Of "Bio-Coal" and Stokers

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Sean R Das

I suppose some of you have heard of of the Coalition for Sustainable Rail's attempts to rebuild Santa Fe Hudson #3463, an oil-burner, into a coal burner burning a special kind of "Bio-Coal." But I have one question:

Assuming that fuel consumption is high enough to demand a mechanical stoker, I began to notice something--the illustration of the fuel "pellets" is uniform in size, which contradicts how many mechanical locmotive stokers were designed.

Because coal supplies "back in the day" were irregular in size and could possibly clog the conveyor or jam the screw, stokers were equipped with a toothed "crusher" that broke large lumps into a satisfactory size for even flow and allowed smaller lumps and "slack" to pass through the crushing zone without further breaking.

It is not apparent whether the pellets are small enough to pass through the conveyor without being crushed, and if they have to be crushed, will this negatively affect the burning process. What do you guys (of the steam experts among us) think?

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