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Alternative history steam 1980

Discussion in 'Steam Traction' started by Bikermike, Jul 1, 2022.

  1. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    There’s a rather fundamental difference though in the maximum practical achievable force between using the pressure differential between atmospheric and a vacuum; or using high pressure steam - something that should have been readily apparent to a nineteenth century engineer familiar with the work of Newcomen, Watt, Trevithick and others!

    Tom
     
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  2. Bikermike

    Bikermike Well-Known Member

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    Well, it would save a lot messing around with track if you just launched the train out of paddington...

    It struck me, when wondering why Brunel used vacuum, that the big advantage is that the seal technology of the time (ie leather flaps) will be held in place by the air pressure outisde the pipe and thus not require as much holding in place as a pressurised system.
     
  3. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Resident of Nat Pres

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    I suspect that Brunel was a much better Civil Engineer than a mechanical one. Certainly his locomotives were not a great success
     
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  4. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Didn't his involvement in loco design pretty much stop at impractical specifications?
     
  5. Bikermike

    Bikermike Well-Known Member

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    He did alright at ships too (from a technical, if not a commercial view). Had he just taken on too many things and not been able to keep himself up to speed on all the tech in each field?
     
  6. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Even as a civil engineer, was he really on a level above contemporaries like Joseph Locke or predecessors like Thomas Telford? Over-rated destroyer of shareholder value in my view ... There, I've said it now :)

    Tom
     
  7. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Good question. Engineering wise, how does building a railway compare with the canals of the previous generation ..... or the superb work of aqueduct builder par excellence, Vitruvius, who pretty much literally 'wrote the book'.
     
  8. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    Surely the point about Brunel's fame is not that he was better than Stephenson, or Locke, but that he was there at the same time, and took their breadth of vision and went further. So if Locke "just" build railways, and Stephenson built the trains that ran on them, Brunel took things a stage further and built more.

    I admire Brunel as a visionary, even as I accept that he was not necessarily a practical engineer, and relied heavily on others to realise his visions.

    And in a country that's frequently stuck in the past, that this innovator is revered so strongly is something we should be pleased about.

    Anyway, about the state of steam in 1980...?
     
  9. William Fletcher

    William Fletcher New Member

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    TRyu readinbg "Pavane" by Keith Roberts, set in 1980s Dorset and assumes that he Reformation never happend and steam power held sway. Mainly involves traction engines but very interesting
     
  10. 35B

    35B Nat Pres stalwart

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    And in similar vein, in a steampunk before steampunk style, Kingsley Amis "The Alteration" is a good read - though my teenage son wasn't so keen on the central storyline when he was a good boy treble!
     
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  11. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    It needs to be realised that were this Tolkein's "Middle Earth", railways along with all other signs of industrialisation, would be one sure sign we're in Mordor!
     
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  12. johnofwessex

    johnofwessex Resident of Nat Pres

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    Ouch!! I have read it
     
  13. Bikermike

    Bikermike Well-Known Member

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    <watches thread veer off-course>
    <helps>
    Arguably, Brunel is symptomatic of a wider problem that is the "superstar". He may been, lets say 10mTrevithicks[1] better than Telford, but becuase he's a nose in front, he gets all the publicity. He then gwts jobs regardless of his specific abilities in a given field.

    Or another theory is that to make anything unconventional happen, the creator has had to beat down so many obstacles, that normal, compromise-minded individuals get winnowed out. See Elon Musk and Tesla.

    [1]SI arbitrary unit of engineering ability
     
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  14. Bikermike

    Bikermike Well-Known Member

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    One last gasp (2.7 mWardales[1]) to talk about steam.
    What would the next gen of steam be?
    It always seems to me that the GW never really did a class 8 engine. Could their design school work. Everyone else went Pacific, huge boiler, wide firebox. Or could the GW simply dust off the drawings for the 47xx and breathe on that a bit?

    Also, would more mid-range engines be built? Bulleid was going for an all-big engine approach, but Stanier/Ivatt were cooking up 2 and 4 MTs, and Gresley's last design is the V4. Would the next round of building be more ultra-lights to clear out the older stuff pottering round secondary lines?

    Or would there be 8-coupled monsters on the mainline pushing mid-size engines down, whilst closure removed the small stuff.

    [1]Wardale: SI unit of pushing steam in the face of the turning tide
     
  15. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    I suspect Trevithick was a better bare-knuckle boxer than Brunel too.

    Right, that's my submission for 'Thread Drift of the Week' sorted ....
     
  16. 242A1

    242A1 Well-Known Member

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    The type of engine depends on your traffic requirement(s). In general terms engines should be no larger than necessary and this is where the quality of your designers and decision makers come into play.

    You attack the specific steam consumption because in this way you can avoid having the weight, bulk and expense of an overlarge boiler. This means that you don't have what is in effect a large vacuum cleaner ejecting large amounts of unburnt fuel thoughtlessly included in your design. You minimise loss through leakage by means of components of high quality design which are well protected by a truly fit for purpose lubrication system.

    Are large driving wheels needed for fast running? It depends on what you call fast. If you are wanting high speed how do you ensure that your design will actually get there? Is acceleration more important than top speed?

    It is pointless producing better locomotives without providing the maintenance/shed facilities which will allow you to get the best out of them. So what do you do first? If we look at the RN the size of ships being built was not so much dictated by the shipyards but rather by the naval bases. You cannot have the ships without sufficient bases fit to support them. In order to get your next generation of locomotives the facilities have to be provided for them.

    The lesson of having much improved locomotives with the associated facilities is that you end up needing fewer locomotives. There again your new locomotives might improve the quality of service that you can offer to the point where you witness substantial traffic growth which could present a whole new batch of problems.

    What should be obtained or even exceeded with the knowledge available to us now.

    Boiler combustion efficiency 95%
    Boiler absorption efficiency 90%
    Auxiliary efficiency factor 96%
    Cylinder efficiency 22%
    Transmission efficiency 94%
    Drawbar efficiency 96%
    Overall drawbar thermal efficiency 16.3%

    These figures date from 1987 and are for a conventional non-condensing coal fired steam locomotive (see The Red Devil; page 501)

    So what are you going to build given that you know your requirement and who do you get to design and build it?
     
  17. Bikermike

    Bikermike Well-Known Member

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    But Gooch was a much better player of seam...
     
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  18. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Does that make Brunel a master of spin?

    Tom
     
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  19. Bikermike

    Bikermike Well-Known Member

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    Well, we know who is going to design (Fairburn/Peppercorn/Bulleid/Hawksworth), we know generally how they design, what permutations would they have come up in an untroubled 1940s.
     
  20. Jamessquared

    Jamessquared Nat Pres stalwart

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    Presumably Ivatt rather than Fairburn on the LMS?

    As of 1945, Ivatt was 59; Peppercorn 56; Bulleid 63 and Hawksworth 61. So none of them would have had a long career even in your counterfactual: Bulleid and Hawksworth would likely have retired by around 1950; Ivatt and Peppercorn - had he lived - probably by 1955. So you are not looking at a long design period even for them.

    If you want steam, my hunch is that Ivatt would have carried on modernising existing LMS designs and you’d have got things not dissimilar to BR standards. Peppercorn also would have carried on as we saw. It is Bulleid and Hawksworth I think that would have been in trouble - Bulleid due to availability issues and a desire to innovate rather than retrench out of problems; and Hawksworth because he’d basically reached the end of the line in modernising the Churchward concept, and poor coal and poor labour availability would have required other solutions.

    Tom
     
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