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13 comments
Anonymous Poster

How to Build a Steam Car

08/17/2008 10:53 PM

What would it take to build a steam engine for cars?

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Commentator
Engineering Fields - Power Engineering - New Member

Join Date: May 2008
Location: Placerville, CA
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#1

Re: fuel for vehicles

08/17/2008 10:59 PM

The same thing it took a hundred years ago when steam cars were prominent.

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Member

Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 8
#10
In reply to #1

Re: fuel for vehicles

09/09/2008 12:13 PM

oh! and for you guys that appearently dont know they can be high mileage cars too, try typing in (richard j. smith steam) in your net searh . he build a scaled down steam buggy called the educator for those whom werent awar. 40 mpg on low grade gas, kerosene,even paint thinner etc, and up to 40 mph on this little buggy you can even download how to build your own. maybe some of the real vehical car inthusiests , can take from this and improve with the more modern technology since he built this back in mid 60's. oh and lear of lear jet blew it when he made the cal. rtd bus with turbine engine, too much stem. he also built a very impressive 4 wheel drive steam racer that VERY most likely would have beaten everything on the track but they wouldnt let him run it. it had a steam motor on each wheel. another VERY inteseting engine is the eucliptiline motor( not sure of spelling) that was made, very powerful and small. there was publications on it and on smith in the 60's in pouplar science/mechanics type magazines around 65 to 69, not sure of which one or yr. mz

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Commentator

Join Date: Apr 2010
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#12
In reply to #10

Re: fuel for vehicles

04/23/2010 5:48 PM

I built Dick Smith's steam system from his construction plans in the early 70's when I lived in Van Nuys, not far from Midway City where Dick operated at his home's garage. Building the steam system involved a lot of time to build, expect the task to take about two years part time. A lot of sheet metal work and machining. It was a real pain to repair the leaks in the steam generator. Never built the steam car, just the power plant. I still have a fresh set of the plans, but I'll probably hold onto them for now. I would write Dick questions about problems and he would insert his answers and mail them back. After a few years, I sold the system to an instrumentation engineer living in Pittsburg, CA. I asked for $2,500 cash and in the mail he sent $2,500 in one-hundred dollar bills; I delivered it to his doorstep. Great memories.

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Guru

Join Date: Dec 2007
Posts: 588
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#2

Re: fuel for vehicles

08/17/2008 11:12 PM

a boiler and a steam turbine. The combined weight would be more than a complete car does today, which means its fuel efficency would suck.

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Guru

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#4
In reply to #2

Re: fuel for vehicles

08/17/2008 11:29 PM

Well then that just makes it really amazing that those old timers did so well. So much so that the Stanley Steamer held the land speed record longer than any other.

Steam technology was killed, in part, by writing laws such as, 'In order to operate a steam vehicle you must be a certified boiler operator or have one with you'. Other schemes were used as well, mostly because steam is so efficient and wasn't making somebody enough money.

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Commentator

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#3

Re: fuel for vehicles

08/17/2008 11:24 PM

are you planning to blast steam through the engine using the valves and cylinders that already exist? I guess the valves would be closed, the piston at top dead center, then you introduce the steam. This might work better with a carbureted engine. But the valves admitting the steam would have to be huge--you couldn't have a restriction in the line as the steam is leaving the feed header and entering the cylinder or you'd have a pressure and temperature drop. Then when the pistons are at bottom dead center, those valves would have to slam shut and equally large valves would have to open to exhaust the steam and condensed water either to a condenser/holding tank or to vent to the atmosphere. A steam engine and boiler is a very simple thing to build. The steam piston will slide up and down a cylinder and valve openers are activated at top and bottom that close the exhaust line and open the steam line (or vice versa). Most (or many) steam piston engines are double-acting, so there is a pressure side above and below the piston, so it's always working, not just in one direction like a standard IC engine. Pistons are best for low-speed applications. Turbines work best for high speed operations. Open bilge steam piston engines were common up until world war II--steam engineers used to say, "a puff of steam and fifty yards." The engines operated so slowly that the shaft actually had to be run through an increasing gear that would multiply the number of cycles. Steam turbine engines have mammoth reduction gears to turn the thousands of RPMs of the turbine into the tens or hundreds of RPMs on the shaft. The overhead of a steam engine is huge, though. You need a boiler, high pressure piping, a continuous head of steam (most people don't want to wait an hour to warm up the engine). Packing and piston rings will need constant attention in a piston engine. Turbine engines need to be "jacked" or turned continuously when not in service by an electric motor to prevent the shafts from bending due to gravity. Gas turbines have been experimented with (I remember a chrysler demonstration car that toured in the 60s running on peanut oil). But the mechanics involved in turning jet engine speeds into 25 miles per hour where the rubber meets the road have never been accomplished efficently. as far as I know, of course.

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#5

Re: fuel for vehicles

08/18/2008 9:48 AM
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Commentator

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#6

Re: fuel for vehicles

08/18/2008 11:51 AM

as a steam engineer, I am sympathetic to the requirement for a steam engineer on each car powered by steam, and not just for job security. Boiling water all by itself is very dangerous. A boiler in the hands of someone who doesn't understand its risks is essentially a bomb waiting to go off. Even if you have every safety device in place, they occasionally blow the safeties, which in itself can be traumatic to people nearby (the USS Truckee blew the safeties one night in port with half the crew lying around the helicopter deck listening to Pink Floyd. In a split second, half the people on the helo deck had dived into the rope nets that surround the deck. But if the tubes to the safeties get blocked for some reason (and don't get me started on the kinds of things that can happen INSIDE the pipes and the boiler itself to plug up relief valves) an untended boiler will eventually explode like a bomb, throwing shards of sharp metal into anyone standing nearby, then cleansing the wounds with a rain of boiling water and steam. It's what killed Casey Jones. And there's a tendency for people to think tying down the safeties will give them that tiny extra bit of power (turn it up to 11) that will win the race, impress the girl, or whatever. Since boilers are famously overbuilt to about 110% (hence the expression "giving 110%"), at some point the dilithium crystals will become unstable and you'll be rewarded by an early fireworks display. So in addition to the danger of the equipment itself, you have to add the margin of error caused by the nut behind the wheel.

Oh, ok, I'll talk about the stuff inside the boiler. You can't have chloride ions in there. No, not even one. They'll pit the boiler and leave an infinite number of tiny holes in the steel where iron has turned to iron chloride and melted away. In order to control the chloride ions, you use a highly alkaline product we always called boiler compound. Bear in mind that this product was added to distilled water. No, you can't put your garden hose in the water tank of your steam engine. You'll need distilled water. The danger here is that the steam engine will run fine on tapwater, so no matter how many times you warn people, they'll probably end up using tapwater or bottled water (distilled water comes in a bottle, so most people don't know or understand the difference) or demineralized water or softened water. I never understood the chemistry involved, but for some reason the bolts and nuts involved in a steam engine always became quickly fused and rusty. We used mild steel, which is prone to rust anyway, and had a maintenance schedule probably designed to turn those bolts often enough to keep them clear of rust. But it didn't matter. We'd end up breaking many, if not most of the bolts and studs and stripping most of the rest. We became masters of the tools used for pulling the stubs of bolts out of their threads in a steam chest. This is an issue because steam equipment needs constant maintenance and inspection. That's what killed the steam locomotive, by the way. They were good at moving freight from one end of the country to the other burning any kind of fuel from old furniture to peat to anthracite, but as soon as they pulled into the roundhouse, you had to do a complete rebuild.

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#7

Re: How to Build a Steam Car

08/18/2008 1:09 PM

You might enjoy this story about steam cars from the Hemmings Motor News Blog.

Come back and register with CR4, Guest!

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Anonymous Poster
#8

Re: How to Build a Steam Car

09/09/2008 10:29 AM

its not as hard as some say, many 2 cycle motors of any size can be converted to steam, seal off the exaust port and come up with a simple valve- putting steam into the spark plug hole. i made an engine out of 2 ww2 generator engine blocks splined 180 deg. out. 2" bore 2" stroke, and 300 lb steam, engine put out power. 3 square inches X 300psi= 900 divided by 1/3=300 minus steam input time yealded about 200 ftlb of torque. small out board motors are very usable. i use the discibed engine to run wheels on a slightly larger version of richard j. smiths (educator) body design. it spun the 20" bicycle tires so fast we couldnt see the spokes and tread (4000 rpm) . a friend said he could stop the spinning with his foot (yes) until i took it off the jackstands and opened valve, front was against a retaining wall, needless to say it litterly tore everything apart. and i had to repair it. (gemmakermz@cs.com

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#9

Re: How to Build a Steam Car

09/09/2008 11:42 AM

i also see that most persons are realy not up on the trueths of steam. by going to a monotube flash boiler you more or less get rid of the exploding boilers as they make steam as needed and not stored. i have blown a momtube boiler and all it did was fizzel and put out the fire (no explossion). i also had an engine to run a car, a 40 cu in mercury out board converted. think on this, 4 piston, 4 connecting rods, 1 crank shaft, and a valve with 2 moving parts, = 11 moving parts and no tranny is needed, with 1000lb of steam pressure on the 4 cylenders, again 2" bore X 2" stroke you have power. 3000lb to connecting rods, by usable 1 1/2" stroke= 1/2 ft gives around 1500 ftlb per rpm,and thats there the moment the shaft starts turning not at some high rpm, most today cars are lucky to get 250 ftlb. if you wanted a speed buggy from start line then by all means gear it. 3 to 1 will probly give out 4000 lb of force. by the way mono tube boilers are not all that heave maybe 200 lb properly built. and no turbines, they waiste steam. have you ever looked at the pistons on the old steam locomotives, not that very big. yet the could pull over a 100 loaded freightcars and them selves were heavy. why do you think that all the batle ships,carriers, etc., are powered by steam, the only diff. from years past and now is the steam is generated by an reactor rather than fossil fuels. with new technologys and metals a very small and lightweight engine and boiler could be built, remember when stopped you dont use steam as a flash boiler makes it on demand. turbines waiste steam as they need high volumes and now you have a recondencing problem . not with a closed piston engine. mike z gemmakermz@cs.com

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#11

Re: How to Build a Steam Car

09/09/2008 1:06 PM

and the boiler a mono tube flash boiler has one long tube usualy out of 1/4 to 1/2 inch refrigerator grade copper tubing, seemless high pressure, wound in pancake coiled layers. i made one out of 1/4" 100' of regular copper tubing not to exceed 300 lb psi and use lower, not quite dry, steam as my test boiler, thats the one i blew by getting it too hot ,not high psi. my main boiler has a ww2 stainless steel smoke generator coil stack, 1/2" tubing, that i was told would hold in acess of 1500 lb cherry as a super heater. i saw the results of one blown, photos etc., and a guy was sitting on the boiler when it blew, only a not too noisy hiss. also when the burning of the fuel is properly set up it is by flame (exturnal combustion), should be blue flame, like on your kitchen stove and not polluting like car engines. a boiler about 20" round by 20" high, only 1/2 that hight would be coils, would suply most vehicals. tubing lenght depends on type, size, and metal. i saw a printout of a barret steam generator that used finned tubing needing less tubing, humm. since i'm useing copper tubing i watchwhat waters i put in it, no acitic, and use a descaler after long use. i have well water ph 8. gemmakermz@cs.com

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Anonymous Poster
#13

Re: How to Build a Steam Car

06/09/2010 8:02 PM

I have a steam powered bicycle built to a richard smith design and when I get it running right it will be able to cruise up to 20 mph or so, but I still have work to do on it, seems promising. Currently I'm running it with 1lb propane tanks and a gallon water tank. get about 10 miles on water, but only like 6 on propane. It runs 250psi steam @ 600-700 degrees leaving the boiler. It has a monotube boiler. I'm planning on eventually adding a condenser to extend range and I put oil in the water so it allows me to reuse the oil. It makes about half a horsepower or so, but will increase once tubes are insulated, and 2-3lb-ft of torque if I could get the spindle drive adjusted right. Have given thought to building a car or a faster bike, motorcycle later in life, but I haven't learned enough about it or have money for such a project. It has a monotube boiler. Richard Smith developed a rotary valve that could be resized for anything. Some else also made a bike similar, but using a converted 5 cu in engine and a half size version of the boiler on my bike which could go up to 40 mph on the flat. The boiler on my bike could power a much a bigger engine than the one on mine. Building a bike or car isn't something for someone who has no clue what there are doing. There are calculations for the system you must understand in order to design a correct system and you need to have an understanding by spending time with some so you don't hurt someone or something else in the process Robert Hopkins (rhop@udel.edu)

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