Steam train rescues stranded passengers in Britain where electric trains failed

Both my father and grandfather, both of whom had connections to steam locomotives in their life are undoubtedly cheering this story(wherever they are) from the BBC. So am I. Inconveniently, it runs on coal.

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In arctic like conditions, Tornado hauls the only train running on time through Britains big freeze - Image: Craig Stretton A1 Steam

Steam train’s snow rescue ‘glory’


Excerpts:

Passengers were rescued by a steam locomotive after modern rail services were brought to a halt by the snowy conditions in south-east England.

Trains between Ashford and Dover were suspended on Monday when cold weather disabled the electric rail.

Some commuters at London Victoria faced lengthy delays until Tornado – Britain’s first mainline steam engine in 50 years – offered them a lift.

They were taken home “in style”, said the Darlington-built engine’s owners.

Train services in Kent were hit hard by the freezing conditions at the start of the week.

The weather-related disruption included three days of cancellations for Eurostar services through the Channel Tunnel.

Tornado, a £3m Peppercorn class A1 Pacific based at the National Railway Museum in York, was in the South East for one day, offering “Christmas meal” trips from London to Dover.

About 100 people were offered free seats, according to Mark Allatt, chairman of The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust – the charity which built Tornado.

Mr Allatt, who was on the service at the time, said he only saw a handful of other trains between London and Dover throughout Monday.

A spokesman for Southeastern Trains congratulated Mr Allatt on his “moment of glory”.

He said: “I’m sure those passengers were saved from a lengthy wait, all credit to him.”

Read the complete BBC article here

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137 thoughts on “Steam train rescues stranded passengers in Britain where electric trains failed

  1. My father, who died in 1993 at age 90, was a great lover of steam locomotives. His dad had worked for the railroad as a section foreman (actually knew Casey Jones) until killed in an accident. My father always spoke of the great engineering involved in designing and manufacturing the steam giants. Looks like they still work!

    JimB

  2. And the ironic thing is that train must be spewing out much more CO2 than the trains that got stuck assuming they’re burning coal or wood to make the steam.

    But anything that pumps out plant food then………

  3. Perhaps the stranded passengers can take this up with Hadley. Hadley has this winter as the warmest on record as their prediction.

  4. What a lovely story. I showed this to my young son, whose comment was “He’s green – it must be Henry.” I’ve been amused – or perhaps bemused – by the problems with the Chunnel trains. I guess they never banked on snow, as the design problems with snow intake were encountered and overcome in North America over 50 years ago, and the problems then seen were a result of failure to visualize all weather eventualities on the part of design engineers.

  5. What a great story. The broader lesson, that not all technologies, like all climate models, actually work under the full range of real world conditions, may be lost on the general public.

    Merry Christmas to all, especially fans of steam locomotion.

  6. The picture reminds me of the stock standard alarmist photo of power station cooling towers where the water vapour is annoyingly mistaken for some evil catastrophic carbon molecule.
    At least in this picture there would indeed be some good old CO2 pushing that steam about, or vice versa.

  7. So Al Gore was right after all! He did say that global warming would mean we’d see more Tornadoes, didn’t he?

    The remarkable thing about steam engines is that they seem to blend into and become part of the landscape – whether hurtling through a snowy rural scene or trundling into an urban station. I don’t think that is true of modern machinery although a lot of that could be down to the garish paint schemes that are so popular today.

  8. Proper engineering. My friend Dave Wilson was one of the last tender men on the Southern Railway. He and the driver broke the record for the Penzance-London run with the last steam train before it was withdrawn from service, just to prove the point.

    Then he wrote a guide to the preserved steam railways of Britain while we studied together at Leeds in the ’80’s. He sent me a first edition copy with a private joke written in the front cover:

    Time and tables ; The essence of Philosophy.

    While we studied the history and philosophy of science, we would often ‘sit in’ on spontaneous debates in the Philosophy department foyer. Many of these would revolve around the nature of time, and our understanding of matter. “take this table for example” became a standing joke. :-)

    The head of the University finance department was heard to say to the head of the physics department who had just asked for an expensive piece of experimental equipment;

    “Why can’t you be more like the philosophy department? All they ask me for is paper and pens… and waste paper baskets.”

  9. About 15 years ago, I heard a speech by a civil engineer who said that it’s not wise to assume that hi-tech will work during a disaster.

    Though I wouldn’t call heavy snow a disaster – he was talking about earthquakes and major flooding etc – I guess that this illustrates the point.

  10. My father was one of the last coal shoveling firemen on the old steam engines on the Alaska railroad just after WW2. He become an engineer, and weeks later they switched to diesels.

    He still has some amazing stories to tell about life in Alaska in the late 40’s. At one time, he was the second youngest engineer in North America.

    Jack

  11. So who is going to pay for the necessary upgrades to the railway systems throughout Europe and the US if the global cooling continues to produce more and more snow? Will it come from the global warming taxes?

  12. There’s only white smoke (steam, I presume) shown in the photo, not black. That can’t be right.

  13. This is “wrong” on so many levels it’s great!

    If only Dr. Pachauri needed the rescue….

    BTW, the cog railway that runs up Mt. Washington in New Hampshire is gaining some new biodiesel locomotives to augment the classic coal fueled steam locomotive. The latter have to stop halfway up to take on extra water. See http://www.thecog.com/cog_technology.php

  14. Peter of Sydney (17:08:50) :

    “So who is going to pay for the necessary upgrades to the railway systems throughout Europe and the US if the global cooling continues to produce more and more snow? Will it come from the global warming taxes?”

    No need. At least here in the US, were used to lots of snow falling on the rail lines. Don’t expect the cooling to last forever, maybe just a few decades. Everything cycles.

    The european high speed lines will need more plow engines running. They will also likely run power through the rails to make them heat up.

  15. My grandfather was a telegrapher and cabooseman (? title) for the railroad back in those days. He was also the hogmaster. That was the person that worked for both the RR and local farmers to get hogs onto the trains and ship them out of the county. He kept the records as the hogs were loaded as to which hogs belonged to what farmer.

  16. You know, if what you need for a hard-working steam-driven locomotive is a reliable source of heat, but people are worried about the CO2 emissions, you could equip them with a small and simple nuke plant. ;)

  17. Yes Henry was green engine but as I recall had indigestion problems until he was sent bak to Crewe to have his firebox rebuilt.

    The UK southern railway third rail system at around 750 V AC was very satisfactory.

    To cope with frost under British rail they used to run the ghost trains overnight which flashed and sparked splendidly.

    Heavy snow was a problem but they were well equipped to cope with it, they had four diesel snow plough units which cleared the line and they had a fairly efficient plan of putting people on trains which would more or less get them close to their destination. No charge.

    And because they did not charge the old rule was always first train forward and sort it out from there.

    All I can say is we knew how to deal with this kind of weather back then. Seems AGW hasn’t stopped it either.

    Kindest Regards

  18. LoL… Ya just couldn’t make this stuff up. Europe, England, Canada, most of America all under great swaths of Christmas snow…. Steam Loco’s the only rail stock working. Unbelievable…. What’s next? Harry Potter riding by on a broomstick? Headlines reading, ” IPCC declares Magic the only solution to global warming”…..;-)

  19. Old stuff often works better than the new.

    I am working on developing new risk-of-life communication systems using VOIP to replace copper wire phones. The new system is at least an order of magnitude less reliable than the old system which was good for 5 or 6 ‘nines’. Perhaps I can squeeze 4 ‘nines’ out of VOIP. Electricity fails. Goodbye phone. Data link broken, goodbye phone.

    I was also involved in computerizing train signaling. In terms of reliability, computers are the pits, We had to put huge intrinsically safe relays in – in parallel – so that no matter what went wrong with the computers the trains were at least safe.

  20. I don’t know the mix of electric sources there. Around here any electric train would be powered about 50% coal and ~28% natural gas. Remember that only about 1/3 of the energy makes it through the generation/transmission process.

    I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine if burning the coal directly in the locomotive is any worse.

    The other ~12%?…that would be nuclear! There are more wind powered generators here than any other state and they still don’t amount to any signicficant fraction.

  21. This is a great story and just goes to show that we can still build them like they used to with a little love.

  22. @ Jack in Oregon

    I, for one, would love to read those stories about live in Alaska in the 40s. Is it possible to capture them and put them on the web?

  23. My father used to drive these things in the North of England, out of York, until he died prematurely in 1948. He was strafed a couple of times by the Luftwaffe. My much older sister was also torpedoed twice during the war when she worked for ENSA. Small world, at times isn’t it?

  24. tallbloke (16:47:23) :
    My Uncle George Campbell was firing a Union Pacific Northern,on the Portland Rose
    run when they broke the Huntington-Portland record (Three crews) those things could
    as with most passenger locomotives of the 800 series they flew-averaging well over 90 mph-with stops. 844 is the last one running of the 4-8-4’s of UP.
    At least the British didn’t rush headlong into modernization-and kept a few around…
    Also reminds me of one story of the local mainline flooding this was in the late 1950’s
    the Diesel-electrics were not able to ford the flood but Steam did because of the
    high positon of the firebox…
    Love it…

  25. Pachauri should be right in his natural element in a situation like this. And he might actually make some useful contribution to the planet if he was still driving trains.

  26. This reminds me of a favorite ‘Top Gear’ bit where the lads race various vehicles of roughly the same vintage….Clarkson in a coal fed steam train, May in an old Jag & Hammond on a Russian (?) bike of some sort…..i wonder if that is the same locomotive?

  27. I love it! Speaking of “Mature” technology, I wonder how many high tech hikers, and other people, could navigate their way across town, or find their way out of the woods, without GPS? Doing it the way I used to do it with just a topographical map and a compass; sometimes with nothing except the clothes on my back.

    One good CME and bye bye satellites. Morse code anyone?

  28. Those global warming taxes have already been spent on political ‘nice to haves’; no, upgrades to the railway systems will require more taxes.

  29. Something for a future post on WUWT.

    Voyager Makes an Interstellar Discovery 12.23.2009

    http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2009/23dec_voyager.htm

    December 23, 2009: The solar system is passing through an interstellar cloud that physics says should not exist. In the Dec. 24th issue of Nature, a team of scientists reveal how NASA’s Voyager spacecraft have solved the mystery.

    “Using data from Voyager, we have discovered a strong magnetic field just outside the solar system,” explains lead author Merav Opher, a NASA Heliophysics Guest Investigator from George Mason University. “This magnetic field holds the interstellar cloud together and solves the long-standing puzzle of how it can exist at all.”

    The discovery has implications for the future when the solar system will eventually bump into other, similar clouds in our arm of the Milky Way galaxy.

    Well that’s interesting for the future, but what about the past? What other such “fluff clouds” has the Solar System interacted with before now?

  30. Richard Bransons shiny new Virgin Voyager trains could not cope with a bit of rough sea on the Devon, England, coast because the intake for the air conditioning sucked in seawater when this happened

    They tried to make out that the weather conditions were getting worse (AWG!) but the locals know otherwise. Virgin don’t run that route anymore but older diesel locos and coal fired excursion trains still do quite happily.

  31. seasons greetings anthony.
    thank u so much for your blog.
    more power to u in the new year. best wishes to u and yours.

  32. btw anthony am reading michael crichton’s ‘state of fear’ and decided to check his wikipedia entry. now i wonder who edited any/all of the following:

    wikipedia: Criticism of Crichton’s Environmental Views
    Many of Crichton’s publicly expressed views, particularly on subjects like the global warming controversy, have been rebuked by a number of scientists and commentators. An example is meteorologist Jeffrey Masters’ review of State of Fear:

    Flawed or misleading presentations of Global Warming science exist in the book, including those on Arctic sea ice thinning, correction of land-based temperature measurements for the urban heat island effect, and satellite vs. ground-based measurements of Earth’s warming. I will spare the reader additional details. On the positive side, Crichton does emphasize the little-appreciated fact that while most of the world has been warming the past few decades, most of Antarctica has seen a cooling trend. The Antarctic ice sheet is actually expected to increase in mass over the next 100 years due to increased precipitation, according to the IPCC.”[28]

    Peter Doran, author of the paper in the January 2002 issue of Nature which reported the finding referred to above that some areas of Antarctica had cooled between 1986 and 2000, wrote an opinion piece in the July 27, 2006 New York Times in which he stated “Our results have been misused as ‘evidence’ against global warming by Michael Crichton in his novel State of Fear.”[29] Al Gore said on March 21, 2007 before a U.S. House committee: “The planet has a fever. If your baby has a fever, you go to the doctor […] if your doctor tells you you need to intervene here, you don’t say ‘Well, I read a science fiction novel that tells me it’s not a problem’.” This has been recognized by several commentators as a reference to State of Fear.[30][31][32]

    [edit] Michael Crowley
    In his 2006 novel Next (released November 28 of that year), Crichton introduced a character named “Mick Crowley” who is a Yale graduate and a Washington D.C.-based political columnist. “Crowley” was portrayed by Crichton as a child molester with a small penis. The character is a minor one who does not appear elsewhere in the book.[33]

    A real person named Michael Crowley is also a Yale graduate, and a senior editor of The New Republic, a liberal Washington D.C.-based political magazine. In March 2006, the real Crowley had written an article strongly critical of Crichton for his stance on global warming in State of Fear.[34] Crowley responded by saying that he was “strangely flattered” by his reference in Crichton’s novel. “To explain why, let me propose a corollary to the small penis rule,” he wrote. “Call it the small man rule: If someone offers substantive criticism of an author and the author responds by hitting below the belt, as it were, then he’s conceding that the critic has won.


  33. jerry (18:05:07) :

    Old stuff often works better than the new.

    I am working on developing new risk-of-life communication systems using VOIP to replace copper wire phones. The new system is at least an order of magnitude less reliable than the old system which was good for 5 or 6 ‘nines’. Perhaps I can squeeze 4 ‘nines’ out of VOIP. Electricity fails. Goodbye phone. Data link broken, goodbye phone.

    We replace copper, even fiber, and sometimes even dependence on the loathed (and misunderstood) ‘grid’ system (of electric power reliability) every morning (1,000 Watt or less generator is all that’s needed for our purposes).

    And , we ‘talk’ all over the State of Texas, OK, LA etc without wired/fiber ‘circuits’ of any kind. We can even send pictures/data/text files using the available (free) Easypal utility. There are even digital voice modes available.

    What’s this called? Ham radio!!!

    To use a modified phrase from an old Humphrey Bogart movie:

    ” Wires? Wires!? We don’t need no stinking wires!! ”
    .
    .
    (We meet on 3840 kHz LSB (Lower Side Band) all mornings ~ 7:45 .. 9:15 AM CST)
    .

  34. “pat (19:26:37) :

    btw anthony am reading michael crichton’s ’state of fear’ and decided …”

    Sounds like he was way smarter than i thought! Gotta check out that book…

  35. Kudos to the British railfans who raised large sums over the years to build a new Tornado from scratch. It’s a beauty!

    Nothing ever made by man has had quite the power of thrilling the bystander as a great steam locomotive rushing by at speed.

    /Mr Lynn


  36. Roger Knights (17:28:32) :

    There’s only white smoke (steam, I presume) shown in the photo, not black. That can’t be right.

    What are the products of combustion from a fuel and air (generally; ignore trace compounds)?

    CO2 and _____________?

    (Fill in the blank. The engine might also be fuel-oil fired, resulting in less soot and better control of the fuel/air mixture. An ‘old boy’ who worked as a stoker on a naval vessel once told me it is all in the A/F ratio as to how much ‘smoke’ is produced.)
    .
    .

  37. Trains between Ashford and Dover were suspended on Monday when cold weather disabled the electric rail.

    I thought increased snow was “consistent with” AGW, since everything else is.

    Thes rail segments really didn’t freeze or contract did they?

  38. A real person named Michael Crowley is also a Yale graduate, and a senior editor of The New Republic, a liberal Washington D.C.-based political magazine. In March 2006, the real Crowley had written an article strongly critical of Crichton for his stance on global warming in State of Fear.[34] Crowley responded by saying that he was “strangely flattered” by his reference in Crichton’s novel. “To explain why, let me propose a corollary to the small penis rule,” he wrote. “Call it the small man rule: If someone offers substantive criticism of an author and the author responds by hitting below the belt, as it were, then he’s conceding that the critic has won.

    Well, I read The Andromeda Strain in the early ’70s, and Crichton has achieved much more than Crowley is likely to, so I guess I better read State of Fear.

  39. Ah, the many memories, perfect for Christmas when the airwaves racket with the inspirations of our beloved lost cultural beliefs, our grandparents, church hymns once a commonality, now forbidden in schools. The old recipes come out today, our grandmother’s diary from 1934, the hot fall weather in Alberta, Canadians eternally evaluating the current state of the postal service.

    I remember the smell of coal burning when I was three years old, in the winter. Smell memories last a lifetime. When my house was built they had to use mules to dredge the basement. Mike Mulligan’s Steam Shovel was read to all little boys, future engineers enamored with power. 1939. The Little Engine that Could, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.

    Our grandfathers’ gold pocket watches we still have remind us of their railroad stories,

    The present and the past are all we have, the future is not ours, not even in our dreams. It belongs to those young we brought forth and will leave soon behind.

    How can a simple old coal steam engine touch our hearts?

  40. The previous season of Top Gear did a race between this train, Jaguar XK120 and Vincent Black Shadow.

    Awesome machine. Memorable Top Gear segment.

  41. “kadaka (17:40:57) :
    You know, if what you need for a hard-working steam-driven locomotive is a reliable source of heat, but people are worried about the CO2 emissions, you could equip them with a small and simple nuke plant. ;)”

    Back in the hey day of Nucs they did have designs for nuclear powered trains, do not know if they ever got a prototype built or not. May have ended up too heavy for the current tracks or too expensive or maybe just Nuc fever died.

  42. Funny thing is steam has had little development for 50 years, except a guy called lollham or something, he produced a steam car in the 1970s (that might be a bit hazy) he also offered a slower version powered by an Alfa Romeo motor. In heavy traffic an external combustion power plant makes better sense. Great to see steam in action. yes England uses diesel, mostly diesel-electric, it is not easy using steam on lines that have overhead wires for the straight electric trains. In the big freeze of 1964 in London I watched steam snow ploughs clear the line for the electric Richmond broad street line through Acton, they dropped dry sand in front of the wheels to get extra traction (10 year old boys with a railway at the bottom of the garden are captivated by that stuff!)

  43. Passenger rail uses more fuel per passenger mile than any other form of transportation. Much more than even flying.

  44. M. Chrichton’s “State of Fear” i excellent, as are all of his other books. Once you read Fear, grab the rest.

    As for Wikipedia, well, I don’t think anyone here puts too much stock in what they might say about Chrichton.

    By the way, if you want to read some of his speeches and essays, go here:
    http://www.michaelcrichton.net


  45. Henry chance (20:50:33) :

    Passenger rail uses more fuel per passenger mile than any other form of transportation. Much more than even flying.

    Really? Even the electrics that use regenerative braking to return energy to the caternary (the overhead wire and back into the system)?
    .
    .

  46. This is one of our local tourist lines in Sumpter,Oregon.
    The Sumpter Valley Railroad.

    I was there a few years back with a retired Aerospace Engineer.
    Did some work for the USN and NASA.
    He was impressed with the intricate nature of steam..

  47. tallbloke (16:47:23) :
    Ayup! Leeds eh? I wus there betwixt1982 and 1985 studying Minerals Enginerring, though there were bugger all engineering in´t course.

    For the Crichton fans there is always this speech “Aliens cause global warming”:
    http://www.crichton-official.com/speech-alienscauseglobalwarming.html

    Brilliant speech with an impassioned plea to seperate scientific endeavours from political policy. I could not agree more… politics has no place whatsoever influencing the scientific process.

  48. My grandfather was an engineer for the D. and R. G. in Durango, CO. My uncle, Alva Lyons, “saved” the narrow gauge run to Silverton. For many years he was the conductor on that train, but when he was young he ran steam engines around the rail yard. He told us that one time they had a new engineer on the Silverton run who couldn’t make it up the grade. So,he told the new guy to run around and do the conductor job, and he jumped in the cab and ran the train the rest of the way up the grade. Always loved steam trains!

  49. Nuclear Locomotives?
    Sure, in the alternate history envisioned by Harry Harrison in his 1972 novel… The UK still has American colonies after that traitor Washington was shot. Connecting the two with a sub-surface rail tunnel requires a nuclear powered locomotive. “A Transatlantic Tunnel, Hurrah!” was also published as “Tunnel through the Deeps”. Harry is not the mass market writer Crichton was, but it is a fun read for fans of alternate history and rail.
    Warning: Wikipedia and Amazon reviews contain spoilers!
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year all!
    Scott

  50. “Adam from Kansas (16:11:44) :

    And the ironic thing is that train must be spewing out much more CO2 than the trains that got stuck assuming they’re burning coal or wood to make the steam.

    But anything that pumps out plant food then………”

    I agree completely!

    Plus the sight of a belching, smoking, powerful engine is just sweet!

    I vote for MORE CO2 =

    more and bigger plants =

    less people starving and less impact from drought and other weather issues.

  51. Ah, the family memories. My great-grandfather was an engine driver on the LMS line (London-Midland-Scotland). The engine drivers were the elite. He would turn up for work in top hat and tails and the stokers would have been working for several hours to ensure the boiler was steamed up so that the engine would be ready for him to drive.

  52. The sound of a steam train is magical. In the early 1960’s I was standing in my front yard, with was about 3/4 of a mile from a rail spur that ran through Arvada Colorado.

    At that time, I had never seen or heard a steam train in real live, and out of no where I heard oooOOOHHHHeeeeooo, then it repeated then I could in the far distance hear the chuffing of the locomotive. I knew instinctively that there was only one possible source for those sounds. I jumped on my bicycle and headed off down the hill as fast as I could peddle. I reached the rail line at the bottom of the hill and looked up track in the direction of the sound and could make out the train turning off on a spur that would cross the road I was on about 1/4 mile ahead. I humped up the hill as hard as I could go and managed to top the hill just in time to see the locomotive reach the crossing, and like about 50 other kids I headed off on parallel to the train, as it slowed and pulled into the old rail road station in Olde Town Arvada. It was a special train for rail buffs that came through unannounced (at least to me).

    It is a memory I still cherish to recall the sound and the smell and the quiet heart beat of the engine at idle as it went “Chuff , …… Chuff” like the heart beat of some huge friendly monster.

    I went home and described to my father the event and my excitement at having actually seen a steam locomotive underway.

    It elicited several personal experience stories from him, about him riding the rails during the depression. And something I was totally unaware of, Even into the 1950’s they had some large steam engines that stood by to help push trains over the steep grades in the Rockies, as the diesel locomotives of the day could not pull the grades with long trains which they could easily move in the flat lands.

    My Dad refereed to the engines as “Mallet” (pronounced Mally) as described in this article. Apparently he had hitched on steam trains using these massive engines.

    http://www.steamlocomotive.com/bigboy/

    Prior to the completion of the Moffat Tunnel west bound trains out of Denver went over the Rollins pass grade.

    http://railsproject.com/R/Aspfiles/DetailPage.asp?Xfer_Code=80001652

    Just because it is old does not necessarily mean it is defective or inferior. The Diesel electric locomotive piggy backed on the diesel electric systems developed for submarines.

    Larry

  53. This story is a good example for a theorem that diversity supports the sustainablitity of societies.

    The diversity of opinions is important as well. People will eventually thank the “skeptics” for keeping different opinions even though they look like a steam locomotive right now.

  54. Adam from Kansas (16:11:44):

    “And the ironic thing is that train must be spewing out much more CO2 than the trains that got stuck assuming they’re burning coal or wood to make the steam.”

    Q) Would the electric train indirectly spew out more or less Co2 due to its energy power generation as opposed to a coal powered steam engine?
    (unless of course its source is nuclear).

    I have heared similar arguments against electric cars V petrol driven cars.

  55. “_Jim (21:35:48) :

    Henry chance (20:50:33) :

    Passenger rail uses more fuel per passenger mile than any other form of transportation. Much more than even flying.

    Really? Even the electrics that use regenerative braking to return energy to the caternary (the overhead wire and back into the system)?”

    I shouldn’t be at all surprised. Remember, we’re looking at the total energy trail, from raw fuel to passenger miles. I live at the end of a line and we have a four-coach shuttle from here to the main line about six miles away. The total tare mass of the train is about 200 tons and it has about 200 seats and runs once per hour. The only trouble is, it is only full on about three occasions per year. All the rest of the time there are about twenty passengers, maximum, on board.
    So if the previous commentator is right about only a third of the fuel energy making it to the wheels I’d say that the overall efficiency is abysmal.
    I still love steam trains, though!

  56. Roger Knights wrote:

    “There’s only white smoke (steam, I presume) shown in the photo, not black. That can’t be right.”

    There is nothing odd about the whiteness. The steam would have been even more obvious than usual in the cold weather. The amount of smoke produced by the coal and its colour would depend on the type of coal. It is the impurities in coal that produce the dirty smoke. Soft coal would produce plenty of smoke. Anthracite, which has the highest proportion of carbon of any coal would produce very little smoke. After all, carbon dioxide is a colourless gas.

    It is unlikely that the train used anthracite but it might well have used “steam coal” of the kind that was produced in South Wales before our mining industry was wiped out. Steam coal has quite a high carbon content and therefore the colour of the smoke would have been easily masked by the whiteness of the steam.

  57. Oh spit! I forgot to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and extend my thanks to Anthony, his crew and all readers of and posters to this blog.
    (And to the Richards – I grieve for anyone else so called on this blog as he will now be Richard the Third, or Dick the S**t as they say in Ireland.) For anyone who is really interested, my real name is Jerry Monk, but we already have one Jerry, and a Jerry M, so the nickname “Disputin”, which I acquired during a course as a play on my disputatious nature and the Mad Monk of Russia, will have to do. I’m not trying to conceal anything.

  58. Re Southern Railway 3rd rail system (post from A Jones).

    I assure that it still exists and is fully utilised. About 500 3rd rail electrics on the London & Southampton main line pass my study every day (except Christmas and Boxing Day). Along with about 100 diesels which go down to Exeter.

    The third rail technology does work reasonably well. But the worst difficulty seesm to be with falling leaves in autumn. Because there is no heavy locomotive needed on the front of the train..power units being distributed throughout the 4- or 5-car multiple units, they find it very difficult to get a grip when frequently starting and stopping on the primarily commuter services that are run here. The infrastructure company (Network Rail) now runs special ‘deleafing’ equipment that zooms up and down the line from about August to December and makes matters better, but its still not perfect.

    And whereas the quality of British Rail sandwiches was a national joke a few years back, the fact that big fancy new trains still can’t run because of a few leaves on the line is still a source of much mirth…and a bit of schadenfreude.

  59. Running electric trains in extreme cold is no problem. The trouble in England is simply due to incompetent design and an unwillingness to learn from others.

    The Transsiberian railway is electrified. Electric trains have hauled swedish iron ore across the mountains to Narvik since 1915 in temperatures down to -40 without any problems. Even the Japanese Shinkansen high speed train run through deep snow every winter on the line to Niigata.
    Even the particular problem that stopped the cross-channel train, i e very fine powdery snow getting into the electronics by way of the cooling air intakes, was encountered and solved a generation ago here in Sweden.

    By the way steam locomotives are by no means immune to cold unless built for it, as the germans learned in Russia 1941-42 when german locomotives froze because the water and steam lines were unsufficiently insulated.

    What this story proves isn’t the superiority of steam locomotives, but rather that the people who designed the steam locomotives were competent engineeers, while those who design english electric locomotives clearly are not.

  60. The swiss minister of Climate (whose wife drives a car without a catalysator) used a special train to transport himself and 80 comrades to Kopenhagen. Cost and CO2-emissions per person were calculated to be:

    Train $ 65000 276 kg/person
    2 Busses $ 15000 31 kg/person !!

    and
    Airplane (half full) 191 kg
    Car (half full) 169 kg

    Trains are very heavy, and Germany, which is between Switzerland and Danmark, uses coal-generated electricity.

  61. If only they had a Steam Train like this train In Australia, I have been on this two times now and it is the best entertainment!

  62. There are many preserved steam locos in the UK. They often run main line specials. This YouTube video is one of my favourites – Gresley A4 Pacific 60009 “Union of South Africa” (the same design as world record holder Mallard). Note the “chime” whistle.

  63. The Tornado was built using modern components adapted to an original design e.g. modern bearings. The aim was to honour the original design while reducing maintenance and meeting modern safety standards. There’s a good TV documentary on the project.
    However, if I recall the documentary, they had to go to ex-East Germany to get the boiler built, as no one in the ‘modern’ west still had the capability to build large boilers suitable for steam trains – so I wonder if the boiler for the next one would have to be shipped in from China! ;-)
    And yes, this is the steam train Jeremy Clarkson rode in their race to the north.

    A fine story, which shows a good taste for publicity by the Typhoon’s operator, nice one. May they do very well.

  64. I believe I’m right in saying that “Tornado” burns fuel oil, not coal. Something to do with it being a new locomotive and so has to meet modern emission regulations, I think.

  65. Very amusing that steam locos rescue passengers on “modern” diesel electric trains. As this loco seems to be from LNER or possibly GWR perhaps the locos in the York museum can be brought back into use, after the original companies take back their place from the politically created “British Rail”. It would be great to see “Mallard” back pulling trains at its record 126 mph, but that might be a bit fast for its age (1938).

    I think the reason steam locos are successful in these conditions is a combination of their weight and the large diameter of the drive wheels plus the sanding systems for traction.

    Regarding the colour of the exhaust, because the waste steam from the cylinders goes through a venturi to improve boiler draught, the exhaust usually appears white because of the condensed steam. The exception is when the engine is working hard (like when pulling up a steep incline), then because the draught is insufficient for complete combustion there will usually be black smoke indicating incomplete combustion, i.e. fly ash.

    p.s. Disputin I prefer to be Richard C instead of Third because my surname (a good Irish name) begins with c. Richard III does not deserve IMNSHO the reputation that the murderous Welsh Tudors impugned him with, but then I’m also a Yorkshireman :-))

  66. The Top Gear race was interesting, because it was between one person on a Triumph motorbike, one in a Jaguar car, and 500 people on a Steam-train.

    I did read that there was not much between the fuel economy of Diesel vs Coal. And there is a Swiss experimental steam loco design that I heard burns the same amount of diesel oil as the Diesel equivalent, and with FAR LESS pollution! Apparently the equalising efficiency is achieved in part by using modern boiler lagging to preserve the heat overnight.
    http://www.trainweb.org/tusp/slm.html

    And for Porta’s work;
    http://www.trainweb.org/tusp/firebox.html

    (A classic example of the ‘sailing ship effect’?)

    And for those who like to hear that lonesome whistle blow;

    http://www.mdwhistles.com/Sounds.htm

  67. I’m just old enough to remember steam hauled mainline services in England, so the sound of a “Steam Special” instantly raises the hairs on the back of my neck. I’m not a die-hard enthusiast, but just like old technology, particularly when it proves to be more reliable than modern designs. As others have mentioned this loco is actually brand new, having been constructed by a group of enthusiasts over the last 17 years.

  68. “steam” does not mean “low tech”. Nuclear power plants and nuclear submarines have steam engines, too.

  69. Modern steam
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20026761.600-steam-power-takes-to-the-road-again.html

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advanced_steam_technology

    Calculations for steam in Russia, for example, showed that a natural gas fired steam locomotive would save an estimated 60 percent in fuel costs compared to diesels and 80 percent compared to electric locomotives. Air pollution would also be considerably reduced. Examination of the conditions in different countries show diverse reasons for considering new steam locomotives: low cost of fuel, local availability of fuel, low pollution, and simplicity of construction resulting in long service life and making long-term local maintenance practical.
    http://www.trainweb.org/tusp/slm.html

  70. Bulldust (22:48:25) :

    tallbloke (16:47:23) :
    Ayup! Leeds eh? I wus there betwixt1982 and 1985 studying Minerals Enginerring, though there were bugger all engineering in´t course.

    I did my engineering out in industry plus day release to tech college and then polytechnic. The university degree from ’85-88 was for fun and interest.

    Maybe see you at an Alumni event? This year’s Alumni lecture was great: Kenton Cool on his Everest expeditions.

  71. ” westhoustongeo (18:07:40) :

    I don’t know the mix of electric sources there. Around here any electric train would be powered about 50% coal and ~28% natural gas. Remember that only about 1/3 of the energy makes it through the generation/transmission process.

    I leave it as an exercise for the reader to determine if burning the coal directly in the locomotive is any worse.

    The other ~12%?…that would be nuclear! There are more wind powered generators here than any other state and they still don’t amount to any signicficant fraction.

    In that case, using a 20th Century steam train powered by coal could actually be more efficient than an electric train as the last generation of British steam trains were better than 40% efficient.

  72. “Passenger rail uses more fuel per passenger mile than any other form of transportation.”

    From the Daily Mail comes the UK governments answer:

    “Ed Milband’s Department for Climate Change is forever urging us to use energy efficient public transport. So you may be interested to know that in a six-month period last year the Department’s ministers and officials clocked up £63,000 on taxis.”

  73. Phillip Bratby (00:08:53) :
    Ah, the family memories. My great-grandfather was an engine driver on the LMS line (London-Midland-Scotland). The engine drivers were the elite. He would turn up for work in top hat and tails

    My Great-great grandfather drove one of the express trains connecting Chicago with Milwaukee, I believe in the 1870s maybe later. He was required to wear a jacket and white shirt, starched shirt and boiled collar (whatever that was). This meant new laundry for every run. I understand that my great-great grandmother wasn’t enamored of this.

    He ultimately asked for a desk job. the collisions with horsecarts and pedestrians finally got to him. His son, my great grandfather drove for the Soo line and wouldn’t retire. He wound up a hosteler into his 80s. he loved the engines.

    The English story seems so English. Remember movie from ’50s. The Titsfield Thunderbolt?

  74. For those unfamiliar with this little bit of the UK rail system, Victorian design, the electricity is supplied via 750v third rail & picked up via soft iron shoe pressed not too firmly onto top of rail. No catenary etc as with modern, but looks better! Bit of ice or soft soggy snow (our snow temps usually around 32F) and one gets no contact or arcing to the shoe. The latter can weld the shoe or damage it and rail so the train stops. Thus services withdrawn at first major sign of problems. Everything electric so virtually no diesels/diesel-electrics.

    So, fortunate presence of steam train was a God-send, as well as a hugely ironic comment on AGW and modern “progress”. Fired by steam coal – dense, high carbon, little smoke hence “white steam”. “Tornado” recently built by enthusiasts, and ain’t it great? (Shame about the weather, but it isn’t climate you know, and we have a thermometer next to a runway and buildings on a Pacific island to proove it!!)

    happy Chrismas and New Year to Anthony et al, keep up the pressure, Keith in Hastings, UK

  75. When I were a wee lad in Dublin,steam trains were still running and our “gang” spent ages scrounging bottles to redeem for the deposit to pay for the fare to the seaside. I worked all my time at sea on steam and later worked at the former British Rail depot at Tysley in Birmingham [on diesel locos ] Tysley had,and i hope still has, a restoration society which rebuilt steam locos using volunteers. Pure magic to see the old girls come back to life.
    Can I start a fight by saying that what is wrong now is lack of pride in the old handcrafts? Or are the folks who work in the old ,dirty smoky industries demoralised by the left wing Juan Kerrs who have squatted in Government and who control MSM ?

  76. The building of the 50th Peppercorn A1 Pacific locomotive is a wonderful example of courage over adversity. http://www.a1steam.com/

    The biofuel (spit, cough, groan, the fuel, not the locomotives) Mt. Washington cog railway is examined in detail at http://www.martynbane.co.uk/modernsteam/nday/mw/ndaymw-biodiesel.html

    As for the future development of steam locomotives, then Livio Dante Porta’s work remains extant, in readiness (tongue in cheek) for a new http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steam_punk era

    As the Tornado design is only good for 100 mph, flat out, then perhaps a modern design of steam locomotive that would run at 113 mph in service and top out at 125 mph, is devoutly to be wished. http://www.5at.co.uk/

    If only.

  77. There was something on the History Channel about a restored 1950’s steam locomotive (one of the last built in the US). It’s top speed was 125 mph! One “modern”, restored steam loco I traveled on in SW Va (the Norfolk & Western J-611) also had once traveled well over 100 mph, tho it only went 60 mph on the trip due to liability issues.

    Shows how advanced steam locos had become.

  78. Royinsouthwest (01:02:00) :

    The GWR used South Wales produced steam coal. The LNER locomotives used bituminous coal produced by East Midlands and North Eastern collieries, hence the differences in fireboxes and wheel arrangements. However, the coal used in Tornado is probably imported as there are fewer than ten pits remaining, so I believe. http://www.ukcoal.com/

  79. Cracking 1950s short Britsh Transport Film about snow drifts on steam railways, Grommit!

    THATS the way you deal with snow!

  80. hotrod (00:09:04) :
    It elicited several personal experience stories from him, about him riding the rails during the depression.

    Our 1906 house sits right above the railroads that haul coal out of the mines. During the depression our house was empty and very conspicuous to the rail riders. They would squat in our house, the story is, starting campfires that spilled onto the wood floors, evidence of it still. All the windows were broken out by neighborhood boys, one who told me that he helped. Can still see the water marks on the floor joists from the wind blowing snow and rain in. Someone bought the house and made it into apartments for boarders later in the depression, still a three kitchen home when we bought it.

  81. Roger Knights (17:28:32) :

    There’s only white smoke (steam, I presume) shown in the photo, not black. That can’t be right.

    Roger, actually, yes, I think it probably is in the picture you see – The color of “smoke” you get through the smokestack depends on the throttle setting. It looks in this case as though the train is moving at constant speed, implying that the engineer has the throttle open only far enough to maintain that speed. Hence, the draft through the firebox would not necessarily be terribly strong, and the amount of smoke from burning coal would be reduced. Exiting through the smokestack, the coal smoke would be masked by the steam, strongly condensed by the cold outside temperature in this case. On the other hand, during acceleration, the throttle is opened wide, causing increased draft from the increased force of steam through the smokebox under the smokestack in the front of the locomotive. In turn, draft increases through the boiler tubes back into the firebox. Increased draft causes increased burning of the coal on the grate in the firebox, resulting in increased levels of smoke through the smokestack.

    I grew up living a block away from the Central Railroad of New Jersey at a time in the 1940s when steam ruled (until April, 1954). On a cold winter’s day, the steam rising from the engine as it left the town station would literally blot out the sun for a few moments. I live with memories of steam engine whistles and their “chuff-chuff” and rejoice in them. Of note, when the diesels could not get through, the steam engines did! I find it incredibly ironic (and delightful!) that coal-fired steam saved the day for these folks in England.

    If anyone ever has the opportunity to take a ride in the cab of one of these mechanical wonders (I have), unhesitatingly do so! Shovel coal into the firebox, blow the whistle, and do anything else the engineer and fireman permit you to do. You will instantly become a wonder-filled kid again.

  82. A much-travelled friend tells the story of the time that Peru was persuaded to change its old steam locos for diesel. The only factor which affects the efficiency of a steam engine is the temperature of the steam, whereas the diesels have to take in air. The Peruvian railways reach extremely high altitude, and while the steam engines could cope easily, the diesels had to be doubled up or even trebled to get to the top!

    PS. This comment is done on a steam PC. Replacements are so expensive.

  83. @ Alastair (07:24:51) : – Thanks very much for that wonderful film clip. Thawing out with burning rags and steam hoses is not something you can do with an electric loco!

    If we ever get snow like that nowadays the country will come to a total standstill….

  84. farmersteve (08:41:01) said:

    Wind mills like this are still in use.
    In comparing this proven system to wind generation
    there is one major difference. It is clearly visible in the
    picture.
    Can you guess?
    No it’s not the cow.

    It’s the battery! (Effective storage system to handle those times when the wind is not blowing.)

  85. Henry chance (20:50:33) :

    Passenger rail uses more fuel per passenger mile than any other form of transportation. Much more than even flying.

    _Jim (21:35:48) :

    “Really? Even the electrics that use regenerative braking to return energy to the caternary (the overhead wire and back into the system)?”

    Disputin (00:55:18) :

    I shouldn’t be at all surprised. Remember, we’re looking at the total energy trail, from raw fuel to passenger miles.

    In dispute; here’s what could be found from the US Transportation Energy Data Book for Passenger transportation in 2006: (hope this come out!)

    ………………………. Average
    ………………………. passengers MJ per
    Transport mode …………. per veh .. pass-km
    ————————— ——— ——-
    Vanpool ………………… 6.1 ….. 0.867
    Efficient Hybrid ………… 1.57 …. 1.088
    Motorcycles …………….. 1.2 ….. 1.216
    Rail (Intercity Amtrak) …. 20.5 ….. 1.737
    Rail (Transit Lite & Heavy). 22.5 ….. 1.825
    Rail (Commuter) ………… 31.3 ….. 1.964
    Cars …………………… 1.57 …. 2.302
    Air …………………… 96.2 ….. 2.138
    Buses (Transit) …………. 8.8 ….. 2.776
    Personal Trucks …………. 1.72 …. 2.586

    .
    .

  86. Try again; I wonder if the <code> tag works any better than the <tt> tag:


    ............................ Average
    ............................ passengers MJ per
    Transport mode ............. per veh .. pass-km
    --------------------------- --------- -------
    Vanpool ..................... 6.1 ..... 0.867
    Efficient Hybrid ............ 1.57 .... 1.088
    Motorcycles ................. 1.2 ..... 1.216
    Rail (Intercity Amtrak) .... 20.5 ..... 1.737
    Rail (Transit Lite & Heavy). 22.5 ..... 1.825
    Rail (Commuter) ............ 31.3 ..... 1.964
    Cars ........................ 1.57 .... 2.302
    Air ........................ 96.2 ..... 2.138
    Buses (Transit) ............. 8.8 ..... 2.776
    Personal Trucks ............. 1.72 .... 2.586


  87. BobW in NC (08:24:10) :

    There’s only white smoke (steam, I presume) shown in the photo, not black. That can’t be right.

    Right.

    From the Common Knowledge category of thought: “Everyone knows that ‘steam’ engines only belch black smoke.”

    Proper F/A mixture, an oil-fired boiler rather than coal-fired boiler and the products of combustion being substantially CO2 water vapor have _nothing_ to do with it.

    ( Something along the lines of: CH4 + 2O2 → CO2 + 2H2O )

    /mild sarc
    .
    .

  88. To pat (19:26:37) :

    You should know that State of Fear is not about whether or not global warming is real; it is about exposing the failures in the scientific system today. It is stated directly at the end. Global warming was just the best way to show how flawed science has become.

    The second point of the book is that when it comes to hot-button issues, make sure you are not naive and gullible. Make sure you do your own research.

    I too read the book. I also did some spot checking of the references. Of the ones I checked, about 50% were accurate and 50% were taken out of context. Not a big deal because the book isn’t about disproving global warming. Of course the science in the book is flawed. But that is not the point of the book. Anyone who says otherwise either didn’t read it, including the epilogue, or is an eco-zealot who is trying to attack the messenger.

    Please don’t miss the point of the book. The book is attacking entrenched power-hungry and money-hungry scientific institutions using global warming to do so.

    Unfortunately, the eco-commies and eco-zealots were so enraged by someone having the audacity to use some proof in global warming that they missed the point. It became self-fulfilled prophecy.

    And State of Fear wasn’t as good as Prey. Crichton’s last book, Next was great either, but it wasn’t bad.

  89. You only get black, black smoke if you are using

    1) rubbish bitcimous coal (the sort you would use in an open housefire, or

    2) rubbish fireman- throwing coal in faster than the firebox can burn it

    Locos use hard anthracite (steam coal)- very, very hard and the oldest coal around. Burns hotter and longer and with just a faint grey smoke trail.

    Anthracite would not burn very well on your open fire as it needs the forced draft of air through it, from either the exhaust steam expelled from the cylinders, or the blower- a jet of steam, up the chimney and controlled by the fireman or driver in the cab.

    When it burns, it burns very,very hot, with near complete combustion and cleanly with little visible smoke.

    (Just lots of nice CO2 for the plants.Think of all the trees you see happily growing next to railway lines.)

  90. Just for interest, this loco is named Tornado in honour of the Tornado fighter bombers used by the RAF during the first Gulf War.

    The builders of this loco started the project just after the Gulf War in 1991

  91. i honestly think this story sums up england perfectly…….

    Some blokes with a ‘big shead’ decide they want to build a steam engine.

    Do EVERYTHING them selves, without a scrap of goverment help.

    Have the ENTIRE engine custome built !

    Create a profitable enterprise, with happy willing paying customers.

    Our ‘modern infrasturcture can’t cope with some global warming breaks down.

    they ride to the rescue.

    check out their website http://www.a1steam.com/

    makes you proud to be english !

  92. My dad worked for the Missouri Pacific until he retired in 1975. We used to get passes to travel from Alexandria, LA, to Monroe, LA, in the days when there were still passenger trains running. I have very fond memories of steam locomotives, including one clandestine ride in the cab when I was about six.

    The Missouri Pacific kept a dozen or so steam locomotives into the late 1960s for those times when the water was too high on the tracks to run diesels. Both China and North Korea run steam locomotives in lieu of diesels, since they have abundant coal and have to import oil.

  93. “Richard Sharpe (08:56:57) :
    farmersteve (08:41:01) said:

    Wind mills like this are still in use.
    In comparing this proven system to wind generation
    there is one major difference. It is clearly visible in the
    picture.
    Can you guess?
    No it’s not the cow.

    It’s the battery! (Effective storage system to handle those times when the wind is not blowing.)”

    I’d say it’s the water storage tank (stock tank). Cows = livestock.

  94. I rode trains pulled by steam locomotives in the 40s and 50s and remember the soot streaming back over the cars.

  95. Roger, dont forget that the railway workers are unionised so the bad workers cannot be sacked!, I grew up with a railway at the bottom of our garden, this was in the 1960s in west London, there were steam goods trains and electric (3rd rail, cant use steam with gantries) some steam was clean and some yellowy grey that stunk of sulphur and some black, given that union shirkers killed off a lot of the goods on the rail it is reasonable that enough did not care about pride in the job, even the best job in England (steam train driver!)

  96. @DaveF – pretty sure Tornado burns coal. I saw the Top Gear train vs car vs motorcycle race featuring Tornado and I’m pretty certain Clarkson got roped in to feeding it shovelfuls of coal.

  97. Those steam engines were really elemental. It took earth, air, fire and water to make them, and to run them. Perfectly natural when you think of it.

    And someone mentioned it before, but even nukes are basically steam-engines.

  98. Coal is used to power this magnificent engine.

    Oil is used in diesels. And wouldn’t be allowed near any self-respecting steam loco in UK :-)

  99. Frankly, I wouldn’t trust a nuclear plant charging around at 100 mph – or even at fifty, especially when a modern steam unit burning a wide variety of fuels with little modification is capable of producing much better results than internal combustion engines, bottled-up electrical power or hybrids. The main problem these days is that the technical culture of steam has been pretty well completely lost (as can be seen from the many uninformed comments on this blog).

    The new A1 locomotive does not represent modern steam technique; it is a heroic and magnificent labour of love by enthusiasts to revive a variant of a post-war locomotive class that always fell short of standards of efficiency set in the 1930s in Britain by Nigel Gresley and more especially in France by André Chapelon.

    Those interested in learning more about non-nostalgic steam technology can visit the sites already recommended by other posts such as http://www.5at.co.uk/; http://www.martynbane.co.uk/; and such sites as http://www.cyclonepower.com/index.html; http://www.pritchardpower.com/, and many others.

    http://www.5at.co.uk/Roger%20Waller's%20IMechE%20Paper.pdf (a very important paper) should interest many here.

    Of course all these produce CO2, as will any heat engine, and so will make the plants grow; however their emissions of real pollutants, such as CO, SO4 and soot particles are now the lowest known. Well worth looking into – and fighting for, but you can take it from me that the prejudice and ignorance from all sides to be overcome is even greater than AGW.

  100. I believe oil has been used since the 30s in English Loco’s, cant remember but the original oil burners were painted scarlet, whatever line that was? oil makes a lot of sense in a steam engine, gas might be better.

  101. “SO4?!”
    Oops, sorry. I was referring to NOx, which as with the other pollutants the modern steam engine will reduce to negligible amounts due to its intrinsic complete combustion (no need for filters). See diagram in Roger Waller article.

  102. Oops – yes it was I’m mixing it up with another planned build. Sorry. How many Christmas sherries did I have?

  103. For those of you who think that steam engines release black smoke, not white, are mostly wrong. White smoke (steam) is what you get when the steam engine is running and there is more steam running through the engine than smoke. Just another mark on the efficiency of steam. When idling, however, black smoke is released, as there is only enough steam flowing to get the smoke out of the smoke-box.

    Jake

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