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Modern Steam Locomotives  RSS feed

 
pollinator
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http://www.csrail.org/index.php/research-areas/new-steam-locomotive1/modern-steam-advances

This link describes some of the advances made to steam locomotives after the industry switched to Diesel electric. By all accounts the economy of a modern steam locomotive would be better than modern Diesel electric. I can only speculate, but I suspect strongly that the basic locomotive design was never advanced as there was no competition available. You see, improvements were made only after Diesel electric presented a threat.

Most of us have seen old films showing the black smoke and soot belching out of old steam locomotives fueled by coal. This link describes the remarkably simple changes made to the fire box of a coal burning locomotive that virtually eliminated smoke and soot. Anyone who has make a serious study of solid fuel gasification could have advised for these kinds of changes. It's remarkable that this inefficient combustion went on as long as it did. Not only is complete combustion cleaner - it's a lot more efficient. The efficiency of the old boilers at high output was only 50%, and they went up to 80% at high output after the changes. A combination of complete combustion through gasification, higher steam temperatures, and streamlining the steam delivery and exhaust system was shown to literally double the overall efficiency of steam locomotives from a paltry 6% to 12%. Later, a simple boiler water treatment was found that reduced boiler maintenance in a fantastic way. Boilers now last as long as the locomotive itself, and labor and fuel intensive blowdowns and boiler cleanouts were reduced from a daily affair to annual (for the former), and from monthly to annually (for the latter). The treatment even allows saline water to be used.

There has never been a steam locomotive built that incorporates all the advances made to date. Projections show that such a system would achieve more than 20% overall thermal efficiency on coal fuel. This is significant when one considers that the price for Diesel fuel is more than 10 times that of coal on a $/btu basis. Such a system could be fueled by torrefied wood as well. http://www.csrail.org/index.php/research-areas/solid-biofuels
 
pollinator
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I really like trains. I have this fantasy that one day people will not have to be in such a hurry all the time and they can do things like take trains instead of planes for their vacations. I always have felt that dropping into a place to quickly and pulling out to soon makes it so you just transfer your perspective onto a place instead of letting that place impress its perspective on you. And they're still the most efficient way of transporting things by land if I'm not mistaken.
 
master steward
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My understanding of this issue was nevert that desil in itself was any cheaper nor was it more efficient than the stream engine . The problem was and still is the cost of maintainance. Every few years a stream engine has to be taken apart and rebuilt otherwise it becomes a dangerous object - think bomb . High pressure combined with steam rust metal fatigue etc is not a good combination .

David
 
pollinator
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What if it was made of stainless steel?
 
Cj Sloane
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Marcos Buenijo wrote:
There has never been a steam locomotive built that incorporates all the advances made to date.


So maybe "steam punk" is in our future instead of our alternate past!
 
David Livingston
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Well this is the last "proper" steam engine I know of that was built in the UK it was the Peppercorn Class A1 Tornado in 2008

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LNER_Peppercorn_Class_A1_60163_Tornado

It cost best part of 5million $

 
Marcos Buenijo
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David Livingston wrote:My understanding of this issue was nevert that desil in itself was any cheaper nor was it more efficient than the stream engine . The problem was and still is the cost of maintainance. Every few years a stream engine has to be taken apart and rebuilt otherwise it becomes a dangerous object - think bomb . High pressure combined with steam rust metal fatigue etc is not a good combination .

David


Maintenance costs was the main problem with old steam locomotives (the boiler was always the main problem). Other problems included low thermal efficiency and dirty exhaust on coal fuel. All of these problems were solved decades ago. The boiler no longer requires regular clean out, blow downs, or tube replacement. The boiler now lasts 30 years (the design life of the locomotive) through a combination of better materials, better fabrication, and most important - better boiler chemistry. All of the reasons that led to Diesel electric replacing steam no longer apply. The lower cost of coal compared to Diesel is still relevant.

 
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All of the reasons that led to Diesel electric replacing steam still apply. The high cost of water and its delivery to Steam trains is still relevant.
 
Marcos Buenijo
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Peter Mckinlay wrote:The high cost of water and its delivery to Steam trains is still relevant.


Water consumption of steam locomotives was not a primary reason for the transition to Diesel electric. Those who have a concern about water consumption in a modern steam locomotive should note that the new boiler chemistry allows almost any water source to be used, even saline water. The water supplied to the boiler need not be treated in any way. Also, the higher thermal efficiency of a modern steam locomotive reduces its water consumption three fold compared to the steam locomotives of old. Finally, it remains possible to use a condensing system to reclaim most of the water, and this has been done.

Concerns about water consumption are misguided.
 
David Livingston
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I see the problem with comp├ętition is that neither of your options Will beat electric either third rail or overhead

David
 
Marcos Buenijo
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David Livingston wrote:I see the problem with comp├ętition is that neither of your options Will beat electric either third rail or overhead

David


I'm not willing to counter this without more research. It might be so. It makes sense particularly for public transport and passenger rail, but I'm not sure about transcontinental and freight service. If you have resources on electric used for the latter, then please provide what you can.






 
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Marcos Buenijo : When I was growing up all railroad men wanted to be thought of as having learned their craft in the 'Days of Steam', any problem would
require a R/R man to speak about how the problem was solved in the old days ! Ballast was spoken of in the reverent tones a Car sales man off the 50s
and 60s would talk about 'Road hugging Weight'.

I guess my question is how does the modern steam engine deal with what was formally cinders,ashes, and clinkers, is this all now fly ash,and is it collected?

I do think steam engines have a future, but i still throw up a little in the back of my mouth when i hear about 'Clean Coal', if they can't make a stationary
plant that can compete with other Fossil Fuel Fired (new) plants a moving unit must have to pay a premium to do so or be allowed a sliding Particulate Matter
per mile scale !

David Livingston When you are researching at your end, remember regenerative braking, much, much more effective in Short haul urban environments,
and possibly dead weight on really long transcontinental haulage/trips !

I look forward to seeing more from both of you ! AND a tip of the hat to Paul W. for continuing the discussion ! Big AL !
 
Marcos Buenijo
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allen lumley wrote:Marcos Buenijo : When I was growing up all railroad men wanted to be thought of as having learned their craft in the 'Days of Steam', any problem would require a R/R man to speak about how the problem was solved in the old days ! Ballast was spoken of in the reverent tones a Car sales man off the 50s
and 60s would talk about 'Road hugging Weight'.

I guess my question is how does the modern steam engine deal with what was formally cinders,ashes, and clinkers, is this all now fly ash,and is it collected?

I do think steam engines have a future, but i still throw up a little in the back of my mouth when i hear about 'Clean Coal', if they can't make a stationary
plant that can compete with other Fossil Fuel Fired (new) plants a moving unit must have to pay a premium to do so or be allowed a sliding Particulate Matter
per mile scale !


Good questions. I'll have to research on the ash. I expect some ash being entrained in the exhaust gases would be unavoidable. However, the systems do have a movable grate and ash pit, so it seems most of the ash could be collected for disposal. I suspect many who see the phrase "clean coal" as an oxymoron are considering the CO2 emissions. I've noted elsewhere that I do not give serious consideration to these concerns. However, there may be sober concerns about some constituents in the ash. Some good news is that nitrous oxides are almost nonexistent in a properly designed furnace, and these emissions are difficult and costly to minimize in Diesel engines.

I can only speculate, but a serious move toward modern steam locomotives might engineer a solution to capture these particulates. Even so, most of these would not be harmful. I have to research the following, but it could be that the products of full combustion of coal or biomass (including ash) are not harmful - alternatively stated, we should not presume to know that it is harmful without doing objective research. I've done enough study on other subjects to know that the main stream view point is not merely often wrong, but most often wrong. In particular, the emissions standards imposed by the EPA are not necessarily derived in an objective manner. Indeed, I suspect strongly that politics had more influence on these standards than science. Those who doubt this possibility need only consider the food pyramid and other nutritional advice championed by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture.

NOTES ON A SUSTAINABLE MODEL: "Biocoal" (i.e. torrefied wood) is a sustainable fuel, and it contains less ash and toxic minerals than many coal sources. Perhaps a combination of highly efficient modern steam locomotives and the sustainable production of torrefied biomass can be the most cost effective sustainable model for goods transport over long distances. Perhaps modern steam can be used on cargo ships as well, and here the heat sink of the ocean allows for full condensing and reuse of the water along with significantly higher thermal efficiency. Such a system can approach 40% net thermal efficiency without exceeding 1000F peak steam temperature. I believe that when fossil fuels are finally depleted to the point where their use is no longer economically viable, then heat engines will remain in use - however, the additional costs involved in processing biofuels for use in internal combustion engines will lead industry to favor external combustion engines. I believe modern Rankine cycle engines are the best prospect. So, I believe there is a bright future for modern steam engines.

http://www.csrail.org/index.php/research-areas/solid-biofuels
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torrefaction



 
Marcos Buenijo
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http://www.csrail.org/index.php/research-areas/new-steam-locomotive1/cleaner-quicker-cheaper

Particularly good discussion on some benefits of modern steam locomotives.

I'm not necessarily arguing that it's the single best solution. I am arguing that the reader should be willing to think outside the box on this matter.
 
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David Livingston wrote:Well this is the last "proper" steam engine I know of that was built in the UK it was the Peppercorn Class A1 Tornado in 2008

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LNER_Peppercorn_Class_A1_60163_Tornado

It cost best part of 5million $



Hunslet still manufacture steam engines in UK mainly tank engines but they also do "fireless" engines for chemical and industrial sites.
 
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Andre Chapelon modified some Chillian locamotives to gas producer fireboxes , as i can remember they were 30% more efficient than the unmodified engines , what killed steam was the 24 hour warm up from cold , and they had to be kept hot working or not , thermal shock kills boilers very quickly , the entire locamotive has to be warmed up slowly and evenly or it leaks like a seive , ya just turn the key on a diesel and off you go .
 
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