Brotan, Johann

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b. 24 June 1843 Kattau, Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic)
d. 20 November 1923 Vienna, Austria
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Czech engineer, pioneer of the watertube firebox for steam locomotive boilers.
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Brotan, who was Chief Engineer of the main workshops of the Royal Austrian State Railways at Gmund, found that locomotive inner fireboxes of the usual type were both expensive, because the copper from which they were made had to be imported, and short-lived, because of corrosion resulting from the use of coal with high sulphur content. He designed a firebox of which the side and rear walls comprised rows of vertical watertubes, expanded at their lower ends into a tubular foundation ring and at the top into a longitudinal water/steam drum. This projected forward above the boiler barrel (which was of the usual firetube type, though of small diameter), to which it was connected. Copper plates were eliminated, as were firebox stays.
The first boiler to incorporate a Brotan firebox was built at Gmund under the inventor's supervision and replaced the earlier boiler of a 0−6−0 in 1901. The increased radiantly heated surface was found to produce a boiler with very good steaming qualities, while the working pressure too could be increased, with consequent fuel economies. Further locomotives in Austria and, experimentally, elsewhere were equipped with Brotan boilers.
Disadvantages of the boiler were the necessity of keeping the tubes clear of scale, and a degree of structural weakness. The Swiss engineer E. Deffner improved the latter aspect by eliminating the forward extension of the water/steam drum, replacing it with a large-diameter boiler barrel with the rear section of tapered wagon-top type so that the front of the water/steam drum could be joined directly to the rear tubeplate. The first locomotives to be fitted with this Brotan-Deffner boiler were two 4−6−0s for the Swiss Federal Railways in 1908 and showed very favourable results. However, steam locomotive development ceased in Switzerland a few years later in favour of electrification, but boilers of the Brotan-Deffner type and further developments of it were used in many other European countries, notably Hungary, where more than 1,000 were built. They were also used experimentally in the USA: for instance, Samuel Vauclain, as President of Baldwin Locomotive Works, sent his senior design engineer to study Hungarian experience and then had a high-powered 4−8−0 built with a watertube firebox. On stationary test this produced the very high figure of 4,515 ihp (3,370 kW), but further development work was frustrated by the trade depression commencing in 1929. In France, Gaston du Bousquet had obtained good results from experimental installations of Brotan-Deffner-type boilers, and incorporated one into one of his high-powered 4−6−4s of 1910. Experiments were terminated suddenly by his death, followed by the First World War, but thirty-five years later André Chapelon proposed using a watertube firebox to obtain the high pressure needed for a triple-expansion, high-powered, steam locomotive, development of which was overtaken by electrification.
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Further Reading
G.Szontagh, 1991, "Brotan and Brotan-Deffner type fireboxes and boilers applied to steam locomotives", Transactions of the Newcomen Society 62 (an authoritative account of Brotan boilers).
PJGR

Biographical history of technology. - Taylor & Francis e-Librar. . 2005.

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