Large Scale Central

Water tank freeze in the winter?

I am building a water tank for our RR, showing pictures to friends. The question that has come up is what did they do in the winter ? In the north part of the country it would freeze ?

Some railroads, the East Broad Top being one, enclosed their tanks in wooden structures that were heated in winter. This is the EBT Tank at Saltillo before it was destroyed by fire…

It’s probable that this tank, and a few others will be reconstructed in the future. The Saltillo Station that sat across the road from this tank was lost to time about 10 years ago but is it the process of being rebuilt by the FEBT.

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Very interesting. Thanks for the information Mark

I am speculating here because nothing in my research never addressed it. But I did ask around. And the Coeur d’Alene Railway and Navigation company had a peculiar square water tank in Wallace Idaho circa 1888. When I inquired why it was square the common consensus was that it was either insulated or heated or both.

The basic water tank, on the D&RGW, had a heavilly insulated center water column to prevent freezing of the fill pipe(s). Just the daily usage turned the volume of the tank enough to prevent total freezing into a solid block. The Outlet valve was at the bottom of the tank, and if some ice formed, it would be on the top of the water level. With the “Warmer” water re-filling the tank, kept the water in circulation and prevented the freezing into a solid block.

On those section lines that weren’t operated in the winter, they would drain the tank, and shut off the supply for the winter…

On “Stand pipes” the valve was located in the ground, generally located below the frost line,

On the C&T I know that they drain the tanks for the winter…

I looked at Dave’s response and it certainly makes sense. I have worked in the public water industry for 26 years now in the Great White North. Freezing of elevated tanks is as much of a problem today as it was 150 years ago. And on a 75,000 gallon elevated tank we moved enough water to generally keep it thawed enough to deliver water. The tank filled from the bottom which meant water was constantly moving around keeping it at least mostly thawed. It would get a floating ice layer that moved up and down (and a few times ripped our tank telemetry cables all to heck).

But also the conversation made me want to revist the CR&N square tank mentioned in my previous post. Here is a great picture of it.

(credit: Barnard-Stockbridge Digital Collection, University of Idaho.)

I don’t think I ever caught this before or if I did I don’t remember. But there is clearly a stove pipe coming from it with smoke rolling out. So I am guessing it was heated. I really should model this at least some resemblance of it. This is the only view I ever have seen of it. It didn’t last but a couple years and then NP bought it up and moved the station and built a real tank.

(credit: Barnard-Stockbridge Digital Collection, University of Idaho.)

First pic was 1888 and second one was 1890 of the same station and no tank. So if I do model it, it will be guess and by golly on what it actually looks like.

Ok I can see how moving water will not freeze solid, didn’t realize they moved that much water in the tank. Heating it would certainly work, just didn’t ever see any picture that showed how they heated a tank that large, must of taken a lot of wood or coal. Thanks for the information.

I do believe that the “Square Water Tanks” weren’t the tank itself, but a building around the actual tank.

I’m not an engineer type, but round tanks are a thousand times easer to build and structurally far stronger then trying to build a square tank. Square tanks are really hard to build as strong as a round one, hence why almost all liquid tanks are round.

The “Square” shell on the outside is but an insulating outer protection.

As to the smoke jack, could be a heating stove, or is that the exhaust for the water pump?

For the East Broad Top at least, that is true. I’ve been inside an extant tank.

Except Australia


:point_right: Here’s a link for modelling :point_left:

and paraguay


Good thoughts Dave. I would almost guess you are right for just the reasons you mention. I would almost place money on it being a square shell covering a round tank. That would make a lot of sense. As for the smoke jack, As I said this is the only picture I know of of this tank. So your guess is as good as mine. I have seen no mention of how this tank was filled. It sits on a river so a small steam pump would make a lot of sense. Canyon Creek is to the left and heading back toward the camera in this picture but at this lower level of the creek is pretty flat so any piping to gravity feed it would have to have run a long way. There is another creek tot he back right of this photo that is a little steeper but not much. So I am thinking a steam pump is very plausible.

That is interesting. I wonder why square. Because Dave is right a cylinder is much much stronger than a square. Forces are not applied equally in a cube. But in a cylinder it is more equal. A sphere is (I believe) the strongest of geometric shapes but don’t quote me on that because I am no engineer either.

Welded steel I can see because you can just make the weakest part stronger than any force that could be applied by just making it out of thick steel. I could see pros and cons in steel especially farther back in time when it was not as easy to form giant curved steel panels as it is today. I also know height of the water body matters a lot not just its volume. Pressure is a factor of height not volume at least in so much as the pressure in the pipes it feeds. A 100 foot tall straw with produce as much water pressure at its bass as a 100 foot tall and 100 foot diameter tank. So maybe being a shallow rectangle or square that is large in size can be built reasonable without building up too much pressure to blow it out? I 1000 gallon tank that is a foot deep wouldn’t create a lot of pressure to blow out the sides. So … But in the cals of my little tank and given that it is a US western mining town circa 1880s I am going with Dave’s theory that it is a square building holding a round tank inside.

I happen to know an engineer who works in the water industry that is a member here, Oh Dan???

Somewhere in my stuff I have drawings of the Saltillo tank that @Gary_Buchanan sent me about a thousand years ago…


Do you know anything about that tank? I could see where this could still be a round tank housed in a rectangular building. with an open “room” on either side. But wouldn’t have any clue why anyone would have built it that way. So my initial guess is that it would be indeed a rectangular tank.

Ah, I had forgotten about @Randy_Lehrian_Jr 's build

Dave has me, per my norm, over analyzing this and wanting to model it. There are some things that look odd and possibly telling to me. The fill spout is all the way to one side. And then there is what appears to be a wooden Hatch/window/thing to the left. The smoke jack (if it is from the building and not a steam pump on the ground is also on the “window” side. Those tells make me think there is a small round tank on the near side of this building and then the left side is a room where a stove and wood could be stored to keep it thawed. What the window hatch thing would be for I am taking a stab is for getting fire wood in it. These were all wood fired locos and that hatch is track side. I can see the locomotive pulling up and placing the tender under that hatch and then taking wood from the tender and loading it into the little room.

Does that sound reasonable? would there be any fatal flaw in my thinking? It would be fun to model as I have described it if there is not a glaring reason why it would be a horrible idea.

It is a good theory but I see one flaw, firewood size. Locomotive fuel wood was usually cut 2-4 feet in length so unless they brought special wood, think 16 inch stove lengths, they couldn’t use it in the typical wood stove without some extra work.

Well that’s a flaw but not a fatal one. That shoots my ones size fits all from the tender theory but a gondola full of fire wood for wood stoves would be equally workable. The station would need firewood as well so I could see very plausible that scenario or even if brought in by wagon you would still have to get wood into the room portion of the tank and since its so close to rivers edge the track side would make sense. Heck a ladder stretched from the station platform would gain them some height for getting wood up there.

So while I appreciate the knowledge that locomotive wood was longer than wood for stoves is quite interesting I did not know that nor would have guessed it but it does make sense to have nice long wood the length of the locomotive fire box. But it is not a deal breaker for my heated water tank with a wood stove theory.