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The Evolution of Steam Motive Power

As has been mentioned previously, the harnessing of steam power in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was the springboard for the development of railways throughout the world.

The Evolution of Steam Motive Power


As has been mentioned previously, the harnessing of steam power in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was the springboard for the development of railways throughout the world. The concept of running hard rimmed flanged wheels on narrowmetal rails had been tried out in the mines and quarries and found to be both workable and advantageous.

The main limitation to the effectiveness of using plate-ways, rail-ways or tram-ways was the adequate provision of haulage power or what became known   as   ?motive   power

Walking pace motive power was first provided by men and horses and later in some places by stationary engines driving winches for cable hauled cars. As the design of wheels, axles and bearings steadily improved, towards the end of the eighteenth century, heavier loads could be moved and rail borne movable steam ?locomotives' became ap The first steam hauled train was locomotive operated in South b Wales in 1804. While this locomotive seems to have worked quite well on a mine tramway, the cast iron plates that formed the track proved to be inadequate for the heavier loads and impacts.

Hardon  its   heels,   William   Hedley'satramway near?Puffin

Newcastle-on-Tyne giving successful service for over forty years.

Thefirst   use   of   steam   for   a  ?Locomotion'passenger traio Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825. There is a wall plaque at the original railway station at Stockton which reads:


The first public railway to use steam motive power exclusively and to run a regular passenger service was the Liverpool and Manchester Railway which commenced operations in 1829. This railway was perhaps the first to have the essential elements of a modern railway. All trains were locomotive hauled, running to a timetable, operated by company staff and only stopping at stations manned by its own staff. The railway linked the two cities and was only 38 miles long, taking about two hours six minutes to do the journey. This average speed of 18 mph seems extremely slow to us but when compared to walking, running, or going by narrowboat or stagecoach, was a substantial improvement.


What is even more amazing is that fourteen short years later Daniel Gooch, locomotive superintendent of the Great Western Railway, drove Prince Albert home from Bristol to London in about the same time, a distance of about 118 miles! The average city to city speed on that journey of 57 mph is still remarkable and could not be achieved today by driving from Bristol to London, even with the fastest car, without breaking the speed limits!


During the rest of the nineteenth century railways continued to develop and spread to all parts of the civilised world. With this development both steam locomotives and all types of rolling stock grew in size and complexity.

Steam power dominated traction on most of the worlds railways in the first hundred years or so. Indeed, until the 1880's,ofmotivepower that steam was considered was the viable for railways. Even the so called ?atmospheric' railways still engines to provide their power.


In the very earliest days, even?Rocket',attheboiletim fitted with multiple tubes, water space round a fire box and a fire which was drawn by the exhaust steam blasted up the chimney. Most locomotives had two cylinders linked to the large driving wheels by external connecting rods.


Cylinders were normally inclined at an angle to the horizontal and drove only one pair of wheels. Eventually cylinders were placed horizontally in a forward location and the driving power was   linked   to by various all cranks and connecting drivingrods.   wheels'


There was also a great deal of activity in the design and evolution of valve gear, slides, pumps and pistons which all added to both the efficiency and the complexity of steam locomotives. Steam traction is simple in essence and some complexity led to more difficulties and problems than were solved.


The invention-heating'of?superofsteam inled totheadoptionlateofthis nine feature in later steam locomotives, giving rise to higher efficiency but also a need for better maintenance, particularly of boilers and tubes.


Early underground railways adopted steam power for hauling train because at that time there did not appear to be any practical alternative.


The first underground railway in the world was opened by the Metropolitan Railway Company in 1863 between Paddington and Farringdon, London. By that time many hundreds of miles of main line railway had been built around the world and over thirty years experience had been gained in the design, manufacture and operation of steam locomotives.


This original section of the new line, together with its later extensions (now the Circle Line), was constructed and cover' using method the construction ?cut.wasAsonly at a shallow depth, openings were left wherever possible in an attempt to ensure steam, smoke and fumes were adequately ventilated.

The original intention was to use conventional steam locomotives on this line burning no fuel on the underground sections but relying on them,?head of steam' and hea end of the comparatively short underground section.


When the line was opened it was found that conventional locomotives caused distress to passengers and staff due to the discharge of carbonic oxide gases. Some relief of the problem was found in construction of condensing engines but clearly some other form of motive power would be desirable underground. The London commuter had to suffer the inconvenience of steam locomotives in confined spaces for another three decades or so before a satisfactory alternative was found.


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