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I'm the original poster--not getting at anything, just interested. People who study the history of technology are interested in why some technologies win out, and how those circumstances change. For example, AC vs DC. The advantages of AC were overwhelming at one time in our history, and for the most part still are. You could transmit electricity long distances with few losses, and you could centralize generation, which fit the prevailing business model of the time. If that debate were taking place today, when we have more concern with "green" energy, I think DC would look better. How many of my home devices have a converter to take the AC to DC?. A neighbor put up solar panels on his house--he loses a lot of efficiency, and adds complexity and cost, converting the DC from the panels to AC. Nobody think stwice about home heat generation--every house in the US has a furnace. Home electricity generation is possible (maybe not desirable), and my simple point is just that in some ways, it looks like a better idea.


So I'm interested in what might make steam a viable alternative. I had no idea about the projects like the 5AT or the ACE3000. I learned a lot. Thank you!
 

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Posted By lownote on 02/25/2009 5:34 AM
I just finished reading a few books on the history and technology of steam locomotives, and it makes me wonder what a steam engine would be like if one were to built today, from the ground up. NOt a copy of earlier designs which are all 60 years old or older by now, long before micro electronics or computer control were even imagined. We have different materials available now. We have a different ethic in terms of energy use.

I'm guessing it would probably be a steam turbine, with a duplex drive, and would use computers to monitor the air mix, steam heat and moisture content, and regulate wheel slip like the traction control on a car. But I don't know all that much. Has anyone ever tried to take stab at designing a 21st century steam locootive?




I seriously doubt it would look anything like the steam engine we all know. It wouldn't burn fuel externally....pollution. It wouldn't use cylindars and crank pins and mechanical timing. It wouldn't include a large steam pressure vessel (boiler). It would not be "alive" in the context we use that term to describe "steam engines". In fact, it would likely be quite boring.

I had the opportunity in 1965 to work on a new steam engine design...for the Army. I was hired as a GS-4 Engineering Aide in the summer between my first two years in college and worked at Ft. Belvoir's Night Vision Lab complex in Virginia. Why the Night Vision Lab...the lab credited with developing the technology that lets our soldiers fight at night...was developing a "steam engine" was beyond me...but it paid. I sat for three months computing stuff called TITS and TOTS...with a Freiden calculator...a big mechanical contraption with hundreds of buttons on it that added, subtracted, multiplied, and divided. The focus on the specific project piece I was working on was how to improve the efficiency of a "closed cycled turbine engine"...and the relationship between the Turbine Inlet Temperature (TIT) and the Turbine Outlet Temperature (TOT) was fundemental to those calculations. Generally speaking, the wider the difference between the two measures means the engine is using up more of the heat energy...and thus is more "efficient".

This turbine was part of a US Army Corps of Engineering project to develop a nuclear powered train and portable power plant. The "engine" of the train contained four elements...a nuclear reactor, a closed cycle turbine engine, a generator, and the power plant control system....oh, and it was to be a D-D chassis design. BIG. Big big big. It looked like a diesel engine on steroids (for that time period). The idea was that the nuclear reactor made steam...which was put through the closed cycle turbine...to spin the generator and make elecricity. The "used" steam was piped (yeah, right...pumped is more accurate) back to the reactor to be heated again so it could be used again. The electricity was used to run traction motors when the train needed to move...and power an Army division when it wasn't moving. It was a completey closed system...nothing escaped the "engine" or went in...no fuel, no water, no nuttin'.

That was the theory. In reality, the main effort we were doing was on how to ensure that "nothing escaped the "engine""...and as far as I know, the inability to control the thermal losses doomed the project. It was cancelled a few years after I worked that summer on it...but I earned enough money to get through my second year of college and taught me I didn't want to be a mechanical engineer.
 

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My .02,
The main reason that diesels won out over steam wasn't efficient or power, they were in fact inferior. It was the fact that a diesel could be started from a cold start and run in MUCH less time than any steam engine could.
My 21st century steam engine would be a turbine electric using atomic power to heat the boiler. It would require a condenser to prevent radioactive steam escaping, and absolutely NOBODY would allow it in their backyard.
 

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Posted By Moleman on 02/27/2009 6:13 PM
My .02,
The main reason that diesels won out over steam wasn't efficient or power, they were in fact inferior. It was the fact that a diesel could be started from a cold start and run in MUCH less time than any steam engine could.
My 21st century steam engine would be a turbine electric using atomic power to heat the boiler. It would require a condenser to prevent radioactive steam escaping, and absolutely NOBODY would allow it in their backyard.


Actually they were so much more efficient that thousands of boiler workers, pipe fitters, etc eventually lost their jobs. Steam is maintenance intensive. It is also much less fuel efficient. Plus diesels could mu making it possible to put together any horsepower arrangement without the expense of double heading. And an electric motor is much smoother than steam and can be overloaded for short periods of time. A good example is Cheyenne on the UP. In the steam days there were 5,000 people working there. Now there are 20 and that only because of their steam program. Multiply this all over the country at every division point. Think about it, no more water tanks, no more coal docks or oil tanks, no more roundhouses, no more shops, no more firemen on the locomotives. The diesel is the reason that railroads still exist today. Without it they would be with the stagecoach.
 

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I would think the boilers would actually be smaller and of the flash type. Make much more use of the fuel before all the heat is lost. Maybe nuclear powered. Back in the cold war era we (my battalion) had some very small nuclear weapons and they were warm to the touch. Outrageously high pressure running a staged turbine. A bank of computers controlling the feed water.

Be hard to model in Gauge 1
 

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Posted By Moleman on 02/27/2009 6:13 PM
My .02,
The main reason that diesels won out over steam wasn't efficient or power, they were in fact inferior. It was the fact that a diesel could be started from a cold start and run in MUCH less time than any steam engine could.
[edited]

Mole,

It is exceeding interesting to me that I got shut down on this very subject less than a month ago by a moderator worried about political fights.

Glad to see hardier souls soldering on, this is a very trenchant subject.

Les

Who has no idea what a modern one would look like: where is enough 'enough' in technology? When it gets the job done.
 

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Posted By jfrank on 02/27/2009 7:00 PM
Posted By Moleman on 02/27/2009 6:13 PM
My .02,
The main reason that diesels won out over steam wasn't efficient or power, they were in fact inferior. It was the fact that a diesel could be started from a cold start and run in MUCH less time than any steam engine could.
My 21st century steam engine would be a turbine electric using atomic power to heat the boiler. It would require a condenser to prevent radioactive steam escaping, and absolutely NOBODY would allow it in their backyard.


Actually they were so much more efficient that thousands of boiler workers, pipe fitters, etc eventually lost their jobs. Steam is maintenance intensive. It is also much less fuel efficient. Plus diesels could mu making it possible to put together any horsepower arrangement without the expense of double heading. And an electric motor is much smoother than steam and can be overloaded for short periods of time. A good example is Cheyenne on the UP. In the steam days there were 5,000 people working there. Now there are 20 and that only because of their steam program. Multiply this all over the country at every division point. Think about it, no more water tanks, no more coal docks or oil tanks, no more roundhouses, no more shops, no more firemen on the locomotives. The diesel is the reason that railroads still exist today. Without it they would be with the stagecoach.







JF:

My question is: with all the low-intelligence/low-motivation folk in society sucking up tax $$, IF we brought steam back, would it make the unemployables less unemployable? With suitable changes in the welfare laws.

Les
 

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Bob,

Back in my day in the mid-70s, they had big fat nuke missiles slung under the wings of F15s stationed right on our East coast.

It's kinda 'different' to climb into a cockpit and see the 'Nuclear Arm' switch not safty-wired closed. Makes you want to look over the cockpit sill and see what's under the wings. And then you see, and understand.

Yo.

Somebody's on the ball, anyway.

Les
 

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Posted By Les on 03/10/2009 3:57 PM
Bob,

Back in my day in the mid-70s, they had big fat nuke missiles slung under the wings of F15s stationed right on our East coast.

It's kinda 'different' to climb into a cockpit and see the 'Nuclear Arm' switch not safty-wired closed. Makes you want to look over the cockpit sill and see what's under the wings. And then you see, and understand.

Yo.

Somebody's on the ball, anyway.

Les


Our little 155mm cannon launched "nukes" weighed about 120 pounds. Most if it in the steel projectile body so the thing would make it to the target. It felt like "Dr Strangelove" when they took the locks off for periodic maintenance. It was kind of spooky. All you needed was a howitzer to start WWIII.


Probably would not a live steamer fueled this way.

Bob
 

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Bob,

Was yours the 'atomic cannon' that was in all the kid's news in the late 50's? Didn't they leave a huge cloud of dust/smoke after being fired, and were difficult enough to set up, take down, that the crew was essentially a 'one-shot' group? I remember reading about those things with wonder in late grade school. You're the second guy I've met associated with those ... uh, 'Long Toms'? was that what the press called them? I remember the 'gee whiz' factor, but not much else. Or was your setup a smaller version?

Les
 

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Posted By Les on 03/12/2009 1:59 PM
Bob,

Was yours the 'atomic cannon' that was in all the kid's news in the late 50's? Didn't they leave a huge cloud of dust/smoke after being fired, and were difficult enough to set up, take down, that the crew was essentially a 'one-shot' group? I remember reading about those things with wonder in late grade school. You're the second guy I've met associated with those ... uh, 'Long Toms'? was that what the press called them? I remember the 'gee whiz' factor, but not much else. Or was your setup a smaller version?

Les


You must thinking of Fred Flintstone or something. We delivered the M454 nuclear projectile with the very capable M109 self propelled howitzer, M109A2 model in our battalion. A weapon system in service today. I was also in an 8 inch battalion with M110A2 howitzers. But, alas, they are in the museums now. The 8" nuke, the M422 was a real crowd pleaser.

"In my day" we could have pretty much vaporized the bad guys while the Air Force types were still hanging out in the Officer's Club.



What type squadron were you in? B36's you say (?)




Go Army
 
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