Boiler Room Log Books, Fusible Plugs and Accessories | Boiler Supplies
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A fusible plug operates as a safety valve when dangerous temperatures, rather than dangerous pressures, are reached in a closed vessel. In steam engines the fusible plug is screwed into the crown sheet (the top plate) of the firebox, typically extending about an inch (25mm) into the water space above. Its purpose is to act as a last-resort safety device in the event of the water level falling dangerously low: when the top of the plug is out of the water it overheats, the low-melting-point core melts away and the resulting noisy release of steam into the firebox serves to warn the operators of the danger before the top of the firebox itself runs completely dry, which could result in catastrophic failure of the boiler. The temperature of the flue gases in a steam engine firebox can reach 1000 °F (550 °C), at which temperature copper, from which historically most fireboxes were made, softens to a state which can no longer sustain the boiler pressure and a severe explosion will result if water is not put into the boiler quickly and the fire removed or extinguished. The hole through the plug is too small to have any great effect in reducing the steam pressure and the small amount of water, if any, that passes through it is not expected to have any great impact in quenching the fire.