For the last three years at CCE I’ve had the misfortune of coming across more than a few boiler ruins, with very little to show for it. As I’ve stated many times before boiler houses just don’t survive too well, due most likely to the unabashed eagerness of scrapers who swoop in and remove any pieces of steel and iron they can find. So as a result I find very little of the boiler houses intact, and no trace of any boilers to be found. But that all changed as I walked into the Quincy Smelter’s boiler complex. Not only was the building still intact, but so too were its boilers.
It was the first thing we saw as we entered the smelter’s original boiler house, a towering brick monstrosity that at first looked more like a smoke stack then a boiler. Our confusion was understandable considering this particular boiler was a rare breed in the copper country. While most boilers of the time were horizontal fire tube models, this one was of the vertical water tube type. Specifically we were looking at a Cook Boiler.
In a Cook Boiler water is stored within two tanks stacked several feet apart within a brick lined cylinder. The two tanks are connected through a collection of thin vertical tubes in which heated water moves by means of convection from the bottom tank (known as the mud drum) to the upper tank (known as the steam drum). At the boiler’s base stands a large attached firebox while a steel chimney protrudes from its top. Hot gases from the firebox are drawn by natural draft up into the brick lined cylinder and out through the chimney.
Along the way the hot gases from the firebox surround and envelope the array of connecting water tubes between the boiler’s two tanks. As a result the water within the tubes is heated, and convection draws that heated water up into the steam drum. In turn, cold water is pushed downward into the mud tank through its own down-cast tube. As the heated water move up the water tubes its heated even further until it reaches the steam drum. There the water is quickly converted to steam, which is let off through an outlet at the boiler’s top.
Here’s another look at the boiler, this time looking down on it from above. The outer wall here is made up of brick, and is the massive structure we see still today in the smelter’s boiler house. Within that brick shell is a large amount of empty space punctuated with dozens of thin water tubes. The hot gases from the furnace fill up every open space between the tubes, heating a greater amount of surface area then is possible in conventional boiler design.
Though the Cook Boiler has several advantages it does have one major disadvantage – its size. Most of the available space inside the cavernous boiler house is taken up by the boiler itself, a monstrous piece of equipment that rises three stories high and takes up most of the floor space.
Here’s another view, this time of the boiler complex’s first floor plan. The original boiler house sits on top, with the newer addition sitting to the bottom. The old boiler house – in which we were presently located – was home to two boilers. Besides the massive Cook Boiler there was also a second older boiler here as well. This other boiler is no longer still present in the building, but since it seems to have been the only thing removed I would guess that it was done by Quincy itself.
Back inside the old boiler house we took a closer look at the inside wall dividing it from the cupola building next door. This particular wall is in fact the old west wall of the original Cupola building, before the boiler house addition was erected. As seems to always be the case, the interior wall here was white washed and the original sandstone facade covered up.
Taking a look back at the base of the Cook boiler we could make out some piping protruding from its base, a set that was probably used to fill and empty the lower mud drum. The other connection looks to be for electrical wiring, perhaps for an internal pressure or temperature gauge.
Nearby we found this small opening as well, an opening that looked at first to be an ash door, In actuality its a man hole used to access the boiler’s interior for maintenance and repair. As is customary the door is labeled with the boiler’s manufacturer, which in this case is the McNeil Boiler Company out of Akron Ohio.
Making our way to the front of the boiler we find ourselves looking at its firebox loading doors. The upper set of doors was for loading coal while the bottom set was for scooping out ash.
And here’s a closer look…
What caught me eye most quickly here was the inscription set onto the top of the firebox. Besides the name and manufacturer of the boiler – as is seen here – the plate also had the words “Quincy Smelting Works” blazed across it. There also appears to have once been an emblem or other decorative trinket embedded into the round recess. Most likely a victim of scavengers I would guess if there was indeed something there once.
Craning our necks upward we peered into the dark recesses of the building’s upper stories – which were made up of mostly empty space. The narrow stairway seen here was used to access the boiler’s upper steam drum, where the steam outlet piping and pressure relief valves are located.
Taking a look at the boiler complex’s second floor plan we find that it consists primarily of open space. Besides the bulk of the boiler the upper story is home to a small coal bin, used to supply coal to both this boiler and the newer model next door.
The third floor is another story all together however. As mentioned previously this is the steam drum floor, the floor on which sits the boiler’s upper water tank. Also housed on this floor is an elevated coal trestle, which makes its way through the upper floor of the adjacent Cupola building on its way out to the furnace building.
Leaving the old boiler house behind we took a short stroll to the newer concrete boiler house next door. Along the way we passed through a wide wood framed corridor which connected both buildings. Once past it we found ourselves once again in a cavernous open space filled with very little. This wooden ladder stretched up into the upper floor of this building to reach nothing in particular.
But there was something here, something quite large and intrusive actually. This two story monstrosity is the boiler complex’s second boiler – a Baden-Hausen Boiler hailing from the distant city of Philadelphia. The particular make and model of this boiler is unknown to me, but its size seems to suggest another water-tube design. Either way its still just as impressive.
The Quincy Smelter is private property and is open to the public only during special Quincy Smelter Association’s tours and events.
To learn more about the boiler room and its history be sure to visit the Quincy Smelter Blog for their own virtual tour of the site.
And as an extra bonus, be sure to check in with the Quincy Blog as well for their tour of the Blacksmith Shop and Pump House, the final two rooms of the Cupola Building that I unfortunately did not get a look at.
To view more photos from the Quincy Smelter – including some awesome wide angle imagery – be sure to check out the Quincy Smelter Gallery at David Clark Photography!
And of course, if you have any photos of your own to contribute to the discussion, make sure to post them over at the Copper Country forum’s Quincy Smelter Thread.