My grandfather made steam engines, my father made a scale steam locomotive for taking children on rides in the park and at the fair. Some of my happiest memories as a child were of sitting behind my father in the coal tender, chugging down the tracks, so any picture of a steam engine brings back fond memories.
[ UPDATE: I hadn't realized it from the photo above until later, but the 4-6-4 "Hudson" locomotive above is the one my dad modeled for the 1/8th scale train of my youth, except his had the feedwater tank over the front like this one. Our family had to sell the train due to financial hardship after his death to somebody in Lebanon Ohio (probably the saddest day of my life). I've since lost track of it and would give anything to get it back, but I fear it has been scrapped. I hadn't thought about this in a long time but the image provoked some long repressed memories. On the plus side, I've located a Lionel model Hudson 4-6-4 Steam Locomotive 665 with 736W Tender on Ebay, and exact match to the engine and tender my dad constructed, which I hope to buy so that I can show it to my children, and pass on the story with something to show them, along with the family photographs. I never thought this topic would come up on my blog, but here it is, serendipitously hitting me with emotion. - Anthony ]
When I saw this, all I could think of is how silly this idea is. All the greens seem fascinated with high speed rail due to Euro-envy, and in California they are ramming it down our throat at an anticipated huge loss, even worse than Solyndra. With a forecast price tag in the tens of billions and growing, it is just nuts given the economic climate right now, not to mention we don’t have people clamoring to climb aboard.
In retrospect however, anything that would put a steam locomotive back on the tracks is music to my ears, even if they ran it on used McDonald’s french fry oil like some of those hippie buses we see here in California.
Here’s the strange part, they are converting an oil burning locomotive to run “biocoal”, and somehow they magically think the production process and the burning of it won’t produce any net CO2, saying the process is “carbon neutral”. I think they’ve left out some parts, like the energy needed to produce and transport the biocoal fuel in the first place. Excerpts from the MSNBC story:
A steam train built in 1937 is getting a makeover that will turn it into a “higher-speed” locomotive that runs on biocoal, a coal-like fuel made with woody plant material.
When finished, the train will be able chug along existing tracks at speeds up to 130 miles per hour without contributing to the greenhouse gas pollution blamed for global warming.
“Computer simulations already show that the locomotive is about as powerful as two modern passenger diesel locomotives,” Davidson Ward, president of the Coalition for Sustainable Rail, told me Thursday.
“But it will burn carbon neutral fuel.”
The biocoal is based on a so-called torrefaction process pioneered at the University of Minnesota in Duluth. To make it, woody material — in this case trees — are heated in the absence of oxygen. The resulting flaky matter is then rammed together under high pressure to create coal-like bricks.
Biocoal has the same energy density as regular coal, but is cleaner burning, and since trees (the fuel source) sequester carbon as they grow, the system is considered carbon neutral, according to Ward.
Today, most higher-speed passenger trains are diesel-electric locomotives, which generate their peak horsepower at low speeds — about 25 miles per hour. Steam locomotives, by contrast, get their peak horsepower at higher speeds — about 40 miles per hour.
“Initial computer simulations suggest that the CSR’s modern steam engine will significantly out-accelerate a modern diesel-electric locomotive to 110 mph,” according to the coalition’s website.
I got a big chuckle out of this part though:
If all goes according to plan, they might build a new steam locomotive from scratch, which will have some modern looks.
For example, “no cowcatcher,” Ward said. “You don’t need a cowcatcher today unless you are a ‘Back to the Future’ fan.”
Just wait until they plow into some green gawker driving a Prius, you know it is going to happen.
From the “Coalition for Sustainable Rail” website:
Once its modernization is complete, CSR 3463 will have little in common with the smoke-belching steam engine it once was. Featuring a gas-producer combustion system, improved steam circuit, modernized boiler, low-maintenance running gear and steam-powered electric generator (to power the passenger train), CSR anticipates 3463 will be able to pull a passenger train with electric-like performance for less than the cost of diesel-electric locomotives. In order to further prove the viability of biocoal and modern steam technology, CSR plans to test the locomotive in excess of 130 miles per hour, out-performing any existing diesel-electric on the market and breaking the world steam speed record. In light of this achievement, CSR has named this endeavor: “Project 130.”
Historical 3463 Tech Specs
Locomotive 3463, acquired by CSR through the generosity of its former owner, the Great Overland Station of Topeka, Kansas, is the largest locomotive of its type left in the world and features the largest wheels of any engine in North America. CSR will completely rebuild and modernize the locomotive, doubling its thermal efficiency, converting it to burn biocoal and more. When done, locomotive 3463 will share only the most fundamental resemblance to the engine it once was.
The table below outlines characteristics of locomotive 3463 as built in 1937 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works:
|Tractive Force, lbs.||49,300|
|Weight in Working Order, lbs.||412,380|
|Length, Overall, ft.-in.||102-6.75|
|Length, Wheelbase, locomotive and tender||88-8|
|Boiler (Nickel Steel):|
|Working Pressure, lbs. (Designed)||300 (310)|
|Firebox (Standard Firebox Steel, Grade B):|
|Grate Area, sq. ft.||99|
|Thermic Syphons||2 (95 ft2)|
|Cylinder Bore, in.||23.5|
|Cylinder Stroke, in.||29.5|
|Driving-wheel Tread Diameter, in.||84|
|Capacity of Tender|