During a number of years the writer has been in the closest touch with steam engines, small and large, as designer and superintendent of erection, and has always felt that the troubles which an engineer encounters form a large and not unimportant part of his professional life. With the great number of different designs of engines in use it keeps engineers and power plant owners guessing why things go wrong with certain parts of engines, and being without the necessary theoretical knowledge, they are at a perfect loss to know how they can be prevented or remedied. It seems to be the hardest thing in the world to get any real inside information in case of trouble, for the reason that nobody wants to fix the blame and nobody wants to take it, and be made responsible. Another thing, it is very often a thankless job for the engineer to point out defects of an engine which may in future become a source of trouble.
The development and perfection of the steam engine is in a large part due to designers who made a close study of the existing designs with the idea of remedying defects and making improvements, in order to limit breakdowns and repairs, and in this way making engines more reliable, easier to handle and increasing their economical performance.