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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 4, Issue 10 (February 1, 1930)

£4 Million a Year for Coal

£4 Million a Year for Coal.

In many ways electrification will be a boon to railways. Take the coal problem, for example. Locomotive coal consumption is one of the largest items of railway expenditure, and the arrangements which have to be made for supplying every individual locomotive with its daily load of fuel, call for much labour and expense. It seems a simple matter for a railway to purchase so many tons of coal from one or more collieries, and distribute this fuel amongst the various engine sheds according to their requirements. In practice, a thousand and one problems are involved in the acquisition and distribution of suitable fuels for locomotive use.

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At Home, immense attention is devoted to the subject of locomotive coal supplies, and the coaling arrangements in force are of great interest.

Coal from different pits varies enormously in quality, and not only must the question of its heat-giving properties be studied, but there must also be considered its action on the firebox—i.e., whether, when burnt, it forms a running scar or a loose, white ash of a non-adherent nature. Before purchasing, the Home railways make chemical analyses and perform tests, under actual service conditions, of all likely coal supplies.
A Famous British Flier. “Southern Belle” Pullman Car Express leaving London for Brighton.

A Famous British Flier.
“Southern Belle” Pullman Car Express leaving London for Brighton.

After purchase, the coal supplied to the various depots is examined to ensure that it is up to sample, properly screened and hand-picked free from all foreign material. Coals used by the Home railways are of three grades. The first quality coal is supplied for express passenger work; second-grade coal goes to the engines working local passenger trains and important goods trains, while, for shunting engines, third-grade coal is employed. Every endeavour is made to reduce coal consumption on the Home railways, and to-day the average express passenger train of 450 tons runs something like 40 miles on one ton of coal. When it is realised that a big railway like the London and North Eastern spends no less than four million pounds sterling annually on locomotive coal, it will be appreciated that efforts to cut expenditure under this head to a minimum are fully justified.