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I followed with great interest the ACE 3000 project during the 1980s and 90s. My late uncle worked for GM (diesel division first in London, then South Africa later in LaGrange) and was close to the GM engineering team which kept an eye on what Rowland was proposing. We had many fascinating discussions which essentially boiled down to:

1) a modern steam locomotive that could meet a thermal efficiency of 15% (the original ACE goal) would most certainly be less costly in terms of fuel consumption per ton mile than diesel locos
2) achieving that 15% would involve overcoming some very complex engineering challenges that would most assuredly have meant some complicated and expensive to develop subsystems
3) the maintenance nightmare of steam locos did not appear to be fully dealt with in the ACE proposal - the real reason diesel locos won out over steam initially was mainly because of their maintenance and in service advantages
4) perhaps most telling (in the thinking of GM engineers about ACE) was that the ACE proposal did not address the complicated issues of adhesion factors and dynamic braking - both serious issues for railroads operating in snow/rain in mountainous or hilly terrain

While dreamers continue to hold out hope that steam will rise again in some modern loco variant, technologies as we know them suggest the future is more likely to be nuclear then coal.

Regards ... Doug
 
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