History of Steam (Post 1900)

The many uses of Steam Power were all evolving  with enhancements being carried out by many engineers. Good ideas were picked up by others when not covered by patents, and of course, the bad ideas fell by the wayside. The parallel we see frequently these days is in the competition between electronics manufacturers, or car makers.

This picture shows the three piece component of the Garrett style of articulation

This picture shows the three piece component of the Garrett style of articulation

 

Another distinct form of railway articulation developed when Garrett designed a loco built in three parts, a water tender at the front with a complete engine underneath it, a coal bunker at the rear with another complete engine underneath, and a very large boiler slung between these two components. The first Garrett  was a small 2 foot gauge (610mm) loco for use in Tasmania in 1909.

This type of articulation enabled the loco to drive in either direction on winding mountainous tracks, and they were built in many different configurations with up to four cylinders per unit. They ranged in sizes from the 33 tonne engine for Tasmania, to 266 tonne locos for Russia.

Garretts were common in Africa well past the steam age of other countries, because coal was cheap and they had developed condensing units that enabled them to travel long distances across the desert.

The Mallett articulated locos took off in America and there they evolved to the “Big Boy” locos which weighed up to 357 tonnes.

Large steam locomotives still operated until just a few years ago in India and South Africa, and China had a small number operating until early 2015, as coal in these areas was very cheap.

Additionally, heritage steam (“steam tourism”) is a growth industry in England where full size steam locomotives are again being built as new-build machines following on the success of building a new A1 class “Tornado” starting in 1990. This project took 18years and cost GBP3,000,000. Another of these new builds – a “P2” 2-8-2 Standard Gauge locomotive is estimated to take seven years to construct and cost GBP5,000,000. In the meantime, the last working Flying Scotsman is undergoing restoration at a cost of GBP4,000,000!

By comparison, this shows how Mallett fitted two engines under a very long boiler

By comparison, this shows how Mallett fitted two engines under a very long boiler

 

As petrol and diesel engine trucks provided more intense competition from 1920 onwards, it was interesting that as  most of the steam lorry manufacture gave way, one company  – Sentinel – held their ground due to their water tube boiler and excellent dynamics. In 1930 they produced a 15 tonne monster with 8 wheels ( four steering, four driving) all with pneumatic tyres.

An early Sentinel Steam Lorry

An early Sentinel Steam Lorry


Sentinel S8

Sentinel S8

This truck was 9 meters long, carried over a tonne of water and 3/4 tonne of coal. A couple of years later, they brought out the”S4″ which weighed only 6 tonne and had several enhancements. Some of these operated throughout World War II and even saw light again in the days of the Suez crisis of 1956.

Steam turbines for electricity generation had become large complex machines in power stations around the world. Some were powered by boilers fuelled with coal, other oil, and in others the steam came from underground geo-thermal sources.

The world’s first nuclear power station at Calder Hall in England

The world’s first nuclear power station at Calder Hall in England

The last step – and a big one at that – was not so much about the turbines, but the generation of the steam, when the Calder Hall power station opened in England. This was the first nuclear fuelled power station in the world.

Much of the information used in these pages of The History of Steam, came from a very good, easy reading book “The Pictorial History of Steam Power” by J.T. van Riemsdijk and Kenneth Brown published in 1980 by Octopus Books.

The Pictorial History of Steam Power – book cover

The Pictorial History of Steam Power – book cover