August 06, 2002
A heel is a bank of coal, in this case, along the back of the firebox at the door. If you have a side view of a firebox you will notice the arch above the fire. This causes most of the draft to come to the rear and out, heating the arch brick in the process. Where there is not any arch brick, it is a direct draft and it will pull the coal from the grates when the engine is worked hard. What you are doing is making a thicker bed of fire at the rear to overcome this. With a hand fired Mike you had a heel all along the back and fired over the heel rebuilding as it burned out. This did not cut down on the heating surface as the heel was burning and was against the sheets of the firebox.
On the 0-8-0 yard engines, some had flat bottomed firebox U-3 and U-2 and the U-60, U-61 had a sloping firebox. With the flat bottom you fired with a horseshoe shaped heel or bank level with the bottom of the door across the back and down both sides. With the slope you fired with a doughnut shaped bank or heel across the back down both sides and across the front The yard engines were fired this way to keep down the smoke. You would take the squirt hose and water down the fire, the purpose being to make the fire to coke over on top and burn on the bottom creating very little smoke.
Maurice worked the Michigan Division from 1947-1981. He then worked on the Bee Line from 1981-1992. From 1947 until august 1950, he worked on the section at Shirley and Markleville. In 1950 he started firing on steam and then on through the diesels. Maurice said, "I had the pleasure of working with C. C. Staley and Ron Buser many times."