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steamby51's Profile Picture
Mystic River Traction Co.
Artist | Hobbyist | Varied
United States
Power from the Nineteenth Century, FOR the Twenty-First Century.

Current Residence: North and East
Print preference: Via Mergenthaller Mechanized Typesetting
Favourite genre of music: Also too many
Favourite style of art: Surrealism
Operating System: Underwood No. 5 Typewriter
MP3 player of choice: What's that again?
Shell of choice: 155 Millimeter
Wallpaper of choice: whatever doesn't peel
Skin of choice: Mine.
Favourite cartoon character: Anyone from the Triplettes of Bellville
A Journal from Alex, what is this madness.  

Things have been rather quiet here, this is a "works bulletin" to give details on something that, frankly, I do not have much energy to share, but something that must be made more well known, since, no more than 36 hours ago, it happened for the very last time.

I took a trip with my dearest friend down to the Pratt Institute steam power plant, to visit its for lack of a better word "Enlightened" Chief Engineer, Conrad Milster.   We made the trip, by train and then arduously by subway train, and then on foot, carrying a 100 pound three-chime steam whistle that I had salvaged off a drawbridge two years prior.  The whistle was cleverly hidden inside (and destroying with every tile-seam it rolled over) a rolling suitcase, for if you bring a 100 pound cylinderical object on a city transit system, you will most likely, in our wonderful and sociable new era, be arrested for carrying a bomb.  

Aside from minor strain-injuries on my part, the trip was uneventful.  

We offered our help to Conrad and contributed my sound to his Symphony on new years eve, piping my whistle with the assistance of my friend Gilman, who brought a liberty-ship whistle and a Steam-siren himself.  It is one of the few places I can pipe my whistle to live steam, for its immense size demands a boiler of gargantuan proportions, one I can only find presently at Conrad's plant.  And he has whistles that far dwarf my own.   This is perhaps the last time for a very long time I will be able to sound my whistle - and I refuse to do it any other way but on live steam- due to the fact that Conrad's whistle blow has been, after this year, permanently silenced by the Pratt administration.  

For the last fifty years, Conrad and our mutual friend Mike Condax has orchestrated this symphony of steam.  It now will sound no more, due to the management of the school desiring to make Conrad feel unwelcome.  

This man is the one, only and sole reason this power plant has remained undisturbed, original, operational and in good condition for the last sixty years.  Conrad is only the fourth chief engineer the power plant has had since its instatement in 1882.   It is more than work, to him.  Steam engineering is the largest of many drives that fuels Conrad's passion for life and it is the reason he has continued to lead a meaningful existence.  This power plant he has made his home and it has been his home for the last half century.  In his hands, it has remained largely mechanically unchanged, boasting even its original telephone annunciator system, and its purpose has transcended its original existence of simply providing power, mechanical energy and heat, it is now a teaching tool and an expression of utter joy.  In his spare time, he fixes anything from steam engines to clocks.  In his spare time FROM his spare time, he rescues injured cats and lets them live in the warmth of the power plant.  

The plant, its animals, its chief engineer and his methods goes against every established rule of "modern professionalism" that exists.  You will find no shouting or upset, animosity or museum placards within these walls.   This place is peaceful and warm.  He is different, and in our modern world of homogeniousness and system and metered possibility, anything different is to be destroyed as quickly as possible.  There are many trying to do so to Conrad.  It is personal, they hate the man and all he does.  Silencing his whistle blow after this year is just one of many ways they know to torture the man and make him feel unwelcome in a power plant that belongs more to him, by rights, than the institute itself.  The constant fight and war with the management has made a pessimist out of this wonderful man, and he is fairly disgusted with the entire affair.  He has accepted that when he leaves, the plant will crumble at the hands of multitudes of people who wish to warp it or do it harm.  
When Pratt Institute taught engineers instead of artists, the results were far more impressive, and what was being done was actually of some use to the world.   Since that time has long gone, the powerplant has become a guarded secret and a curiosity, and, to the school's administration, something hated and to be silenced.  These engines, like the powerplant they sit in, represent a past's hope for a better, lovlier, happier, more rational future.  Conrad Milster has carried these machines into that future and as such, is more relevant today than he ever was in that past.   When he retires, or leaves for any other reason, these warm and singing halls will be emptied and bricked in forever.  Of this you can be sure.

Finding the track of what has been and lost is never an easy ride, but following the track of what is and will imminently BE lost is destroying me.

I have posted this essay of photos at great effort.  To be honest, I have been taking the "why bother" attitude lately, as Conrad has, more and more, in fact I am not apt to sharing what I do with those who look at this page anymore because quite frankly, nobody cares, and if I may say that those few who follow me here and who do care are too cowardly, stupid, complacent or otherwise to follow my footsteps and make a difference. In my entire stay here only two people have surprised me in violating this general rule, one is my dearest friend in the entire world but declines to be mentioned and the other is :iconbartpaaddiator:, who is a profound inspiration to me and a rare bridge between art, philosophy and engineering, and who, if you are at all interested in such things, is one to be looked at and followed, and one who's advice should be listened to, because I am wholly tired with giving it. 

However, the Pratt Power Plant represents an anomaly, a fragment of another world that I see in my dreams, something that is made of the stuff that my deepest core and passions are made of.  Its dissappearance must be explained to all who listen, and its existence until that time, every aspect of it, must be documented.  

As for advice, I have one final bit to give.  You can take it or leave it, and knowing most who read this, you will leave it;

Those who know true love will not need to be told things such as this.  If you wish to know true love, love to the absolute extent of your physicality and your sentience.  Lose yourself in what you love, you will know it is working when you cease to have a self.  Although I have worked both my body and brain to near destruction working with steam power, it has brought me a joy that I often find myself asking if most of the other people in this world have the capacity or ability to feel at all.  I feel utterly centered.

If you have a song in your heart, no matter what it is, Let it Ring Forever, never let it stop.  For when it does, it will be silent forever, and memories will be no comfort.

 Let it be known that progress is a distorted word and not actually a thing, people treat it as an inevitable force of nature.  To anyone with half a brain and the ability to perform critical thinking, it will be realised that "progress" is created only by us, and when we blindly follow it without understanding what it is or means, it is a profit-margin, it is needless change, it is waste, and it destroys all things.  

Love animals more than you would ever love people, it is a love without distortion and you will be loved back.  Work as strongly as you can to remove pain and suffering from them.  Unlike human beings, they do not "deserve" it. Animals are kinder to people such as Conrad and I than any human being.  

If what OR whom you love is being threatened, distorted, warped, taken from you or destroyed, fight the thing that is trying to do it.   Do whatever you can to save it.  If you must violate laws, do it.  If you must lie and steal and cheat and commit petty thievery on the rooftop of some mill at midnight, do it.  If you will be socially shunned, do it.    If you will be injured, arrested, hauled away to somewhere else against your will, do it.  If you must cut all ties with your family, by all means do it.  If you must hurt or kill other people, do it.  People are disposable and imaginary, as are all their pathetic little rules and concepts.  You are doing no wrong in violating things that do not actually exist.  

Do everything you can to nourish and protect what or whom you love, at any cost to yourself, for watching it grow will be a greater reward for yourself and do greater good for you than anything else you can imagine.

One last thing, speaking of "wrong".   Those of lower intellect, and those who lack the ability for true critical thinking will greatly protest this, but eat it anyway;   There is no such thing as right and wrong.   Whatever you love is not "right", and whatever you hate is not "wrong".  Purpose and meaning are things made by the sentient mind.   I advocate love, I advocate endless love, and I advocate following what one loves for his or her own happiness to the ends of the earth;  but know this.   Never, and I mean never take what you love too seriously.  No matter how much you try to riteously justify what you love to yourself, know that you, like me, like all of us, are screaming idiots.  All of our interests and passions and drives are idiotic, meaningless, and ultimately pointless things that serve no purpose at all and will one day vanish.   There is no such thing as "serious business", and taking what one loves seriously defeats the purpose and, to be honest, makes one appear an immense fool and is to be mocked.  

THe principle reason I love steam engines, I have come to realise, is that they are the most beautiful, and also the most ugly thing mankind has ever invented.  They are demented, they are a demented symphony orchestra of noise and light and heat and motion that cannot under any circumstances be truly tamed.  They serve more as inspiration to beating hearts than they do any practical purpose for which they were designed.  Steam engines running today are foremostly being run because of joy.  Anybody who takes them seriously, and there are many, is severely misguided and should in my opinion be exponged wholly from the steam engineering and preservation field.   Fools are not to be suffered in terms of steam engineering because of the damage they can do, but I am beginning to realise that people who have mechanical knowledge and approach it with the wrong mindset are actually more dangerous than those with no such knowledge but who approach it with the correct mindset, and are willing to learn.  

Steam engines, like all lovely things in our world, belong to the large of brain and heart and gentle of hand, rennaissance men, people inside which moves a music and intense creative emotion.  It does not belong to the aspergian library-brained or the strong-armed or those who crave status.  

That is what I have to say on the subject.

Goodnight, and goodbye, and to many of you, good riddance.  



Add a Comment:
Eddie-Sand Featured By Owner 6 days ago
Hey, you still trapped in the snow? If your around, I would like to give you a ring before 4:00.
steamby51 Featured By Owner 5 days ago  Hobbyist General Artist
I was in class sir, Sorry I missed you
Eddie-Sand Featured By Owner 5 days ago
No problem, when do you get outta class?
steamby51 Featured By Owner 4 days ago  Hobbyist General Artist
Right now I am sleeping in a different place because I cannot return to the house for reasons.  
(1 Reply)
TheNewIKB Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2015
How steep does a rack/cog rail way have to be before the boiler needs to be angled forward to keep the top of the firebox covered with water? Also how would different boiler lengths effect this?
steamby51 Featured By Owner Feb 22, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
You do not understand the issue.  The further back you tilt a locomotive-type firetube steam boiler, the more water will flow toward the firebox and cover it.  Observe.…;   It is tilting forward that is the issue.   THe exceptions to this rule are with a few boilers that have firebox crownsheets that slope upwards as you go forward, such as Churchward taper-bellpaires that use the top-front of the firebox as a steam dome, in which there are certain conditions that tilting the boiler backward to a large degree will uncover a small portion of crown-sheet and flue sheet.   These boilers are however not suitable for use in rack locomotives because they are primarily for high speed locomotives looking to attain loading gauge and streamlining adherences.

THe main reason rack locomotive boilers are angled forward is to prevent priming, or un-due water flowing into the dry pipe.  This issue can be solved simply by putting a higher dome up.   Angling a boiler forward I believe to be crude and unadvisable due mainly to if you approach level ground, or anything close to it, the boiler is tilted down hill and the water will come off the crown sheet.   As you can see with the case traction engine and any other example, especially where the steam dome is tall and set forward, there is no reason to tilt a boiler forward on a rack locomotive.  As such many dual-configuration rack locomotives did not have this angle set to them and could function as normal locomotives.
TheNewIKB Featured By Owner Feb 23, 2015
Thank you
Justin-Murphy Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2015
Hey steamby, on 3-cylinder engines, is the inside drive rod usually connected to the axle in front or behind the one that has it's counterweight set in a 45 degree angle, apart from the others being set at 90 degrees?
steamby51 Featured By Owner Edited Feb 14, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
No that is not the usual way.  Seperately connected crank axles were only found on four cylinder engines with the exception of the disasters that were the three cylinder Webb compounds.  It is always adviseable to connect the inner cylinder to the same crank axle that the outer cylinders are connected to in order to avoid immense stresses on the siderods and asymmetrical thrust impulses.   THe entire purpose of three cylinder locomotives is usually to produce good counterbalancing, crank phase is most usually 120 degrees to form the geometric form of an equalateral triangle.  The mean torque is evened out quite suitably by this arrangement.   Most commonly found in simples, sometimes found in compounds.     The counterweights on the driving wheel are only moved to compensate the internal crank if that internal crank itself is not counterweighted, which is from the get-go not a good idea and typically was only a lacking feature of early locomotives, as crank axles are very hard to machine.     Compound engines in France, Belgium, and simple engines Germany and other places of the three cylinder variation sometimes took on a 90 degree crank attribute on the outer two side rods in the way of a traditional two cylinder locomotive with the third crank set at 135 degrees.  While not as well counterbalanced and with a huge gap in the mean torque (The place for eight thrust impulses per revolution exist but only six of those eight are occupied, the remaining two at 180 degrees to eachother will be blank and produce thrust impulses and a chuff that skips a beat),  the one advantage to this is that the wheels remain 90-degree quartered and stress on the side rods is less so than a 120 degree cranked engine, which in turn has 120 degree differential between its side rods.   
Justin-Murphy Featured By Owner Feb 14, 2015
Thank you Alexander for the information!
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