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 Post subject: Is collecting coal dangerous?
PostPosted: Sat May 18, 2019 10:46 pm 

Joined: Thu May 05, 2016 6:30 pm
Posts: 209
Location: Illinois
Hi,

Please move this to Railfanning if you see fit.

I chased the IAIS 6988 today and one of the crew members gave me a chunk of coal as a souvenir. I have a collection of pieces of coal that were taken from tenders of steam locomotives and I store them in a plastic ziplock bag. My friend told me that coal can spontaneously combust and that I should get rid of my collection right away, but I Googled it and only results for mines and other large quantities of coal spontaneously combusting showed up. I only have 10-15 small chunks of coal. Can it still combust?

Thomas

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 Post subject: Re: Is collecting coal dangerous?
PostPosted: Sat May 18, 2019 10:59 pm 

Joined: Tue Dec 11, 2012 1:40 am
Posts: 460
Collecting lumps of coal from steam locomotives is generally not dangerous. Coal cannot just spontaneously combust without certain conditions being met. I've had for 25 years lumps of coal from mines in Pennsylvania and have never had any of it combust without taking some kerosene and a match to it.

Robert


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 Post subject: Re: Is collecting coal dangerous?
PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2019 12:15 am 

Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2004 7:52 am
Posts: 1745
Location: Strasburg, PA
When was the last time you heard of a tender full of coal catching fire?

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 Post subject: Re: Is collecting coal dangerous?
PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2019 12:46 am 

Joined: Mon Jul 02, 2018 8:04 pm
Posts: 170
Never heard of that one before. Obviously if that was true every coal mine, every coal train, and every building that stores coal would catch on fire sooner or later. Try lighting a piece of coal on fire just using a match. You will find it does not catch fire easy.


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 Post subject: Re: Is collecting coal dangerous?
PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2019 1:22 am 

Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2005 9:34 pm
Posts: 2345
Location: Copenhagen, Denmark
Very large piles of coal, with poor air circulation and compaction, can begin a slow burn. That is why mine fires are so difficult to stop, and many are still burning.

Coal bunkers on ships often had fires. The Titanic had a coal bunker fire ongoing during its voyage.

The solution is more air circulation. That lump of coal on your desk is not going to ignite.

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 Post subject: Re: Is collecting coal dangerous?
PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2019 4:21 am 

Joined: Sun Jan 30, 2005 2:27 am
Posts: 568
Location: Winters, TX
Keep the coal. Dump the friend.


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 Post subject: Re: Is collecting coal dangerous?
PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2019 7:41 am 

Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 4:22 pm
Posts: 352
Dry coal out in the open won’t burn until someone deliberately lights it. Longer explanation follows:

Your friend has most likely read about stone dump/gob pile fires. Think acres of coal and shale a hundred feet or more deep, getting rained on for years. Coal is compacted plant matter—lignite not so much, anthracite a step short of diamond, and all shades in between. Coal waste in wet heaps, like any other plant waste, starts to compost. Like any compost heap, the rotting process generates heat, and the center of the pile may get hot enough to start a fire. Most of the time, they’re slow-burning and stinky. It is possible for a long-ignored hopper of coal to catch the same way, especially if it has been wet, then sits in a very hot summer. Once again, your little bits and pieces won’t go up in smoke because they’re indoors, dry and well ventilated.

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 Post subject: Re: Is collecting coal dangerous?
PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2019 8:08 am 

Joined: Tue Aug 24, 2004 3:07 pm
Posts: 681
In the late 1960s I visited a power plant near Duluth, MN to shoot their Davenport d/m switcher. They were dealing with their first uses of PRB coal from Montana and the stuff was given them a lot of grief. When piled in the open, as they'd always done with coal from IL and KY, the PRB coal would self-ignite unless the pile was constantly turned over and spread out. The gentleman at the power plant attributed this issue to the higher organic content of the western coal.


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 Post subject: Re: Is collecting coal dangerous?
PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2019 10:25 am 

Joined: Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:31 am
Posts: 616
Becky Morgan wrote:
Dry coal out in the open won’t burn until someone deliberately lights it. Longer explanation follows:

Your friend has most likely read about stone dump/gob pile fires. Think acres of coal and shale a hundred feet or more deep, getting rained on for years. Coal is compacted plant matter—lignite not so much, anthracite a step short of diamond, and all shades in between. Coal waste in wet heaps, like any other plant waste, starts to compost. Like any compost heap, the rotting process generates heat, and the center of the pile may get hot enough to start a fire. Most of the time, they’re slow-burning and stinky. It is possible for a long-ignored hopper of coal to catch the same way, especially if it has been wet, then sits in a very hot summer. Once again, your little bits and pieces won’t go up in smoke because they’re indoors, dry and well ventilated.


And the anthracite culm dumps that I lived next to for years never spontaneously caught fire (although my mother always said they could develop pockets from the rain and suck you in).


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 Post subject: Re: Is collecting coal dangerous?
PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2019 12:11 pm 

Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2004 4:02 pm
Posts: 1231
Location: Back in NE Ohio
That was a cheap shot at AOC. In case you haven't kept up, that is the way the World is heading, and part of the reason "The Young Folks" are not interested in things like historic railroads and preservation. There are those of us in the profession/hobby, like me, who also consider ourselves environmentally aware. I've tried to steer participants on here in the direction of alternative fuels for steam restorations (like the Grand Canyon has done). There is NOTHING patriotic about burning coal. It's ridiculous, and in the long-run extremely harmful to the rest of life on Earth.

I first heard about the possibility of coal spontaneously combusting a couple of weeks ago on a cable TV show about busting the myths of the Titanic. They said that coal could catch fire from rubbing together and sparking (when it was being dumped down the loading chute), and that was how the coal bunker fire started. Well, being one of those folks who has shoveled more than a few tons of real estate into the belly of a locomotive, I know how hard it is to start a coal fire, and how unrealistic that reasoning is. However, now museums/tourist railroads are going to have to dispel that myth among visitors as well as others.


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 Post subject: Re: Is collecting coal dangerous?
PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2019 2:23 pm 

Joined: Sun Aug 22, 2004 1:51 pm
Posts: 9418
Location: Somewhere east of Prescott, AZ along the old Santa Fe "Prescott & Eastern"
PaulWWoodring wrote:
That was a cheap shot at AOC.


In case you haven't kept up, that is the way the World is heading.

There's an entire industry centered around "cheap shots" at politicians, a great many of whom at times downright earned those cheap shots. It's called late-night television. And gone are the days when Johnny Carson was so fair and even with his jokes that no one could ever guess he was a card-carrying Socialist.

But, yeah, it was a misguided shot. It should have been Obama that was suggested. [rimshot]


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 Post subject: Re: Is collecting coal dangerous?
PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2019 2:38 pm 

Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2014 5:05 pm
Posts: 950
Locally there is a small ex-Northern Pacific 0-6-0 under restoration and it has been decided to fire it with compressed sawdust logs. These have the same fuel value as soft coal and are readily available. The lack of good steam coal in less than 10,000 ton lots was also a consideration. They raised the boiler temperature from about 50 to 150 degrees with 25 logs.


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 Post subject: Re: Is collecting coal dangerous?
PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2019 3:31 pm 

Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2014 5:05 pm
Posts: 950
Good paper on coal fires:

http://www.coaltrainfacts.org/docs/EH-9 ... n-Coal.pdf


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 Post subject: Re: Is collecting coal dangerous?
PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2019 4:42 pm 

Joined: Tue Jun 22, 2010 4:22 pm
Posts: 352
6-18003 wrote:
And the anthracite culm dumps that I lived next to for years never spontaneously caught fire (although my mother always said they could develop pockets from the rain and suck you in).


Right, because anthracite has given up nearly all of the stuff that could rot and is close to pure carbon. I can see where loosely dumped gob could settle suddenly or, of course, the side of the pile can let go (RIP those who died in the collapse at Aberfan many years ago.)

Lignite is the most liable to overheat as it composts. Stirring it frequently and keeping it as dry as possible are ways to control it. Even then, a single lump of lignite is unlikely to do harm.

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 Post subject: Re: Is collecting coal dangerous?
PostPosted: Sun May 19, 2019 7:40 pm 

Joined: Wed Jun 29, 2016 11:58 am
Posts: 65
Yenko Stinger wrote:
Better get rid of it right away LOL! Would the friends name be Alexandria Ocasio Cortez?


Interesting that you chose that politician as one who would supply misinformation when the current President of the United Stated is clocked at about 10,000 erroneous or misleading statements just since he took office.

Brian


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