Boiler or gas line repair/replace - contractor caveats?

Hello, I'm trying to get a jump on a possible need for a boiler repair contractor or possible gas line replacement.
My hot water radiator boiler system, old but formerly quite reliable, would not engage this past weekend. I have the gas company scheduled to come out tomorrow afternoon, but in the meantime I am trying to get my research done re: the possible need for contractors.
The problem: The boiler does not light when signaled by my auto thermostat settings I hear a 'click' re: the auto thermostat, but no ignition downstairs. There also, however, is no gas smell downstairs.
The cause, I surmise, is mostlikely one of three:
1) pilot light out. boiler very old, but has worked up to now. When the gas service guy was out to do fall light-up service he commented that it was particularly difficult to light; I've never had a pilot light outage before-- if this is case, shouldn't I smell gas in the basement?
2) electrical connection failure somewhere;
3) worst case scenario: gas line, front yard, needs replacing. I have reported gas smell outside by the gas meter twice in the past. The gas company arrived quickly, but they could not detect any leaks on both occasions.
Can anyone offer advice re: what to avoid or what to consider a red flag regarding boiler repair and/or gas line replacement contractors? I hate the thought of having to replace this boiler, as it is encased in asbestos and I know the abatement alone will be more than I can afford at this point in time. How to know if I am being sold down the river by a contractor, besides getting multiple bids? Any words of experience will be appreciated.
Thanks, best regards, Heatless in Seattle
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You should be able to peek in and see if it is lit.

Doubt NO. 3.
There is also a thermocouple that senses heat from the pilot light. If it is defective, the gas valve will not open. The gas valve can also be defective.
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"Id.rather.not.say" wrote:

Well, don't jump to too many conclusions. Let the utility sort it out for starters. I know things vary all over the country, but here the gas co. will do customer line replacement at a reasonable rate. Ask.
With modern controls, you probably won't smell any pilot gas. If it *is* a problem with the burner control (gas valve, etc.) any reasonably competent tech should be able to cure it without installing a whole boiler. When they walk in and declare the old boiler is "gonna blow" and can't be fixed, that's the time to show them the door. While there *may* be good reasons for replacing an old boiler, a pilot light out is not one of them.
Jim
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Hello again, and thanks to Edwin P. and Speedy Jim for your replies to my post re: no heat. I felt much better for having had the feedback prior to the gas company coming out yesterday.
Indeed you were right, Jim; no reason to think the worst, as the problem was merely an extinguished pilot light. The gas service guy reminded me that we in my neighborhood had major line replacement work done this past summer and that air could have got into the lines as a result, causing the pilot light to go out. He says there's no reason to worry about the boiler; even though it's ancient it appears to be in good shape. Once in awhile you get lucky in this home maintenance lottery. I was thinking that I'd have to lay out at least $600 for a contractor, possibly more; but the gas company doesn't charge for their re-light service, so the cash flow has not been compromised. Whew!
Best regards, thanks again. Seattle, WA
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