Unforgettable technologies: steam locomotives / SurprizingFacts

There are many technologies usually associated with us from the past and even the century before last, but still used in life. Some of them are of historical interest only, others are still widely used, but soon they will finally give way to modern analogues, while others will firmly occupy their narrow niche and are not going to surrender their positions. Most of these technologies are uneconomical and difficult to use – this is their weakness. But they also have strengths: it's internal simplicity, ease of manufacture and independence from the modern energy and information infrastructure.

At first glance they may seem to you not very important. But this is an erroneous opinion. Simply, we have become unaccustomed to global catastrophes – the twentieth century was marked by surprisingly peaceful behavior of nature. In our time, a solar storm, similar to the storm of 1859, would disable the power lines and communications lines for years.

But even if they did not have any advantages at all, they still need to be preserved at least from historical and aesthetic considerations. The past does not disappear – it lives next to us, and in its wreath with the future our present is born.

One of such technologies is a steam engine, and its most vivid embodiment is a steam locomotive. About him and there will be a speech.

Here I will not elaborate on the internal arrangement of the locomotives, instead I will place the general scheme. Interested readers will find more complete information in Wikipedia.

Principal structural scheme of the locomotive: 1 – furnace; 2 – ash pan; 3 – steam boiler; 4 – a smoke box; 5 – booth; 6 – tender; 7 – a dry cell; 8 – safety valve; 9 – regulator valve; 10 – superheater; 11 – steam engine; 12 – the cone; 13 – steam distribution mechanism; 14 – a drive of a regulator; 15 – crew; 16 – support trolley; 17 – the trolley; 18 – axle; 19 – spring suspension; 20 – brake shoe; 21 – steam-air pump; 22 – the coupling device; 23 – whistle; 24 – sandbox.

By the middle of the century, of course, there were no more stokers: the locomotives used automatic feeding of coal or other solid fuel by means of an elevator mechanism. In the case of using more efficient liquid fuel, nozzles were installed in the furnace, and a brick arch was placed in place of the grate, and when it hit the sprayed fuel it ignited.

In the arid regions, steam locomotives used a special system for condensing spent steam to save scarce water.

A brief history of steam locomotives

The world's first steam locomotive drove to Wales February 21, 1804, the first railway was laid in 1825, the flowering of locomotives occurred in the mid-nineteenth – early twentieth century, and already in the thirties they were actively replaced by the recently appeared much more economical diesel locomotives and electric locomotives. However, the locomotives continued to be built up to the fifties and sixties, and were finally replaced only by the eighties of the twentieth century.

In different countries, the end of the era of locomotives occurred at different times, but the main turning point still occurred in the sixties. In the United States, locomotives began to be replaced in mass in the fifties, and the last passenger train passed in 1961. In Europe, the process was somewhat delayed – the locomotives were replaced in the seventies. In Russia, some passenger and freight lines used locomotives until the late eighties and early nineties. In many African and Asian countries, locomotives were used until the end of the twentieth century. In particular, in South Africa the last commercial lines were closed in 1994, in India – in 2000, and in China the use of steam locomotives in freight trains was officially stopped only in 2005.

Steam engines in the 21st century

So the era of regular use of locomotives for the commercial transportation of passengers and cargo passed, and their new life began. Why are they needed in the 21st century?

Firstly for tourist and historical purposes. In the world there are several hundred lines of cultural and historical significance. Not all of them use locomotives, but the first models of heat and electric locomotives are of no less interest to passengers accustomed to high-speed modern express trains.

Secondly in the cinematography. Every year new historical films are shot, in which locomotives take a direct part.

And, thirdly just in case. For example, such as a global fuel crisis, a major man-made or natural disaster. At the same time locomotives have many advantages over modern machines.

  • Simplicity of construction. The simplest locomotive is much easier to construct than any other similar machine.
  • Ease of maintenance. You need to take care of any car, but in general the locomotives are less problematic in their care than their more modern counterparts.
  • Omnivorousness. The locomotives travel on everything that burns: coal, wood, diesel fuel, garbage, etc.

Ironically, the most active steam locomotives have survived in progressive Europe. For example, in the UK alone, several hundred locomotives are operated, and the operators of suburban lines are actively using them to attract tourists.

In Russia, about a thousand locomotives were preserved and preserved as a national reserve. Some of them can be seen in museums, others are apparently not used.

New locomotives

Until now, it was about serial locomotives produced during their mass exploitation, but many will be surprised to learn that new locomotives continue to be designed and manufactured in the 21st century. Finished from them a little – about seven, and a couple more dozen in the assembly. These locomotives are divided into two groups:

  • Replicas of old models, recreated using new technologies. With them, more and less simple. They are a historical reconstruction.
  • New locomotives specially designed from scratch and capable of competing with modern heat and electric locomotives. In the best current locomotives efficiency is not more than 14%, but in the planned various improvements would have allowed a value of about 25%! What would bring the locomotive to economy with diesel. They even came up with a special name – Advanced steam technology. Why not? Usually, interest in them increases during the next fuel crisis. The beginning of the 21st century was marked by record prices for oil and gas. After their sharp fall, many interesting projects were, alas, frozen.

LNER Peppercorn Class A1 60163 Tornado


One of the most famous representatives of the last group LNER Peppercorn Class A1 60163 Tornado – the first steam locomotive built in the UK since the 60s. It is the evolution of the LNER Peppercorn Class A1 series, produced in the United Kingdom in the 60s. The locomotive was built by the whole world using the latest technology. We finished in 2008.

No. 52,4555

No. 52 8055 – a replica of one of the last German locomotives. DLM finished it in 2009, and the steam handsome man has long been shuttling around Switzerland.

The 5AT

The 5AT is another interesting project overseen by the 5AT Group, after its collapse in 2012 it was frozen. In 2012, the new group The Advanced Steam Traction Group was created to continue it.

The ACE 3000

The ACE 3000 – was proposed by Ross Rowland during the oil crisis of the 1970s. It was supposed to look like a diesel, and was designed to compete with modern diesel locomotives, using coal, formerly much cheaper than oil at that time. ACE 3000 included many new technologies, such as automatic control of fire and water level. The locomotive could be connected to the diesel unit and work in tandem with it. ACE 3000 was one of the most publicized attempts to create a modern locomotive, but the project eventually failed due to lack of money. Well, how else?

The CSR Project 130

The CSR Project 130 is a modern steam locomotive (based on the ATSF 3460 class locomotive) capable of high-speed passenger transport at a speed of more than 100 miles per hour , And successfully overclocked to 130 miles per hour (hence the name Project 130). It is assumed that it will be environmentally friendly, because it will work on biomass in the form of solid fuel (unlike all other modern designs that require liquid fuel). He co-operates the Institute for the Environment (IonE) at the University of Minnesota and Sustainable Rail International, a non-profit organization of railway experts and engineers.

Solar Steam Train

Solar Steam Train is a steam engine that uses a pre-heated superheated steam. Alas, besides mentioning, I did not find any information on it.

Locomotives and nature protection

Suddenly, locomotives found an equally important advantage that could cover many of their shortcomings – they were more environmentally friendly! And it is true that all modern ICEs are based on the use of a microexplosion, which, in addition to carbon dioxide, produces very toxic carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides. Steam machines use continuous combustion at a lower temperature and are devoid of such problems.

So, quite possibly, we will see a new era of steam locomotives!


Steam locomotive – Wikipedia
Steam locomotives of the 21st century – Wikipedia
International Steam Locomotives 2017

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