Thursday, April 20, 2006

Busting Our Boilers?

Steamboat races on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers were a frequent spectacle in the latter half of the 19th century. Captains were pushed to pilot their vessels to faster and more dangerous speeds by throngs of hurry-up Americans eager to get up river. “Gold-rushers, land-rushers, speculators, hasty immigrants” egged their captains on, even to race nearby boats. We could never go fast enough. One German traveler, the Baron von Gerstner, observed that Americans

“never like to remain one behind another: on the contrary, each wants to get ahead of the rest. When two steamboats happen to get alongside each other, the passengers will encourage the captains to run a race. . . The boilers intended for a pressure of only 100 pounds per square inch are, by accelerated generation of steam, exposed to a pressure of 150 and even 200 pounds, and this goes sometimes so far, that the trials end with an explosion . . . The life of
an American is, indeed, only a constant racing
, and why should he fear it on
board the steamboats?”
Maybe this should give you pause to consider your own “boiler,” and whether it is being pushed beyond its intended capacity – even to explosion.


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