Sherlock Headphones and the Case of the Steamed up Maintenance Manager

July 18th, 2012

As I knocked at the door of 14 Hayes Street, I fully expected to be disappointed for the 4th day in a row. As was his custom, my old friend, and subject of my large collection of stories, Sherlock Headphones, had disappeared without a trace!

I was shocked when the door was opened by Mrs. Hudson, and I heard a resounding voice from upstairs shout “Hurry Wastenot, the game is afoot!”

As many of you, my avid readers know, with the demise of Dr. Moriarty, Sherlock had given up chasing criminals, and has dedicated his amazing powers of deduction to helping facilities improve their Reliability, energy and safety programs.

When we were dropped off at the entrance to a large paper mill, my curiosity was aroused. Headphones had not spoken a word on the long ride; instead he had been performing a sensitivity validation on his Ultraprobe 15,000, and had downloaded the latest version of DMS software on his laptop.

We were greeted at the security gate by the maintenance manager, Unger Underpressure, and after a short safety briefing, we were walking around the facility. Unger explained to us that they had recently had a Steam Trap survey performed on their entire system by an outside contractor. The problem, he told us, was during the follow up testing, many of the traps that had been tagged as bad, and then repaired or replaced, were testing as failed again! The survey had only been performed two months before and Unger was beside himself with frustration.

Headphones spent the next hour testing a large number of traps, mostly Thermodynamic, or “Disc” traps. He would simply touch the contact probe of his UP 15 near the outlet or discharge orifice of the trap, listen, and sometimes record a wave file for documentation. Many of them he marked with a red tag, indicating a failed or leaking condition.

After a short meeting with Unger, Headphones and I were on our way back to Hayes Street. Unger had been less than happy to hear what Sherlock had told him, but had, nonetheless, agreed to send his approval to accounting to pay the coming invoice we would be sending.

On the long ride back, Headphones was his usual brooding self. I finally broke the silence, “Why were so many of the recently repaired and replaced traps failing?” I asked.

“Well” Headphones began, “My first thought was that the traps were mis-sized for the application they were being used for, but upon further investigation that was not the case. I then thought, maybe there was a manufacturer’s defect in the replacement traps, but then I realized the entire trap had not been replaced, they had been REPAIRED.”

Headphones went on to explain that when repairing a Disc trap, many repair tech’s will simply take the old disc out, and pop a new one in. If the surface is not clean, the disc will not seat right, and will most likely crack and cause the trap to fail very quickly. This had obviously been the case here.

“But what about the two Inverted Bucket traps you hung red-FAILED tags on?” I said. “You did not even test them with your Ultraprobe,” I exclaimed!

“Yes, most interesting,” Headphones mused, “I simply used my powers of deduction.”

I asked with some doubt in my voice, “Without listening to them, how could you deduce anything about them?”

In his arrogant, smug, yet typical way, Headphones smiled and said, “They were installed BACKWARDS!”

Back in our Hayes Street flat, we were enjoying a hearty meal and a few stout ales. I had one final query for Headphones. “My friend,” I began, “in all of the years we have known each other, testing stem traps was not something I thought you had great expertise in.”

“Elementary my Dear Wastenot,” he replied, “I am always educating myself! As a matter of fact, my three day absence earlier this week was an example of just that. I attended a Steam Trap Examiner Course instructed by Swagelok Energy Advisors. This intensive course, combined with my own powers of deduction, gave me the skills I needed to solve the steamy mystery that Unger had presented us with. One must always seek to improve their knowledge, Wastenot, as you never know what the next mystery might hand us.”

Stay tuned for the next episode where Headphones and Wastenot head to the Olympics!

Doug Waetjen, CMRP

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