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A Brief History of the Steam Engine

Posted September 02, 2009 12:00 AM by Old_School

The earliest steam engines, as developed by Thomas Newcomen and later improved by James Watt, utilized the condensation rather than the expansion of steam to perform work. Unpressurized steam was injected into the cylinder at the top of its stroke and allowed to cool and condense. This created a vacuum relative to the ambient atmospheric pressure, which caused the outside air to press down upon the cylinder and move it.

These early steam engines were extremely inefficient and large, however, and were generally used only in stationary applications (such as coal mines) where large quantities of fuel were available. Subsequent developments brought significant improvements in engine efficiency and reductions in engine size.

High-Pressure Steam Engines

Steam became a major player in industry with the creation of the high-pressure steam engine by Richard Trevithick. Because the energy content of steam at pressures greater than atmospheric is higher, these steam engines could be much smaller in size than their predecessors. In this configuration, the high-pressure steam performs the work against the engine's piston instead of creating a vacuum. The steam is admitted to the cylinder using valves and is converted to reciprocating power by using a connecting rod and crankshaft.

Once the basic design was established, improvements to the high-pressure steam engine began in earnest. Its potential as an industrial power source encouraged its development. During the next century, numerous designs were put forth. The grand majority of these engines, regardless of manufacturer or style, can be placed into one of two general categories: counterflow and uniflow.

Counterflow Engines

Counterflow engines were characterized by having a single inlet/exhaust port into the cylinder. When the steam valve was in the inlet position, pressurized steam flowed into the cylinder and performed work. At the end of the stroke, the valve moved to the exhaust position, which allowed the steam to exit the machine.

Because of their robust nature and predictable torque curve, counterflow engines were used widely in the rail industry. They were also largely inefficient compared to uniflow engines, however, because after the steam had expanded in the cylinder, the steam had to exhaust through the same hole it had entered through.

Passing the cooler gases over the hot inlet port decreased the efficiency of the counterflow engine. In addition, steam develops its greatest work when exhausted into the lowest pressure possible. Under normal conditions, the lowest pressure is the ambient atmosphere. With a counterflow engine, however, the steam exhausts back into the engine, under pressure, before being expelled.

Uniflow Engines

The other major type of high-pressure steam engine was known as the uniflow engine. This engine is capable of significantly higher efficiency rates than a counterflow engine because the heated steam flows in one direction downward along the bore and exhausts through side-ports directly into the ambient atmosphere. This uniflow design utilizes the maximum amount of steam expansion in a single cylinder.

Several technical hurdles limited the uniflow engine's success, however. First, these engines relied upon poppet valves instead of slider valves to control the steam input to the cylinder. Because of the primitive metallurgy available at the time, these parts tended to be extremely fragile. Next, because the steam flowed in a single direction through the cylinder, they developed a heat gradient along the length of the bore that caused expansion at different rates. Unless the bores were properly machined, there was a risk of a seizure in mid-stroke.

Finally, because there was only an intake valve located on the cylinder head, any gases left in the cylinder after the bottom of the stroke would be recompressed as the cylinder fell. This was good for the thermodynamics of the uniflow engine (it reheated the top of the cylinder before the next charge of steam was admitted), but contributed to an erratic torque curve that was already hampered by the non-uniform steam expansion during the downstroke. This, combined with the required large cylinder volume and faster rotating speed, made it extremely difficult to apply to locomotive power.

Generally, uniflow engines were seldom used outside of stationary power generation. But with the advantages offered in terms of efficiency, and improvements to the metallurgy and design, could they have revitalized the flagging steam technology of the 20th century?

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Anonymous Poster
#1

Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/02/2009 8:39 AM
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#2
In reply to #1

Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/02/2009 8:58 AM

Yeah, I just re-read that last line and it sounds like i am ignoring the engines that WERE built. Just revised it. Meant it to suggest that if modern metals and understanding of thermodynamics had been around it might have worked out better. Nice link by the way!

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#27
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 6:48 PM

I don't see how the steam engine could have survived, in marine applications the advantage of the steam turbine over the diesel engine was higher horsepower. Merchant marine turbines were considered large at about 36,000 HP, Navy units were large at 70,000 horsepower. Gas turbines were a bit of a novelty and of little consequence.

Nowadays merchant ships are either diesel or gas turbines, they have the horsepower and an attractive initial cost with efficiencies as good or better than steam turbines.

Navy ships are a bit of a mystery to me, I do know that the destroyer type vessels are gas turbine. I am not aware of how many diesels are being used as main propulsion.

As of now the main usage of steam turbines in the Navy is for ships with nuclear power. This would include the aircraft carriers and submarines. I have lost track of the particulars but suspect that some cruisers (if they still use them) may also be nuclear powered.

The demise of the steam turbine would have been echoed by the steam engine because of the boilers and auxiliary equipment required to complete the cycle. Of course we all know the trend today is combined cycle. Or stand alone gas turbines. The steam turbine still seems to be the best answer for nuclear power.

One memory that you jogged with your discussion was that there was a gauge/mechanism used to determining the pressure in the cylinder/s at any point of the stroke. There was a mechanical linkage attached to the shaft that supplied an input to a pen, there was also a pressure gauge that drove the pen so that a plot was developed as to the pressure or lack of during a complete cycle. These gauges were usually a work of art, one of the engineers that I worked with back in the 70's was able to acquire one of these gauges when a Corliss engine was retired, being the inventive fellow that he was he adapted the gauge to troubleshoot mechanical extraction governors, they were referred to as 3 arm governors and were a real bear to trouble shoot. It worked fine.

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#29
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 6:59 PM

Nuclear power usually heats (eventually!) water, which is then used to drive a steam turbine.......as far as I am aware, with regard to shipping and power generation, there is no other way.....it has to be steam.

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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 9:36 PM

Hi Andy,

"it has to be steam" - not necessarily, the latent heat of water is the devil in all this steam stuff. Other alloys of hydrogen are far better - just not 'free'.

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#32
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/04/2009 2:48 AM

Can you give us a working example please?

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#33
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/04/2009 4:59 AM

The first part is all in public domain.

Look at water & latent heat and the proportion of J or BTU to raise to 20 - 100 C compared to J or BTU to evolve steam. Then apply to a 'system' running at say 200C and 1400 kPa (200psi). Bear in mind turbines cannot tolerate 'dew' (solid condensates) - now work out how much 'power' actually is available compared to how much input in total.

Work out where the latent heat ends up in this steam system, be it nuclear or 'fossil' powered.

Now you will understand why the efficiencies of 'engines' may be compared and seem 'one better than the other' - but when you do the full system from fuel conversion to work output, the 'less efficient engine" may be practically superior. The 'turbo charger' post has great bearing.

I'll have to have a bit of a think on what I can say on last part; especially to such a group as this.

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#35
In reply to #33

Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/04/2009 6:14 AM

Kyzine

I like your name. In phonetics and translated to German it would mean 'Ky sein' which would be translated to English 'being Ky'. Off topic, I know

I like it, ('system'), but have to dig a bit deeper my self, as suggested. There is more to it than has been covered here. Think about it a bit and please contribute/continue more on the last part, good idea.

My contribution will have to wait, just picking up daisies while traveling through the scenery.

especially to such a group as this.

Just wait until the big boys arrive, (not that I have ever measured the size of any of the participants here) they will just not run out of steam, ever. There have been endless discussions about the topic and pressure relief valves have been in good use.

I have always insisted that "steam" has more to answer than it has been asked for. Hybrids have always ruled evolution, where ever you look and in whatever discipline, science or craft, for that matter.

Like I said, picking daisies, Ky.

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#37
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/04/2009 7:58 AM

Yes Ky, very Zen of me - or linguistic accident - or just what the CR4 gods would accept on the day. Hard to tell & meant to be so.

The "big boys" are not so much of a worry as the "smart ones", it can be mutually exclusive. Many clues in my post, only two or three concepts/ logic links are withheld.

"Hybrids" are evolution and frankly Edison set "steam" on the 'rip and burn path' and has most to answer for by stamping out huge amounts of 'evolution' - to propagate a 20% efficient "system", when 60% is possible.

How to 'teach', (as Andy puts it), and not 'tell' is the conundrum. I think I will see how they go for a bit, and go see if asteraceae are in season around here.

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#38
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/04/2009 8:06 AM

Steinmetz might take exception to the credit you give Edison.

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#40
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/04/2009 8:22 AM

As if I care what a German Lutheran theologian who died in 1762 thinks

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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

10/23/2009 3:51 AM

Think DrKyZine is pulling your long fluffy ears

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#61
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

10/23/2009 7:28 AM

Umm - fancy that - a 'dare you' - by, SUPRISE!; 'guest'

Dear Guest/s, do you realise how much your question composition has told me?

Obviously you've got the email address eleswhere - and foolishly referanced the "post of interest" - so why didn't you try "honest and straight forward communication"?

Now should you see sense, first up your going to have to endure A. who has the "long fluffy ears" I'm allegedly pulling and B. are they enjoying it?

Meanwhile ask yourselves why I would not think you are typical "Assholes in Armani" with no ideas of your own, and no idea how to get a new one.

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#31
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 9:51 PM

The activity for measuring P-V was loosely known as "doing cards". It was device that was mounted to the cylinder cover of a (usually large bore) marine diesel engine. The device drew a banan shaped curve which was essentially a P-V diagram - a plot of the pressure and volume variations for an engine. The significance of this chart lies in the fact that the work done during the cycle can be gauged from the area enclosed within the loop of the graph.

Although it is a good instrument to measure power, basically its use is limited to measuring indicated power of large slow speed engines only, which in the marine context means the main propulsion plant of the ship. Several factors such as spring inertia and stylus movement limit the diagrams in case of high speed engines for which separate indirect methods are used to measure power.

The plot mas manually measured then a calculation done for indicated HP as the device measured MEP.

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#36
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/04/2009 6:54 AM

Yep.

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#43
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/05/2009 3:27 AM

Navy ships have used all types of combinations (1) Combined Diesel and gas (2) Combined steam and gas (3) just diesel but only in frigates not in destroyers (4) just steam turbines. In destroyers quick acceleration to high speed is the essence of the task, in frigates it is less critical.

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#44
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/05/2009 4:17 AM

Where are you located?

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#47
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/06/2009 3:01 AM

Islamabad, Pakistan. lodhimfk@yahoo.com

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#48
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/06/2009 6:01 AM

Then maybe that at least partially explains your good knowledge! Your country used ex RN ships, new ships from RN builders etc. Thats why your knowledge and mine are as good as identical!!! (Though my knowledge is getting out of date nowadays!!)

Have a great day!!

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#49
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/06/2009 7:05 AM

Hi lodhi,

There was a period in the late 80s and early 90s when diesel was favoured by some navies, notably France China and Canada to increase the effective range of their destroyers by installing diesel power alongside the 'go faster' kit,eg in France the F70/ASW (guided missile destroyer) had two SEMT- Pielstick 16 cylinder units rated at 10,400HP onto two shafts (16knots); otherwise two R-R Olympus TM3B gas turbines rated at 46,000 HP (32 knots) were used.

Although a variety of GTs were employed by the various builders it is interesting that the Pielstick engine was selected virtually unanimously at this time; perhaps one of you marine gurus can suggest a reason.( eg nice colour,sounds good or was very cheap).

Good chat.

Massey.

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#50
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/06/2009 5:05 PM

They have some very strong license holders in place to be able to protect the technology. That beats color and sound any day, Ky.

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#52
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/08/2009 1:26 AM

Hi Massey,

Choice of diesel engines for frigates had the consideration of lesser price and ready availabliity ex merchant ship sources but main reason was embedded in maritime strategy and tactics of cold war decades. Soviet onslaught had to be halted in its tracks in Germany (Centre flank), scandinavia (Northern or Left flank) and Southern Europe (Southern Flank) by hundreds of thousands of troops that must be ferried in merchant ships across Atlantic, the merchant ships must be escorted by allied navies against Soviet submarines and protected agaist surface and aerial threats as well. The destroyers used to be primarily anti-surface units while frigates were optimized for antisubmarine tasks and some for anti-air war. Anti-surface engagement needed high-speed (a legacy of gun-fight days), while frigates were only required to have speeds equal to the merchantships i.e. convoy's average speed. So diesel engines were considered good enough for frigates in 1960s and 70s.

The distinction between destroyers and frigates became fuzzy with the advent of missiles that made speed relatively less critical. Some navies prefer not to design and build purpose-built frigates any more but use old destroyers past mid-life as frigates as long as they carry a good sonar and lots of antisubmarine munitions. Converse examples are also available where high-speed gas-turbine fitted frigates have been converted to something that closely resembles a destroyer. Their suitability for reverse-conversion was based on the power factor.

Modern destroyers typically have steam turbines for normal (full time) use and gas turbines (instant turn-on) to boost speed when top speed is suddenly needed! Gas tubines alone are a fuel guzzling proposal and destroyers / frigates do not have more than about 06 days of fuel. Frequent replenishments mean undue exposure to enemy action. Hence steam turbines are the preferred mode.

That is where the steam-diesel debate rests today in maritime circles. RUSI Journal issues of 1970s were full of quality articles on this topic. old copies are still available at most naval libraries.

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#53
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/08/2009 4:58 AM

On the County class destroyers of the RN in the 60's & 70's, the gas turbines (AEGs I believe) were actually mainly installed for getting underway quickly in an emergency.

In fact, I assume that on most Navy ships fitted with GTs, I am pretty sure that is their primary usage.

Naturally they could also be used to increase the ship's overall speed, but as you say, a "Gas Guzzler"....

Our Captain occasionally went water skiing behind the ship.......! Speed was NOT a problem!!! The stern wave (far higher than the quarterdeck) WAS!

The steam turbines needed at least 12 hours (from memory) from cold.....

We also had Diesel generators to supply power until steam was available....

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#54
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/09/2009 2:45 AM

I thought County had Olympus. I am not so sure.

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#55
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/09/2009 2:49 PM

I thought Brave Borderer and Brave Swordsman had Olympus.....I could be wrong.

But the Devonshire engines were enormous, probably 15 meters long or so, Olympus were orginally for aircraft if my memory serves me well, the Devonshire engines were simply too big for any aircraft....

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#56
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/10/2009 5:10 AM

Hi lodhi,

Many thanks for this considered reply, I suspect that you have amassed a lot of knowledge on this and related topics. A further question; have you any first hand experience of Doxfords? I am always intriqued by the antics of the cooling hoses, they must have been a ' real pain in the butt'. What sort of failure rate did they have and were there any alternative solutions?

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Massey.

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#58
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/12/2009 12:41 PM

Hi Massey

Doxfords? Heavens no! To borrow a phrase from late Jack Lemmon: "I am old but not that old." The only time I looked at steam reciprocating engines on a naval ship was when I visited an old River class frigate (DEVERON) converted to a survey ship. As for cooling hoses, steam reciprocating engines would not have cooling hoses because engine temperature would not exceed the temperature of the steam (around 230C). But single-piston or twin opposed pistons internal combustion engines (normally fired by light diesel or even crude oil) would have a water body and cooling hoses. Again I have not seen an example. No idea on failure rate. Sorry!

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#59
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/12/2009 9:20 PM

I worked on the refurbishment of two frigates for the Venezuelan navy at Ingalls shipyard. They had two diesels and two gas turbines. The diesels were shot so we replaced them. The gas turbines were in good shape because they were seldom used. The ships would start up on diesel and stay diesel for normal cruising. The GT's were used if high speed was needed. Maintenance in the Venezuelan navy was non-existent.

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#57
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/10/2009 9:45 PM

Most new Navy ships are gas turbine powered. They replace a lot of auxiliary systems needed by steam turbines, like boilers. A gas turbine ship can be underway in a much shorter time than a steam turbine as there is no wait to boil water. Maintenance is much less, as it is quicker to replace a gas turbine. A steam turbine replacement is a major task requiring at least a month to accomplish. A gas turbine can be replaced in two weeks or less.

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#3

Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/02/2009 11:48 AM

Nice post...I learned stuff, which is a good thing
Del

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#18
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 9:17 AM

Now we'll have to worry about the new arms race. A steam powered cross bow.

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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/02/2009 11:34 PM

almost all of the steam engines I grew up around were of the turbine variety, strangely unmentioned in your history, though I'll wager they are 99% of all steam engines in use today. Rather than belabor the development of the turbine, I'll leave it to the class to research. Besides, I really don't know much about it. The earliest turbines I'm aware of were simple fans up the flue of a fireplace that were turned by the heated air rising up the chimney. These fans turned rotisseries on which legs of lamb or whole geese rotated slowly, delivering their delectable drippings to the embers in the pit. Can you imagine the aroma? Fans were found to be more efficient when equipped with more blades, and by the time we get to my misspent youth among the turbines, they had thousands of blades. One turbine--a bilge pump, I believe, had a single turbine in it. The steam blew through a nozzle, hit the blade, and was evacuated out the other side into a nearly perfect vacuum. Another scheme was to put additional nozzles in to hit several blades at once. Then someone discovered that the steam exiting into the vacuum still had a lot of energy in it, so it was redirected to coil through the blades again and again, each time having its path bent into a circle so it could blow through another nozzle against another blade. Only when the steam was judged depleted of its propulsive power was it allowed to escape into the vacuum. Other engines banked series of turbine wheels, each wheel being a bit larger than the last to make the most of what power remained in it and using its leverage to increase the torque. This was the high-pressure turbine. It was fitted with throttles that allowed larger or smaller amounts of steam to pass through to affect the speed of the turbine and of the screw turning at the other end of the shaft (for these are the actual propulsion plants of a steam ship). Some genius whose name I was never told discovered that there was a tiny amount of energy left in the steam which could be put to use if poured through a low pressure turbine on its way to the nearly perfect vacuum. A low pressure turbine (I believe) made its maiden voyage on the Titanic, using the steam from the reciprocating steam engines one last time before it was returned to nearly perfect vacuum. Even the two or three reciprocating steam engines that remain on a ship (usually emergency back up bilge pumps that can be repurposed as low pressure main feed pumps or even high pressure main feed pumps, given the exigencies of battle; reciprocating pumps are virtually indestructable, so it pays to have one around) vented to near perfect vacuum. Now, you might wonder, where did this near perfect vacuum come from? Outer space? Energetic vacuum pumps working day and night? Nope. The vacuum is in the chest of a great condenser, using the same technique described in the Watt and Newcommon engines to pull the last bit of energy out of the steam. It counterflows around brass tubes with a steady stream of salt water rushing through them. No air is allowed in--there's even a special machine that takes the feed water and lets it steep for a few minutes before going back to the boiler in which air is encouraged to bubble out of the water maintained at around 250 degrees and under a slight pressure. Because air is the enemy when your friend is steam. One tiny atom of oxygen allowed into the boiler is likely to pit a tube and leave you vulnerable to a rupture. Nothing but pure, distilled water and a horrific, slightly alkaline slime known as boiler compound is allowed in the main feed. OK, that's the other (rather larger) half of the steam engine story.

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#6
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/02/2009 11:52 PM

I seem to recall the exhaust turbine was a Bauer - Wach turbine.

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#7
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 12:36 AM

Interesting read, although your formatting is horrendous. I bet Del never even read it to the second line. By giving the reader a break, once in a while, a near vacuum can be avoided. Other wise GA.

All the best, Ky.

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#9
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 3:20 AM
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#8
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 3:19 AM

Hi Guest, you may be interested in this link http://www.houseofdavid.ca/parsons.htm

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#15
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 7:12 AM

Thanks for "Part 2" to my post! Very informative. Don't worry, i didn't forget to mention turbines, I didn't consider them a part of my post. I was focusing on reciprocating steam engines here.

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#22
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 2:18 PM

Hi there,

Just a comment on the Titanic's machinery. The principal engines were two four cylinder triple expansion engines each developing some 15000hp at 100rpm; both engines exhausted into the single LP direct coupled Parsons turbine which could deliver a further 15000hp. This arrangement only worked in the 'ahead' direction the turbine being byepassed when going astern.

The use of the very large LP turbine was first employed in 1909 on the 'Laurentic' so the set up was proven by the time the Olympic and Titanic were laid down several years later. Interestingly the turbine received steam from the LP cylinders at 7 psig and worked into a vacuum of 28'' Hg to produce its rated output.

Although rather cumbersome by later standards the builders claimed a high seasonal efficiency for this arrangement.

One of the limiting conditions with these massive reciprocating engines (weighing upwards of 1000 tonnes each) was their inability to handle high pressure superheated steam. Hence the Titanic had 24 double ended marine boilers, a total of 144 furnaces,hand fired and working at only 160 psig.

Contrast this with the power plant installed in the Di Giussano class Italian light cruisers built only 15 years later which possessed 100,000 hp from 2 sets of geared turbines with steam superheated to 270C coming from 6 only oil fired Ansaldo-Yarrow water tube boiler. As these ships displaced only 10% (c 4500 tonnes) of that of the Titanic they were the grey hounds of the inter-war years naval arms race.

However,the steam 'engine' history is about to take a another step forward with the advent of the 'super-critical' pressure generating plant coming into use in various parts of the world. Breath taking in its complexity and the materials used the technology offers higher thermal efficiency than achievable by any other means using the Rankine Cycle.

So steam will continue to serve the needs of mankind for a while yet!

Good luck

Massey.

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#45
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/05/2009 2:09 PM

good to know. thanks.

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#24
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 5:38 PM

If I were to split hairs the discussion was about steam engines not turbines. While figuring out that useless distinction I was trying to imagine that engines preceded turbines, but then I thought of Hero's turbine. Not much preceded that.

Anyway just mumbling like old folks tend to do.

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#5

Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/02/2009 11:49 PM

Names that you may want to research are Abner Doble who produced an extremely smooth and fast automobile, with a closed loop uniflow engine and firetube boiler system. Also, the Williams brothers in Ambler, PA whose poppet, single acting, four and six cylinder, recompression engine was claimed to be near or over unity. Doble in the mid thirties until about 1950 and the Williams' of the 1960-70s were as far out as one could get for the materials, sensors and instrumentation of the day. A last steam book (circa 1970) by the late Floyd Clymer, described the contributions of both. Don't get me started though. A good blog, thanks.

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#16
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 7:15 AM

I actually intended to include these guys in my next post, good call

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#10

Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 4:31 AM

These steam cooling units that maintained a near perfect vacuum for both sorts of steam engine were called in the RN (simply enough!) "Evaporators".

On some RN ships, the seawater cooling pumps for the "Evaps" have their inlet on one side of the ship and the exhaust on the other. So some "wily" Captains used the main pumps to "suck" the ship against the jetty, it made "parking" a bit easier!!

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#11
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 4:45 AM

Strange to call something the exact opposite of what it does. Was this unique to the RN? I sailed in Merchant Navy and dem tings was called condensers.

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#12
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 5:27 AM

Strange but true.....

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#21
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 2:15 PM

When I was at sea - the device that was used to suck in sea water and make fresh water was called an "evaporator". It evaporated sea water by way of a steam coil, and the vapour was lead away and condensed into fresh water. This was good enough for drinking - but this first run of fresh water was then led away into another "evaporator" from which water for the boiler was made.

On the other hand, the steam from the LP turbine was passed to a "condensor" in which the steam vapouirs were turned back into water, and then pumped up into a feed water makeup tank or away to the deaerator. The motive force for the condensing was the very much colder sea water passing through the condensor.

Least - thats how it was when I went to sea.

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#23
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 4:40 PM

Maybe I remembered it "arse about face", its 36 years ago now......!!!

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#25
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 5:44 PM

Is that like in frack to bont. It will not get better Andy.

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#26
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 6:02 PM

Thanks.....

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#34
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/04/2009 5:34 AM

tahw rof?

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#13
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 5:37 AM

Hi Andy

Some smart succors but I admit "wily" sounds more betterer. An ex Boss of mine was a merchant and he had a huge array of tricks ranging from knots to the use of water and its other (not only cleaning) applications. These hands on guys deserve more than they got for their services to common sense and practical solutions. Need, right there and then, in whatever situation, a solution had to be at hand. If you failed you were dead.

Survival of the fittest in real time. Many experiments have gone wrong and not all were reported but inhaled and never repeated, as long as there was a survivor. We are the lucky ones. We have our selves parked in, in a wily fashion. Lest we forget.

Good luck to all of you at Sea, Ky.

PS: Never light a cigarette on a candle when at sea. A sailor, in need, could die from you sucking the energy from that light and not making it available to him as a last resource. Make a 'fidibus'? first and then take the light from it.

If you are not with the smallest parts of a system why be there at all? And then the phase changes and not only one or two. Fascinating stuff.

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#14
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 6:56 AM

'fidibus'? Danish ya, A strip of folded or rolled paper or similar, which you light from the lantern or candle, then transfer the flame to your pipe, (in modern times, cigarette). The idea is not to obstruct the light, or risk extinguishing, as this denies other ships a view of your running lights, so speed and direction. But in other times an invitation to hostile aircraft, or in the trenches, the sniper. Hence in the Army - 3rd man is 'unlucky'.

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#41
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/04/2009 4:14 PM

Took me six pages in google, but they say "fidibus" other than the movie is a soapstone soaked in coal oil used to kindle a stove.

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#42
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/04/2009 10:12 PM

Hi Guest, though I've never heard it used in that application, it kinda makes sense if you look at the meaning in the functional sense of transferring fire. Do you still have the link? Can you post it? I'd be interested in origin/culture/time line.

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#46
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/05/2009 2:29 PM

thus the bow and stern thruster was invented. Big ships can now move sideways when necessary and take very tight corners by having great electrically powered screws set in the keel far forward and aft to pull the ship into its mooring, to avoid collisions, and to tighten turns for whatever other reason. The advances in ship engineering in the past half century are amazing. For a long time people though sea travel and steam would become obsolete and ships would no longer use screws but some kind of impulse drive. But the alternatives have pretty much turned out to be blind alleys and we're more dependent on shipping and our navies than ever before.

I'd go out on a limb and predict a movement to living at sea--the need for cooling water and solar and wind power are filled nowhere on land as well as they are at sea. Imagine if you will intentionally sailing into a hurricane in order to make use of its 100-mile-per-hour winds, vast sheets of falling fresh water, huge and endless swells and breaking waves for the purpose of transporting the resultant resources and energy to a major city like Miami, Washington, or New York. It would be dangerous or deadly on a ship smaller than an aircraft carrier, but save and routine on a ship 100 or 1000 times the size of an aircraft carrier. Recently (last night or the night before) I learned of a material known as Ice 7 (a spooky echo of Ice 9) that is water compressed to a rocklike consistency at great depth, such as on a recently discovered superearth orbiting a star about 20 light years away--a rocky planet many times larger than the earth and covered with an ocean a hundred times deeper than the earth's. At the bottom, pressures are so great that water is forced into a crystaline state as solid as stone. If we could make our ocean-going cities of ice-7, they would be far cheaper than steel or concrete. The only thing between us and this kind of engineering is the kind of virtually unlimited energy we could harvest from the hurricanes. A hurricane fully harvested would be severely weakened and might actually dissipate before it hits shore. Once a single floating city is made and the technology is commonplace, dozens could be made and operated by nations across the earth, so the notion of completely harvesting a hurricane isn't much of a leap.

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#17

Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 8:33 AM

Do you happen to know of a good source on low pressure steam engines? The last I saw was a now unfindable diagram circa 1954. You wrote an interesting article. Thank you.

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#19

Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 9:29 AM

A good book on steam locomotives is 'Locomotion : a world survey of railway traction' by O. S. Nock.

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#20

Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 11:52 AM

I am assuming that your second post will go into the development of triple expansion steam engines and their widespread application especially that they were at one time the main propulsion drives of the Merchant Marine, Merchant Navy for our UK and Down Under friends, and including many ferry boats and tug boats. They basically were why sail power ceased and the Era of Steam Power took over.

The last major use would probably be the Liberty ships built at the beginning of WWII. The next era Victory ships utilized the steam turbine, high and low pressure combination driving a double reduction gearing output to the propeller shaft.

The steam engine is a marvelous machine and wholly unappreciated for its contribution to the industrial era.

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#28

Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/03/2009 6:49 PM

Is this your entire article? I kept looking for the next page! I know the article is titled a brief history but you weren't kidding! Many more interesting facts could have been included and still have been brief.

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#39
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Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/04/2009 8:20 AM

I probably should have titled it a Brief OVERVIEW of steam engines, this is meant as a preamble to my next post, not an alternative to wikipedia

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#51

Re: A Brief History of the Steam Engine

09/06/2009 11:16 PM

Steam development didn't end when diesel locomotives were invented. Engineers like Andres Chapelon, L. D. Porta, David Wardale and others continued to improve the efficiency of railroad locomotives. No, a steam locomotive isn't going to beat the thermodynamic efficiency of a diesel, but with proper design should be able to beat it out on total ownership cost per horsepower-hour. Cyclone Power has wrapped a high-efficiency heat exchanger around a radial uniflow steam engine, and is doing some amazing things with it. http://cyclonepower.com/

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