Can steam power return?

Discussion in 'The Real Thing- North America' started by Ray Marinaccio, Sep 18, 2003.

  1. Ray Marinaccio

    Ray Marinaccio Active Member

    With the continuiosly rising cost of fuel oil, will it soon be practical to restore all the steam locos in the museums and return them to service?
  2. DanRaitz

    DanRaitz Member


    Its wasn't the cost of fuel that caused the replacement of steam with diesel. It was the cost of LABOR :eek: to keep the things running.
  3. Ray Marinaccio

    Ray Marinaccio Active Member

  4. Hoghead

    Hoghead Member

    With the continued downsizing of crew consists and selling off of jobs by the UTU......coupled with the inability of running steam via remote control and emission standards in various states.....well you won't see steam on the rails except for excursion trips.
  5. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Well, you never know...

    Windmills are a good example - "old" technology - been around a long time. No one thought they'd be any good for electricity, but they are experiencing a comeback in recent decades. Special interest after the blackout, too!

    However, if steam locos were to return, I don't think they'd look anything like the ones from days gone by. They certainly wouldn't get the old ones out of "storage" I don't think.

    Interesting topic though... future of rail power...

  6. Hoghead

    Hoghead Member

    Windmills and the railroads bottom line are a universe apart.
  7. Ray Marinaccio

    Ray Marinaccio Active Member

    Was re designing steam locos with modern day technology a possilslity? say a turbine driven AC alternator. with alternate fuel sourses. Having a background in the nuclear industry, I can understand why it would not be practical to use that as a fuel. Can't be having reactors buzzing all over the place. Although maybe a series of lerge nuclear powered tesla coils to transmit power to electric locos.
    OOPs, thinkin crazy again.
  8. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Windmills were about someone's bottom line at one time... ;)

    The point here was to illustrate that old technology is not necessary obsolete technology, or that there was no merit to the idea any longer.

    The thinking goes something like:
    Windmills are an old solution to an old problem.
    We have a new problem.
    Old solutions can't be applied to new problems.
    Therefore windmills are not the solution.

    There is a precident for electrically "fired" steamers, but generally, it probably introduced too much inefficiency to go from electric -> steam -> motion, when you can just do electric -> motion.

    I think the biggest problem with steam is the need for all that water. You have to stop every 100 miles or so, or have track pans, all of which is expensive infrastructure.

    Which brings us back to hoghead's point about the bottom line... :)

  9. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

    I predict that someday soon all real trains will run on DCC. ;) ;) ;) Now, wouldn't that be ironic?

    :rolleyes: Val
  10. Ray Marinaccio

    Ray Marinaccio Active Member

    I have used the "old technology" approch on some of the waiste processing systems I designed and built, ( not allowedv to go into detail). It saved the company millions of dollars ( I'm not exagerating) but got the engineers laid off for not coming up with such an idea.
    Aren't some subways computer controled with the motorman along for the ride ,(so to speek) As a saftey precausion?
    I know the Pittsburg airport has an automated shuttle system. Rode it many times.
    So I could see how DCC on the prototype can happen.
    Hey Wait a minute what about the RC switchers I've seen in the mills . How would you like to get paid to play with that all day?
  11. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    I am trying to find a web page a friend showed me. It has information on a European self-propelled automated flat car. You just load it up, and it drives itself to its destination. It has a camera, and sensors to avoid collisions and report problems. It doesn't even take anyone along for the ride...!

    I'll see him again on Monday, so I'll have a link for you.

  12. Ray Marinaccio

    Ray Marinaccio Active Member

  13. Clerk

    Clerk Active Member

    Seattle Tacoma Intl Airport has a subway that takes you from one place to another underground. No driver. I have ridden on it several times.

    Circus Circus in Reno has two shuttles that goes from the hotel to the casinol and back. All automatic. At most they sometimes have a guard riding on it.
  14. TR-Flyer

    TR-Flyer Member

    Neat topic. I don't think we'll see them dragging the old locos out of storage anytime soon. The C&IM ran 25 2-10-2 engines till 1954-5. Replaced them with SIX diesels. Same workload.

    Steamers had too many moving parts that aged far too quickly. Even though they are beautiful to watch. Speaking of beautiful to watch, i had the pleasure once of taking a ride on the "Mississippi queen" which had a real walking beam steam engine. That was totally neat. So darn slow and so darn powerful. Was almost like watching a steam "sail boat".

  15. Hoghead

    Hoghead Member

    Positive Train Control is being tested.......this of course will result in more job losses. The carriers won't be happy until all trains can be run either Jacksonville, Norfolk, Omaha or Ft. Worth via GPS and no crews at all.
  16. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    wish as we who love steam might reciprocating steam is dead and will stay that way for genral use if steam were ever to ride the rails again it would probably be in a form like Jawn Henry
    imagine what the desiginers of it could have done with todays advancements in metallurgy maybe a boiler that could carry 900 lbs or fluid bed combustion or the latest technology in intergrated gasification combined cycle said to boost efficiency to close to 50% or closed steam systems that require smaller amounts of make up add to point worked as a millwright in power plant for a while company had two plants in aera one stated up in 58 the other in 1980 the first used close to 38% the coal of the latter to produce 275 megawatts the latter produced 920 mega watts. so the technolgy of steam is not dead.
  17. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I think the second biggest drawback to putting steam engines back in service is that you can't mu the things. Each engine needs a crew to operate it. Of course the biggest problem is maintainance.
  18. Hoghead

    Hoghead Member

    Stopping every 100 miles for water vs. a 5,000 gallon fuel tank on a diesel engine.
  19. Blake

    Blake Member

    Steam power will never return to the rails because GE and GM don't make steam locos. Period. Near the end of the steam era, some company (the name escapes me) developed a steam turbine / electric locomotive. It burned powdered coal which is highly efficient and burns completely leaving almost no exhaust. The loco had many small wheels similar to today's diesels and bore little if any resemblance to the steam locos of the past. This loco was cheaper to operate, more powerful and cleaner than today's diesels. It was shot down by the major diesel manufacturer and never produced. The story was similar to that of the Tucker automobile.
  20. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    Blake, you answered one of the questions I had. Can we make a steam locomotive that emits significanlty less exhaust? I imagine great clouds of coal smoke, soot, and water vapor might still be a problem in urban stations and surrounding areaswith lots of tunnels.

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