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Author Topic: Pros of Steam?  (Read 10287 times)
Jim Banner

Enjoying electric model railroading since 1950.

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« Reply #15 on: October 19, 2009, 02:12:40 PM »

While steamers are labour intensive, their upkeep is technologically simple.  You might call it "advanced blacksmith technology."  That is why they are still in use in areas where high tech is not an option.  Even the fuel for steamers (wood, coal) is low tech compared to drilling thousands of feet or under water for oil, then having to transport it and refine it before use.  Take a look at this industrial railway taken in 2005.  I believe this is the same railway that I have also seen in videos dated 2008.

Wouldn't that make a great model in 0n30?  You could even run it beside modern diesels on a modern layout!


Growing older is mandatory but growing up is optional.

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« Reply #16 on: October 19, 2009, 05:11:35 PM »

The ACE 3000 was not designed as a turbine drive loco.  It was direct connected.  I believe they had a divided drive, kind of like the Pennsy T's and Q's, but with the driver sets connected with rods and crank axles behind the frame.  There was to be a fluidized coal bed in the firebox to more efficiently burn the coal, and probably a high-tech design exhaust port in the smokebox.  There was also some discussion about using a condensing system like they had in South Africa to save most of the water and recycle it instead of just blowing it up the stack with the coal smoke. 

GE did do some preliminary experiments with coal-fired turbines.  IIRC, they were similar to a gas turbine (essentially a jet engine) that turned an electric generator.  One of the big problems turned out to be the erosion of the turbine blades by the unburned particles in the coal. 

Now, as for steam vs. diesels for models - In general, steam loco models tend to have more things to go wrong than diesels.  Most steam engines use the connecting rods to drive the drivers, which means that the drivers all have to be in quarter and all the rods have to have precise fitting to the crankpins.  Diesel models normally have all of the drivers geared together.  It is easier to install motors and flywheels under diesel shells than in steam loco boilers.  Now, most of the modern steam models are much better overall than their predecessors in both operation and appearance, even inlcuding most of the brass imports. 


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« Reply #17 on: October 19, 2009, 08:51:01 PM »

PROS for Steam

They are just plain Cool.
Awesome to behold.
They have personalities.
[think tim allen from 'home improvement' tv show]
HO! Snort!

« Last Edit: October 19, 2009, 08:52:32 PM by jbsmith » Logged

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« Reply #18 on: October 19, 2009, 08:59:45 PM »

You mean it worked?  Shocked

Chief Brass Hat
Virginia Tidewater and Piedmont Railroad
"Only coal fired steam locomotives"

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« Reply #19 on: October 19, 2009, 10:00:44 PM »

they have personalities? and diesels don't?

all locomotives have their own personality. just ask the people who run them.....

Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA

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« Reply #20 on: November 10, 2009, 10:17:31 PM »

in model or in real life?

in real life i can think of two advantages.

1. steam had all drive axles physically connected by the siderods, thus you couldn't have one axle slip the way you can with most diesels. this makes them in theory more sure footed.

2. steam engines don't develop their full horsepower until they get up to speed, thus any train they can start, they can pull at their max speed. with diesels, all power is available to start the train, and tapers off as speed increases. diesels will find a speed at which they can lug the train, and stay there.

My grandfather worked for the Nickel Plate Road during the second world war. He said they had a shortage of motive power during the war so they would load a locomotive down with a train that was sometimes too heavy to start. They would then have to use one of the yard engines to give the train a push start.

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« Reply #21 on: November 11, 2009, 10:16:11 AM »

Dear Jeff,

I agree with you.

Had a chance as a lad to ride a yard switcher in Rochester at the old Valvoline refinery, now gone, on the Ohio River. My Dad used to take us there nearly every night after dinner to look at the operations. A very nice man invited us into the cab one night to go back and forth, blow the air horn, etc.  Exciting for a young boy !  I should say that engine had a personality, very kindly to a lad.

On another note, we used to ride the passenger train that originated in Beaver Falls, boarded in Conway, and on to Pittsburgh.  Al Seitz was the conductor, had gold mines in Colorado, and was a friend on a local Altoona conductor who is a fine client.  Nice train.

Lots of old timers and veterans are gone whom I knew and fondly remember this Veteran's Day.

Best Wishes,


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« Reply #22 on: November 12, 2009, 08:34:06 PM »

after having worked as a volunteer for the Colorado Railroad Museum for a while with both steam an diesel powered, I must say the diesel is easy to start and drive.  The steam need pampering and are very dirty.
But the steam are hands down more fun to work with. Which is why my layout only has seam>

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« Reply #23 on: December 28, 2009, 12:58:35 AM »

I am brand new to this foru, this being my first post.

It has come to my attention though, that in all of the Steam Vs. Diesel debate threads I have read, both here and abroad, few ever mention the turn-key operation of a Diesel.  Some of you who have experience, please help me out here, but..

  Turn the key(flip the switch, pull the lever etc.) and start the engine(s), wait for the compressed air system to charge if it wasn't already, possibly let the engine get hot enough to start the turbos..  drive off.....   10 minutes tops?

  Start 2 hours before Dawn by filling the water and coal reservoirs, build a fire (Not with coal mind you, with wood..), get the fire hot enough to start adding coal...  feed the fire more and more coal for a couple hours to get the boiler hot, meanwhile go around with a rag and an oil can...  4 hours from when you started, you might be able to get under way...

Also, shutting down for the day is just as much of a process...

  shut the turbos down, let the engine run till the turbos are cool and shut the engine down, lock the cab and come back tomorrow.

  Drop the fire and clean out the firebox, blow off extra steam, limp the rest of the way into an engine house, and get out your rag and oil can ...

Note that I have never been an engineer and am not saying that the lists above are fact, just examples.  I worked at a theme park that had narrow gauge live steam and after sitting cold for the week, crews would start on Friday night getting the three locos up to steam ready to depart on Saturday morning at 10 am.

As for my model layout..  I started by buying a DCC system because I knew if I didn't START with DCC I would never make the transition.  I WANTED Steam, because I worked so closely to them when I was younger.  I got a steamer in trade with a decoder already installed and it runs wonderfully.  Once I had it for a few minutes, I knew that I wanted a Diesel in my fleet too just to be able to use the many lighting effects of my DCC system, and, ironically, for a more involved start-up procedure, being able to bring up the different lightsand sounds one by one to fire up the loco....


this has been my $.02

Sorry for dredging up a someone dead thread Tongue

Mike, at DC.

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« Reply #24 on: December 28, 2009, 01:08:58 AM »

Here's a little bit of a "Dark" pro for steam vs diesel A steamer would keep running through the middle of a nuclear war the diesel's would be disrupted by the electromagnetic wave and radiation.


Keep that in mind.

We may need them steamers someday.

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« Reply #25 on: December 28, 2009, 07:02:41 AM »

another plus in the steam column. we don't have to buy coal from countries that hate us.....

Jeffery S Ward Sr
Pittsburgh, PA

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« Reply #26 on: December 28, 2009, 08:36:33 PM »

 I don't really think this is a which is better thread, though it sorta has that feel.

But think about this, if I were to seal a Diesel and a Steamer in a air tight water tight cave covered with cosmoline, a thousand years from now I could pull the steamer out of the cave, fill it with water, clean and oil it and be on my way burning what ever I could find. and That is what I love about Steam engines. Besides the are more fun to watch.


« Last Edit: December 28, 2009, 09:16:29 PM by NarrowMinded » Logged

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« Reply #27 on: December 28, 2009, 09:11:39 PM »

Diesel is not so simple to turnkey operate.

Take a 400 Cat on a Pete 379 of an earlier time before computer control.

Air start. You had to deliver fuel to the engine during start a certain way there were only a few seconds crank time.

Once lit, you needed to be above 10 PSI oil pressure within a few seconds and keep it there. You cannot want to take the engine from 600 rpm idle to above 1200 until the water temperature gauge started to move past 130 degrees. Best wait about 16 minutes until 185 degrees.

After you got warmed up and rolling, you could not operate the jake for a while, not until the Oil temperature came up. You rig was also stiff in the drive train until the transmission, both back axles and other sensors reported near normal operating temperature.

You had about... 45 to 60 gauges in a rig depending on number of sensors, some gauges were a gauge within a gauge.

Etc etc etc etc.. and you aint even 10 miles along your day yet.

Those air breathing diesels I am familiar with were quite personality. Some were cranky and others racy.

Give me steam any day. Once you are hot and raring to go....

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« Reply #28 on: December 28, 2009, 10:44:13 PM »

My Granddad serviced steam engines at Washington Terminal Company (Washington DC - Union Station). At large roundhouses like his Ivy City they used house steam to charge a cold locomotive and this shortened the start up process.

Regarding a current steam powered vehicle - a nuclear submarine, I was surprised how quick they are to start up. Was working on one at Electric Boat shipyard in Groton CT. Whatever was being done to it there was finished, and they had to move it up the river to the US Navy Sub base. I couldn't ride because I had my car parked at the ship yard. No sooner had I left the boat, got in the car and drove up the "River Road" did I see the boat heading smartly up river with crew standing on the deck. It was waiting for me when I got to the base and its dock



Grew up next to B&O's Metropolitan Branch - Silver Spring Maryland

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« Reply #29 on: December 29, 2009, 12:33:28 AM »

Nuc-Subs have batteries, the reactor powers a generator to recharge them and also general running so the sub can move at the flip of a switch.

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