Steam Siphon in Action. Fireman Martin Hansen checks the level in the water tank on Mt. Emily Shay #1, as the locomotive's steam siphon draws water from the Lytle Creek and pours it into the tender through a 4" diameter pipe.
Unlike the regular freight and passenger carriers, logging railroads often operated on crude, temporary tracks, that were moved as needed to service the timber harvesting operations. These lines seldom had facilities such as water tanks to service the locomotives, so crews had to get water where they could find it. For this reason, logging engines were often equipped with steam siphons, which used boiler steam, ejected through a nozzle, to create a suction. This system could draw water from most any source, and pour it into the tender. Rivers, streams and ponds were often used as convenient places to top off the locomotive's water supply. A strainer, placed over the end of the suction hose prevented excess debris from entering the tender tank.
Fireman Hansen reports that the siphon is indeed very effective, and rapidly fills the tank on #1. It has its drawbacks, however. The steam does warm the incoming water, and this can impair the ability of the locomotive's injectors to pull the water from the tender and inject it into the boiler. The problem is more pronounced in warm weather than it is in the winter, when the water cools rapidly in the uninsulated tank.