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The Ashton Gauge Page

Ashton

Member
The Ashton Valve company supplied the Railroad industry with valves, gauges, and other boiler related items for over 100 years. I've been collecting Ashton gauges (or GAGES, as they called them) and have a few I'm posting pictures of. Anyone else have any RR or other gauges to mention?
 

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Ashton

Member
Re: The Gauge Page

Some of the gauges have an interesting story. The cassion gauge (seen above) for one:

caisson pressure gauges are mounted inside hyperbaric chambers, caissons, living
chambers & decompression chambers; used for measuring the simulated depth (pressure) inside the chamber or used to
measure the pressure within a pressure system operating inside the chamber.
The gauge is designed to be surface mounted within the chamber and is constructed around the workings of a conventional
bourdon tube pressure gauge. This design allows the instrument to be bench calibrated in a similar fashion to other oxygen
cleaned bourdon tube pressure gauges.
This caisson gauge features a large internally sealed brass encapsulated pressure reference chamber. This
design of caisson gauge is supplied with a 1/4" NPT male process connection which is left
open to the atmosphere within the chamber when chamber pressure is to be measured.
What is a caisson?
Caisson construction was initiated in 1839 by a
French mining engineer named Triger. To bridge a
stretch of quicksand and access a rich vein of coal he
constructed a metal tube positioned within the mine
shaft. He then applied compressed air to the tube; this
pressure pushed watery sand from the metal shaft
allowing the coal to be mined. Of note, this tube was
seventy feet long and three-and-a-half feet in diameter;
it had a surface-placed “pressure box” (now, referred to
as an air-lock; see Figure 1) for the workers to enter
and exit the pressurized tube (1).
Although the original caisson idea probably dates to
1691 with Papin, was elaborated by Coulomb in 1779, and
certainly patented by Cochrane in 1830, it was Triger who
first employed it (1). And, it was Triger who first described
Historic Caisson Disease
physical effects associated with the elevated atmospheric pressures.
Of 64 miners, forty-seven endured the work relatively well, twenty-five
abandoned the work, and two died. They noted, “The danger is not in going into the compressed
air. It is not a disadvantage to stop there a longer or shorter time. The decompression only is to
be feared. One only pays on coming out.”(5) Indeed, this was a telling observation, for both the
Eads and Brooklyn Bridges were plagued with decompression sickness. This article reviews
those problems and the countermeasures employed by each project’s physician.
Caisson Disease
“Caisson Disease” is a term coined by Andrew Smith to describe the illness that he
encountered among workers during the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge (6). Although it is
more commonly called decompression sickness (DCS) today, caisson disease remains a popular
colloquialism. . Examples include mining, tunnelling,
and bridge-building.
Regardless of the name, the disease remains the same. It is “too much nitrogen disease.”
Normally, tissues at a constant pressure are saturated with a certain amount of dissolved inert
nitrogen. If ambient pressure drops, there is a fall in the nitrogen pressure.
Dysequilibrium ensues and tissue supersaturation takes place. As a result, the tissues tend to
release "excess" nitrogen to the vascular system for delivery to the lungs where it is exhaled into
the atmosphere. Thus, a new equilibrium is established. Unfortunately, the change in pressure
can exceed the body's capability to release the extra nitrogen. Once a critical point is reached the
nitrogen can no longer remain dissolved and bubbles form. These bubbles may develop in the
tissues themselves or in the vasculature or, for that matter, may simply grow from circulating
(microbubbles) already present. In any event, the myriad of symptoms caused by
these bubbles define decompression sickness.
Decompression sickness has been clinically typified for over 150 years. It is most commonly manifest with joint
(“bends”) and skin symptoms. Interestingly, the term “bends” is a contraction of Grecian Bend.
In the 1870s a popular ladies’ fashion produced a distinctive forward bent posture known as the
Grecian Bend. When compressed air workers suffered joint pains their posture mimicked the
“Grecian Bend.” Workers, chiding their peers, eventually shortened it to “the bends.”
Interestingly, this euphemism has variously been attributed to either the Eads Bridge or Brooklyn
Bridge workers
- Historic Caisson Disease
. Unchecked, progression to cardiovascular collapse and death can happen.
The first was systemic exhaustion. Here, compressed air provided super-levels of oxygen
causing extra metabolism and excess waste overtaxing normal physiologic function. Thus, the
cold from decompression coupled with the fatigue occasioned by compression led to exhaustion
 

Ashton

Member
Re: The Gauge Page

Ammonia relief valve and diffuser

Ammonia gas was a by product of early refrigeration. People living near factories were getting sick or even dying by exposure to the toxic fumes.

The Ashton ammonia gauge and the diffuser were developed to combat these issues. The diffuser was placed on a pipe at least 20 feet above the factory roof to mix the oxygen/ammonia gas to a safe level.

The Bad about Ammonia as a Refrigerant:
The major disadvantage of ammonia as a refrigerant is its toxicity. Due to ammonia’s hygroscopic nature, it
migrates to moist areas of the body, including the eyes, nose, throat and moist skin and may cause severe burn
injuries. Skin and respiratory-related diseases are aggravated by exposure(6) and even possible fatality at higher
concentrations.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Permissible Exposure Level (PEL) is an 8-hour
time weighted average of 50 parts per million (ppm). The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health
has established Immediately Dangerous to Life Levels at 300 ppm for the purpose of respirator selection(1).
Concentrations of 5000 ppm can be lethal(8).
Ammonia vapors are a fire and explosion hazard at concentrations between 16% and 25%. Mixtures involving
ammonia contaminated with lubricating oil from the system, however, may have a much broader explosive range.

In 1914 the state of Mass passed the Ammonia valve compressor law which made it illegal to use an ammonia compressor with out a safety valve. It was up to the Boiler Inspection department to enforce the law.
 

Ashton

Member
Re: The Gauge Page

Another interesting gauge is the Master Pilot Pressure Gauge. These large(up to 40" diameter) gauges were often illuminated and were meant to be seen from a distance. They were often 2 sided gauges and were suspended from the ceiling in the middle of the boiler room.
 

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Ashton

Member
Re: The Gauge Page

Ashton protected dial pressure gauge

So, lets say you have a air brake pressure gauge in the back of the train and people keep smashing items into it and causing damage. What are you going to do? Well, you can get a gauge which offers protection from the accidental bumps and damage. Simple solutions for common railroad problems!
 

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Paul Spence

Subscriber
Re: The Gauge Page

Ashton: Good start to a “GAUGE” page. I have more than a few “neat” gauges (not just Ashton) that are just what I find from time to time. Here are two smokstak links to a couple I have.

A Bigelow 12"-300psig
@ https://www.smokstak.com/forum/showthread.php?t=182195

A Westinghouse Duplex locomotive air brake gauge @
https://www.smokstak.com/forum/showthread.php?t=172529

If you type in gauge in the search box on the bottom left of any smokstak page, you will find threads to “LOT’s” of gauges in many different sections (at least 10 pages :yikes: of references to gauges). Guess it’s time for a GAUGE page to get them all together :confused: . Now what section to put it in :uhoh: . Some are tractor, R.R., pressure, vacuum, steam, etc.. Just having "FUN", even in NJ collecting "stuff" on the way through :shrug: .
 

Ashton

Member
Re: The Gauge Page

I've been cleaning my gauges a little but I have to admit I'm afraid of damaging the needles. I have a needle remover but I don't want to accidentally break a needle as it seems fairly difficult to find replacements. I read about a company in England and in the New Jersey area that offer replacement parts but I haven't purchased any yet.
 

Ashton

Member
Re: The Gauge Page

Unlike today's throw-a-way products, items were built to last years ago. You could replace almost everything on an old safety valve or gauge. I have an Ashton Valve that's over 100 years old and still works.
 

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Peter Holmander

Subscriber
Re: The Gauge Page

I picked up this old AC amp gauge at the Elephant's Trunk Country Flea Market in New Milford CT last Sunday. It is made by G.E.C.O. in the USA. It has a 7 inch diameter glass face on it. 0-125 AMPS Type AR-Z No. 866491 It has a patent date on it of Sept 28, 1915 I thought it was in nice shape so I bought it. Paid 50.00 Not sure how I did, but I think its a nice vintage gauge.
 

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Peter Holmander

Subscriber
Re: The Gauge Page

No Ashton, I do not collect them. But I saw that one and I thought it was cool, so I made an offer on it and brought it home. How about yourself? Everybody collects something.
 
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