A fireless locomotive is a type of locomotive which uses reciprocating engines powered from a reservoir of compressed air or steam, which is filled at intervals from an external source.
They offer advantages over conventional steam locomotives of lower cost per unit, cleanliness, and decreased risk from fire or boiler explosion; these are counterbalanced by the need for a source to refill the locomotive, and by the limited range afforded by the reservoir.
Typical usage was in industrial switching where a conventional locomotive was too noxious or risky, such as in a mine or a food or chemical factory; they were also used where a source of air or steam was readily available.
They were eventually replaced for most uses by diesel and battery electric locomotives fitted with protective appliances; these are described as flame-proof locomotives.
An early application of the fireless locomotive was to street tramways in the United States.
Emile Lamm developed two types of fireless locomotive, one using ammonia and the other using stored steam.
The French locomotives were built in association with Leon Francq, under the name Lamm & Francq.
The fireless system then gained a new lease of life for industrial shunting locomotives.
Any factory which possessed a stationary boiler could use it to charge a fireless steam locomotive for internal shunting operations.
Fireless shunting locomotives became especially popular in Germany and some remained in service into the 1960s.
Fireless industrial shunters were usually of the 0-4-0 or 0-6-0 wheel arrangement but some 0-8-0s were built, by companies including Heisler.
Pennsylvania Power and Light “D”, in the gallery below, is an example of an 0-8-0 fireless Heisler locomotive.
To this date (2020) fireless locomotives are shunting efficiently, e.g. moving the heavy coal hopper trains for the thermal power station in the German town of Mannheim.