Fireless steam locomotives

Discussion in 'FAQs' started by roryglasgow, Aug 31, 2001.

  1. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    What is a "fireless" steam engine? I've seen several pictures, and read in a book that they were used where normal steam engines weren't appropriate; but I've found nothing that tells me exactly what they are! Someone please enlighten me!

    P.S. - In my search for information on the Net, I ran across something that I'd never heard of: that a company called American Coal Enterprises (ACE) started working on a design for a modern, high-tech coal-fired steam locomotive in the early 1980s! This was in response to the skyrocketing cost of imported oil. It sounds like they were onto something! Wow! Wouldn't it be cool if steam locos started showing up in real service again? :) Too bad it didn't take off... :(

    (In the spirit of Thomas the Tank Engine, we could get rid of all of those smelly Diesels! hehehe)

    Here's the link:

  2. Partsman

    Partsman Member

    Fireless Steam Loco info from Heisler



    The Fireless locomotive is a steam locomotive without boiler or firebox. In place of a boiler the Heisler engine has a tank of welded construction with a capacity of about three times that of an ordinary locomotive boiler. This tank,
    which is heavily lagged and jacketed to prevent loss of heat, is filled with water to about Four-fifths of capacity. Thenn, a steam pipe run from a stationary boiler to a point below the level of the water in the tank, the water is
    heated until the pressure and temperature in, the locomotive tank are the same as in the stationary boiler from which the charge is being taken. It is from this heat stored in the water that the locomotive gets its power. For example, the tank on a 60-ton Fireless locomotive, charged to 200 lbs. pressure, stores sufficient energy to run
    the locomotive by itself over straight level track, a distance of about 95 miles, or to haul a train of three loaded freight cars weighing 210 tons a distance of 21 miles or more.

    The energy stored in the locomotive tank in the form of heat is transmitted to the rail in the form of tractive force through the expansion of steam in the large low-pressure cylinders of the locomotive. Of course, after charging there is steam in the space above the water in the tank. As this steam is drawn off through the throttle in small quantities and expanded in the low-pressure cylinders as the locomotive works, the pressure and temperature of the steam remaining above the water in the tank are reduced. During this reduction part of the water is turned into more steam, and this process continues until atmospheric pressure is reached and the temperature is 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

    The engine can be charged from any stationary boiler which carries a pressure of 100 lbs. or more. One charge may last from two to ten hours under normal conditions of service, depending of course, upon the amount of work required of the locomotive.

    The time required for charging a Fireless locomotive depends upon the pressure and horsepower of the boiler from which it is being supplied, as well as the size of the locomotive. With Heisler's improved charging connections and methods, from 10 to 30 minutes for a full charge is the usual time required. Where, the stationary
    boiler carries superheated steam, charging time is considerably reduced.

    There is little danger of the locomotive running out of steam and being unable to return to the point of charging. It will contain sufficient steam for that purpose long after the tank pressure has fallen to a point where no useful work can be done, should the emergency ever arise.

    The water initially put in the locomotive tank never needs replacing, as the steam condensed in charging continually raises the water leve1. In fact the engine has to be blown down occasionally to reduce the water to the proper level.

    The locomotive is well protected against heat losses. It can be left standing several days without losing sufficient pressure to render it inoperative. Heat losses by radiation while the engine is working are negligible.

    Equipped with roller bearings, and as designed and constructed by Heisler, a Fireless locomotive will start and haul a trailing load 5% to 10% greater than can be handled by a conventional engine of the same weight.

    Only one man is needed to operate the locomotive. When the engine is idle this man can be at work elsewhere, as there is no Fire to keep up or water level to watch. No special training is needed to operate a Fireless locomotive. There is nothing to do but pull the throttle to start and apply the brake to stop.

    Depreciation and repair costs are extremely low. The tank is a simple cylindrical drum with elliptical heads; by removing the dome cover it can be completely inspected; there are no staybolts to break, no firebox to burn, no flues to leak, no injectors to maintain, no grates to be renewed; no scale can accumulate because distilled water is used. Boiler repairs are entirely eliminated because there is no boiler.

    The locomotive is the only investment necessary. There is no auxiliary equipment. It needs only a track on which to run, and a connection to an existing stationary boiler plant. The first cost is much less than gasoline, Diesel, line-electric, oil-electric, trolley, storage battery, and such types of locomotives, but just about the same as an ordinary steam locomotive.

    Steam is used direct. There are no wasteful transformations of energy. Steam is generated far more economically in stationary boilers than in locomotive boilers. There are no losses worth mentioning in charging the locomotive.

  3. roryglasgow

    roryglasgow Active Member

    Wow! That's really cool! Thanks for the reply. I looked all over the web, but couldn't find anything that actually described how a fireless engine worked.

  4. Partsman

    Partsman Member

    Glad I could help, Rory.


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