coal Pusher moves the coal from the slope sheet to the stoker conveyor trough.  The use of a Coal Pusher is particularly advantageous where coal is apt to freeze.”  This was a problem experienced during the early service lives of NYC Hudsons.

The picture below is of a Standard Stoker Company Coal Pusher – additional advantages of this device are listed…

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The steam operated cylinder moved the transverse bars back and forth to break up any frozen coal and was manually controlled by the fireman.  The following picture shows a typical installation in a locomotive tender…

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It seems that coal pushers were retro-fitted to J1 Hudsons between late 1937 and late 1939.  They were also original equipment to J3 Hudsons (1937-1938) and L3 Mohawks (1940-1942), as well as PT Tenders, L4 Mohawks and S1/2 Niagara’s, but these are beyond my era of interest.

This J1 Hudson detail was not known to me as almost all of the period photographs I have seen are the classic three-quarter locomotive “portraits”.  The few photographs of tender decks that I have are prior to the retro-fit!  In looking over pictures of Hudsons since becoming aware of coal pushers, I could find only one that shows this assembly in decent clarity (p.118 Thoroughbreds).  There is also one other photo in Know Thy Hudsons, p.254, of a PT-3 Tender showing off its coal pusher with the coal pusher of J1 5264 in the background.

I am not a rivet-counter and Fillmore is definitely not Finescale (my models are representational only), but I feel that this is a major feature that is easily seen on top of the tender coal bin.  Since I model June of 1942, I better make sure that every J1 Hudson in the fleet has one.  Broadway Limited can be forgiven though, as the model is the as-built J1d and J1e versions.  However, any Gothic-lettered (sans serifs) Hudson offered by them should have a coal pusher.  In addition, my MTH L3 Mohawks do not have this detail, even though they should.

I thought that I might have to build a master and then cast the 12 I need in resin.  However, I very quickly found the exact part desired at Custom Finishing Models (Custom Finishing Models website).  I placed an order and when they arrived I was delighted to see that they are very finely made in brass.

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I made a test sample on one of my undecorated J1 tenders.  I simply marked out the width of the cylinder body on the slope sheet in pencil.  Then using a No. 11 blade I carved well inside these lines, extending into the molded coal load.  Next I carved closer to the pencil marks (the plastic is quite soft and this was easy) while making a more liberal opening in the coal load as this will eventually be covered with Woodland Scenics mine run coal.  All along I test-fitted the coal pusher.  When I got close, I switched to a fine file to straighten the edges of the slot I made in the slope sheet.  I played along with this until I got a good fit and angle to the lower slope sheet – this can be determined by eye-balling the rivets on the side of the tender.

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I then drilled two .020″ diameter holes at the underside of the cylinder head and added two steam lines of bent wire, tucking the ends behind the ATS control box.  The wires were glued to the coal pusher once the bending netted the desired result.  The coal pusher was CA’d in place and the gaps at the underside of the coal bin were silicon sealed from the inside (I don’t want a leak when I apply scenic cement).

Lastly, in the picture below I applied a bracket above the pusher made from two pieces of .010″x.020″ wide x .250″ long strip styrene.

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I have seven more Hudsons to do.  The four Mohawks are different as only the cylinder head protrudes from the back of the slope sheet.

Just another small step to further my understanding of how it was.

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