Public Safety Bulletin

 RE:      Steam Traction Engine Operation 

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Steam Traction Engines from the turn of 19th century have a significant value and importance to Saskatchewan’s history. Many private collectors and public museums have preserved this history and maintain operating steam traction engines for the benefit of the public in understanding the history of agriculture, steam power, and Saskatchewan.

Not only is there a strong fascination with the operation of steam traction engines – the smell of the smoke, the sight of the steam, and the sounds of the whistle – but there is also risk. The risk must be managed well in order to ensure the continued ability to bring life to our history by hearing and seeing these historical boilers operate.

TSASK has continued with the annual internal inspection and hydrostatic pressure test prior to operation that was established under government. TSASK is proud to boast not only of its highly knowledgeable staff of materials, boiler designs, and inspection methods, but of its knowledge and passion of historical boilers that ensures the inspections we provide are thorough and insightful.

Beyond the actual boiler, risk is further managed through standard operator qualifications and the owner’s responsibility to ensuring the safe operation of the steam traction engines.

However, recent events has prompted TSASK to respond with further clarification of the safety standards that must be followed in Saskatchewan to operate a steam traction engine.

All steam traction engines must have undergone an internal inspection by a TSASK inspector and undergone a hydrostatic pressure test to 200 psi witnessed by a TSASK inspector prior to operating in the calendar year.

All steam traction engines must have a valid licence to operate.

All steam traction engines are limited to a maximum safety valve pressure of 100 psi.

The operation of a steam traction engine includes, but is not limited to, the lighting of the fire, blowing down the boiler, checking gauges and levels, draining steam from the cylinders, having a fire on and transferring energy to the water, having steam in the boiler, belting up to other equipment, or putting in motion the steam traction engine. The term under fire and pressure will be used interchangeably with operating a steam traction engine.

At all times while the steam traction engine is under fire and pressure, a licensed Limited Power Engineer Traction Engine Operator must be responsible for the steam traction engine’s operation.

In training or apprenticeship situations where no public is present during operation, an un-licensed operator may be in immediate control of the steam traction engine while under the direct supervision of a licensed operator. Note that supervision is defined in this case as both operating plus training and requires the licensed operator to be on the steam traction engine.

When a steam traction engine is being operated in the presence of the public such as public demonstrations, the licensed operator must be on the steam traction engine and in a position of immediate control.

When a steam traction engine is being operated in the presence of the public such as public demonstrations, there shall be no training of operators. The attention of the licensed operator must be solely focused on the operation of the steam traction engine and on the public.

When a steam traction engine is being operated in the presence of the public such as public demonstrations, means of monitoring and ensuring the public are not in the path of travel or in close proximity to be injured through contact with the steam traction engine. This may be accomplished by barriers, spotters walking along side of the steam traction engine in direct communication with the operator, by using a two operator system, or any combination of measures.

When using a two operator system to operate the steam traction engine, one person must be identified as “in charge and control” of the operation. This person must be identified.

Owners of steam traction engines are also reminded of the requirement to promptly report any defects of the steam traction engine that may arise or become known that might render the steam traction engine unsafe.

Owners are further reminded of the requirement to report all incidents related to steam traction engine operation including injuries such as burns or strains, etc. related to operating the controls, moving a simple single piston from the dead position, lighting or maintaining the fire.

The rules listed above take effect immediately. However, TSASK will be arranging future opportunities to engage all persons with an interest in steam traction engines the chance to participate in the re-examination and setting of the policy standards for inspection, examination, repair, operation, and operator qualifications. 

Chris Selinger, P.Eng.
Chief Inspector