A Porter Fireless Locomotive at the Apache Powder Comany
A small valley near Benson, Arizona is the home of the Apache Nitrogen Company. When it was founded in 1920, it was called the Apache Powder Company. They furnished dynamite to locations all throughout the Southwest. A narrow gauge railroad was built in order to transport materials around the plant, but the railroad cars were pulled by mules. Why mules?
Imagine what would happen with a conventional steam locomotive in a dynamite plant. A spark from the smoke stack or a fire in the firebox could be a major event in a dynamite plant!
Eventually the company realized that it needed more "horse power" than the mules could produce. They turned to the H. K. Porter Company in Pittsburg, Ohio who had (in 1923) just developed a "fireless" locomotive. So how did that work?
The locomotive had a large insulated steam reservor, instead of a conventional boiler. This was really like a big thermos bottle which could be "charged" with steam from a boiler in a remote and "safe" location. Then the locomotive could move around the plant safely with its stored steam.
One of the seven locomotives that they eventually purchased from the Porter company is now on display at the Apache Nitrogen Company in Benson, AZ (see above photo).
For more detailed information with photos and drawings of how the fireless locomotives actually work, see the Jan/Feb issue of the "Narrow Gauge & Shortline Gazette"
on "Fireless Locomotives of the Apache Powder Company."
Many thanks to Larry Hargis, an expert on the Porter Engines, for the above information.
See the Porter engine (The Sunshine Express) and track that Larry designed and built at Selma, CA.
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