Yanche, carefull with those unwanted fires!!
I haven't had great luck with the hardwood/kindling fire to start the stoker. I gave up and followed some advice from the forum. I bought several emegency road-flares. Cut them into 1/4's, each about 2" long, lite it with a BBQ lighter, let it get really going, and droped in the burn pot, and covered it with a double hand-full of coal, with the air coming up from the bottom, it was a nice fire in about 15 minutes. The flares have magnesium in them, so they burn very hot.
I use Yanche's method when I light one of my LeisureLine stokers in the shop, the oxy-acetylene torch does a remarkable job lighting the coal. But my torch tank rack doesn't have ATV tires or a good off-road suspension so dragging the tanks 150' to the boiler-building is out of the question.
Chris, I don't know if bituminous with a lower swelling index would keep the tall piers of ash from forming or not. It may just be my coal. But I have faith in the anthracite coal, it will burn till it is gone, The bituminous has let me down too often.
What is strange is that when I start a hand load fire, I build a hot wood fire, the add Bituminous because it lights on fire so much easier than anthracite!! So why does the stuff not burn well in the stoker's retort?? I can't figure it out. But after waking up cold a couple of nights and having to pull out the stoker, clean out the unburnt coal, reinstall the grate, start a wood fire and get a coal fire going, I'm not going to trust it anymore.
I'll start antother thread with photos of various stoker designs I have. This way it will be a good reference for members who want to see them.