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Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers, vol. LXX, Dec. 1910
by Herbert M. Wilson
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"While the lectures are primarily intended for the instruction and information of the officials and employes of the railway companies, and especially of those whose duties bring them into immediate contact with the dangerous articles handled in transportation, the manufacturers and shippers are invited, and they have attended them in considerable numbers. Many of this class have voluntarily expressed their commendation of the lectures as a medium of education, and signified their approval of them in flattering terms.

"The scope of these lectures embraces elementary instruction in the characteristics of explosives and inflammables and the hazards encountered in their transportation and in what respects the regulations afford protection against them. The requirements of the law, and the attendant penalties for violation, are fully described. Methods of preparation, packing, marking, receiving, handling and delivering, are explained by stereopticon lantern slides. These are interesting of themselves, and are the best means of stamping the impression they are intended to convey upon the minds of the audiences, and are always an acceptable feature of the lectures. The reception generally given to the lectures by those who have attended them, often at the voluntary surrender of time intended for rest while off duty, may be stated as an indication that the subject matter is one in which they are interested.

"The facilities of the Young Men's Christian Association, in halls, lanterns and skilled lantern operators, have been generously accorded and made use of to great advantage, in connection with the lectures at many places. The co-operation of this Association affords a convenient and economical method of securing the above facilities, and the Association has expressed its satisfaction with the arrangement as in line with the educational features which they provide for their members.

"During the year 1909, 215 lectures were delivered at various points throughout the United States."

The Bureau of Explosives, of the American Railway Association, and the Bureau of Mines, of the United States Geological Survey, were independent products of a general agitation due to the appreciation by a limited number of public-spirited citizens of the gravity of the "explosive" problem. It is the plain duty of the average citizen to become familiar with work of this kind prosecuted in his behalf. He may be able to help the work by assisting to overcome misguided opposition to it. Evidences of this opposition may be noted in the efforts of some shippers to avoid the expense of providing suitable shipping containers for explosives and inflammable articles, and in the threats of miners' labor unions to strike rather than use permissible explosives instead of black powder in mining coal in gaseous or dusty mines.

Too much credit cannot be given Messrs. Holmes and Wilson, and other officials of the Technologic Branch of the United States Geological Survey, for the investigations described in this paper. They are establishing reasonable standards for many structural materials; they are teaching the manufacturer what he can and should produce, and the consumer what he has a right to demand; with scientific accuracy they are pointing the way to a conservation of our natural resources and to a saving of life which will repay the nation many times for the cost of their work.

When these facts become thoroughly appreciated and digested by the average citizen, these gentlemen and their able assistants will have no further cause to fear the withdrawal of financial or moral support for their work.

HERBERT M. WILSON, M. Am. Soc. C. E. (by letter).—The Fuel Division of the United States Geological Survey has given considerable attention to the use of peat as a fuel for combustion under boiler furnaces, in gas producers, and for other purposes. It is doubtless to this material that Mr. Allen refers in speaking of utilizing "marsh mud for fuel," since he refers to an address by Mr. Edward Atkinson on the subject of "Bog Fuel" in which he characterized peat by the more popular term "marsh mud."

In Europe, where fuel is expensive, 10,000,000 tons of peat are used annually for fuel purposes. A preliminary and incomplete examination, made by Mr. C. A. Davis, of the Fuel Division of the Geological Survey, indicates that the peat beds of the United States extend throughout an area of more than 11,000 sq. miles. The larger part of this is in New England, New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Virginia, and other Coastal States which contain little or no coal. It has been estimated that this area will produce 13,000,000,000 tons of air-dried peat.

At present peat production is in its infancy in the United States, though there are in operation several commercial plants which find a ready market for their product and are being operated at a profit. A test was made at the Pittsburg plant on North Carolina peat operated in a gas producer—the resulting producer gas being used to run a gas engine of 150 h.p.—the load on which was measured on a switch-board. Peat containing nearly 30% of ash and 15% of water gave 1 commercial horse-power-hour for each 4 lb. of peat fired in the producer. Had the peat cost $2 per ton to dig and prepare for the producer, each horse-power-hour developed would have cost 0.4 of a cent. The fuel cost of running an electric plant properly equipped for using peat fuel, of even this low grade, in the gas producer would be about $4 per 100 h.p. developed per 10-hour day.

Equally good results were procured in tests of Florida and Michigan peat operated in the gas producer. The investigations of peat under Mr. Davis include studies of simple commercial methods of drying, the chemical and fuel value, analyses of the peat, studies of the mechanical methods of digging and disintegrating the peat, and physical tests to determine the strength of air-dried peat to support a load.

The calorific value of peat, as shown by numerous analyses made by the United States Geological Survey, runs from about 7,500 to nearly 11,000 B.t.u., moisture free, including the ash, which varies from less than 2% to 20%, the latter being considered in Europe the limit of commercial use for fuel. Analyses of 25 samples of peat from Florida, within these limits as to ash, show a range of from 8,269 to 10,865 B.t.u., only four of the series being below 9,000 B.t.u., and four exceeding 10,500 B.t.u., moisture free. Such fuel in Florida is likely to be utilized soon, since it only needs to be dug and dried in order to render it fit for the furnace or gas producer. Many bituminous coals now used commercially have fuel value as low as 11,000 B.t.u., moisture free, and with maximum ash content of 20%; buckwheat anthracite averages near the same figures, often running as high as 24% ash.

One bulletin concerning the peats of Maine has been published, and another, concerning the peat industries of the United States, is in course of publication.

Mr. Bartoccini asks whether it would not be possible for the United States Geological Survey to enforce rules which would prevent the existence of conditions such as occurred at the mine disaster of Cherry, Ill.

The United States Government has no police power within the States, and it is not within its province to enact or enforce rules or laws, or even to make police inspection regarding the methods of operating mining properties. The province of the mine accidents investigations and that of its successor, the Bureau of Mines, is, within the States, like that of other and similar Government bureaus in the Interior Department, the Department of Agriculture, and other Federal departments, merely to investigate and disseminate information. It remains for the States to enact laws and rules applying the remedies which may be indicated as a result of Federal investigation.

Investigations are now in progress and tests are being conducted with a view to issuing circulars concerning the methods of fighting mine fires, the installation of telephones and other means of signaling, and other subjects of the kind to which Mr. Bartoccini refers.

Much as the writer appreciates the kindly and sympathetic spirit of the discussion of Messrs. Allen and Bartoccini, he appreciates even more that of Colonel Dunn and Mr. Stott, who are recognized authorities regarding the subjects they discuss, and of Messrs. Kreisinger and Snelling, who have added materially to the details presented in the paper relative to the particular investigations of which they have charge in Pittsburg.

Mr. Snelling's reference to the use of explosives in blasting operations should be of interest to all civil engineers, as well as to mining engineers, as should Colonel Dunn's discussion concerning the means adopted to safeguard the transportation of explosives.

Since the presentation of the paper, Congress has enacted a law establishing, in the Department of the Interior, a United States Bureau of Mines. To this Bureau have been transferred from the Geological Survey the fuel-testing and the mine accidents investigations described in this paper. To the writer it seems a matter for deep regret that the investigations of the structural materials belonging to and for the use of the United States, were not also transferred to the same Bureau. On the last day of the session of Congress, a conference report transferred these from the Geological Survey to the Bureau of Standards. It is doubtful whether the continuation of these investigations in that Bureau, presided over as it is by physicists and chemists of high scientific attainments, will be of as immediate value to engineers and to those engaged in building and engineering construction as they would in the Bureau of Mines, charged as it is with the investigations pertinent to the mining and quarrying industries, and having in its employ mining, mechanical, and civil engineers.

FOOTNOTES

[Footnote 1: Presented at the meeting of April 20th, 1910.]

[Footnote 2: "Coal Mine Accidents," by Clarence Hall and Walter O. Snelling. Bulletin No. 333, U.S. Geological Survey, Washington, D.C.]

[Footnote 3: "The Explosibility of Coal Dust," by George S. Rice and others. Bulletin No. * * *, U.S. Geological Survey.]

[Footnote 4: "Notes on Explosives, Mine Gases and Dusts," by Rollin Thomas Chamberlin. Bulletin No. 383, U.S. Geological Survey, 1909.]

[Footnote 5: "Prevention of Mine Explosions," by Victor Watteyne, Carl Meissner, and Arthur Desborough. Bulletin No. 369, U.S. Geological Survey.]

[Footnote 6: With a view to obtaining a dust of uniform purity and inflammability.]

[Footnote 7: "The Primer of Explosives," by C. E. Munroe and Clarence Hall. Bulletin No. 423, U.S. Geological Survey, 1909.]

[Footnote 8: "Tests of Permissible Explosives," by Clarence Hall, W. O. Snelling, S. P. Howell, and J. J. Rutledge. Bulletin No. * * *, U.S. Geological Survey.]

[Footnote 9: "Structural Materials Testing Laboratories," by Richard L. Humphrey, Bulletin No. 329. U.S. Geological Survey, 1908; "Portland Cement Mortars and their Constituent Materials," by Richard L. Humphrey and William Jordan, Jr., Bulletin No. 331, U.S. Geological Survey, 1908; "Strength of Concrete Beams," by Richard L. Humphrey, Bulletin No. 344, U.S. Geological Survey, 1908.]

[Footnote 10: "Fire Resistive Properties of Various Building Materials," by Richard L. Humphrey, Bulletin No. 370, U.S. Geological Survey, 1909.]

[Footnote 11: "Purchasing Coal Under Government Specifications," by J. S. Burrows, Bulletin No. 378, U.S. Geological Survey, 1909.]

[Footnote 12: "Experimental Work in the Chemical Laboratory," by N. W. Lord, Bulletin No. 323, U.S. Geological Survey, 1907: "Operations of the Coal Testing Plant, St. Louis, Mo." Professional Paper No. 48, U.S. Geological Survey, 1906.]

[Footnote 13: Also Bulletins Nos. 290, 332, 334, 363, 366, 367, 373, 402, 403, and 412, U.S. Geological Survey.]

[Footnote 14: "Tests of Coal for House Heating Boilers," by D. T. Randall, Bulletin No. 336, U.S. Geological Survey, 1908.]

[Footnote 15: "The Smokeless Combustion of Coal," by D. T. Randall and H. W. Weeks, Bulletin No. 373, U.S. Geological Survey, 1909.]

[Footnote 16: "The Flow of Heat through Furnace Walls," by W. T. Ray and H. Kreisinger. Bulletin (in press), U.S. Geological Survey.]

[Footnote 17: The assumption is made that a metal tube free from scale will remain almost as cool as the water; actual measurements with thermo-couples have indicated the correctness of this assumption in the majority of cases.]

[Footnote 18: "Heat Transmission into Steam Boilers," by W. T. Ray and H. Kreisinger, Bulletin (in press), U.S. Geological Survey.]

[Footnote 19: "The Producer Gas Power Plant," by R. H. Fernald, Bulletin No. 416, U.S. Geological Survey, 1909; also Professional Paper No. 48 and Bulletins Nos. 290, 316, 332, and 416.]

[Footnote 20: A Taylor up-draft pressure producer, made by R. D. Wood and Company, Philadelphia, Pa.]

[Footnote 21: "Coal Testing Plant, St. Louis, Mo.," by R. H. Fernald, Professional Paper No. 48, Vol. III, U.S. Geological Survey, 1906.]

[Footnote 22: A report of these tests may be found in Bulletin No. * * *, U.S. Geological Survey.]

[Footnote 23: "Illuminating Gas Coals," by A. H. White and Perry Barker, U.S. Geological Survey.]

[Footnote 24: "Gasoline and Alcohol Tests," by R. M. Strong, Bulletin No. 392, U.S. Geological Survey, 1909.]

[Footnote 25: "Washing and Coking Tests," by Richard Moldenke, A. W. Belden and G. R. Delamater, Bulletin No. 336, U.S. Geological Survey, 1908; also, "Washing and Coking Tests at Denver, Colo.," by A. W. Belden and G. R. Delamater, Bulletin No. 368, U.S. Geological Survey, 1909.]

[Footnote 26: U.S. Geological Survey, Professional Paper No. 48, Pt. III, and Bulletins Nos. 290, 332, 336, 368, 385, and 403.]

[Footnote 27: Professional Paper No. 48, and Bulletins Nos. 290, 316, 332, 343, 363, 366, 385, 402, 403, and 412, U.S. Geological Survey.]

[Footnote 28: "Peat Deposits of Maine," by E. D. Bastin and C. A. Davis. Bulletin No. 376, U.S. Geological Survey, 1909.]

[Footnote 29: U.S. Geological Survey, Pittsburg, Pa.]

[Footnote 30: Chief Explosives Chemist, U.S. Geological Survey.]

[Footnote 31: Lieutenant-Colonel, Ordnance Dept., U. S. A.]

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

[Errata:

[Fig. 3. caption] SAFETY LAMP TESTING GALLERY text reads "SAFTY"

[Mine-Rescue Training] experienced in rescue operations and familiar / with the conditions existing after mine disasters text reads "familar"

so as to determine, if possible, the progress of combustion (Fig. 1, Plate XVIII). text reads "Pate XVIII"

The chemical analyses of the coals text reads "anaylses" ]

THE END

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