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Does steam and diesel have a future?

Discussion in 'Steam Traction' started by 22A, Nov 8, 2021.

  1. Steve

    Steve Resident of Nat Pres Friend

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    I had a rather depressing conversation with someone the other day. The essence off it was coal is going to become almost impossible to obtain at a price that makes it practical to import and that realistic decisions are going to have to be made in the not too distant future, the prime one being do you spend perhaps £1/2M or more on overhauling a locomotive that you won't be able to use. Ongoing overhauls are likely to be completed but some serious questions might need to be asked about those whose overhauls are likely to be started in the next year or so.
     
  2. Hermod

    Hermod Member

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    Quite some time ago I proposed that steam battery locomotives with synthetic coal aroma will be acceptable and about 15%efficient run on windpower.

    In ten years time there will not be many who can remember trainspotting real steam in PostWW2 UK anyway.
     
  3. Cartman

    Cartman Well-Known Member

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    It is, I believe, technically possible to have an electrically fired steam loco, using a battery, but it would be very inefficient.
     
  4. Cartman

    Cartman Well-Known Member

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    If this is the case, which I suspect it probably is, this will presumably kill off any further new builds, and ones which are only at a very early stage?

    On coal, if demand dwindles away, it will become unavailable as you say. Similarly, when 4 star petrol was discontinued, there was, for a time, LRP, which had a substitute for lead added, but as the number of cars which needed it reduced demand fell off and it was dropped.
     
  5. brennan

    brennan New Member

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    Just to show that the problem is not confined to this country here are some recent comments from an American website;


    "What I haven't seen mentioned yet is the obvious fact that all coal is not equal, period. There are varying grades, and it's almost impossible to find the good stuff- Pocahontas bituminous. Low suffer and ash content, BTU in the 12-14,000 range, doesn't have a tendency to clinker. This coal is so valuable in the metallurgical and export business it almost can't be had in the quantities of a handful of tons needed for our use, at least not for a practical price. Every operation I've been a part of that uses coal plays roulette when the next truck load comes in. Is this new load going to be hot enough? Too smoky? Sized correctly or packed through with fines? Is it going to clinker badly? With dealers that deliver, you never know what you'll get, and sometimes they don't even know what they'll get. And this is after paying a considerable price per ton to get it in the first place. There are groups, many of them high profile, well known coal users, that are considering changing to oil for these reasons right here: Inconsistent quality, availability, and price.

    Fossil fuels will always be a part of mankind's industries. They're just too useful and support specialized processes that don't have a practical replacement.. they'll never go away completely. As demand contiues to fall over the next decade or two, the fossil fuel mines and wells will continue to shutter, and what little is still extracted will be tailored to suit the regular-load customers, and not the comparatively small, few and far between shipments that steam operations order. The powder basin coal reserves will probably be some of the last commercially available in the US, and that stuff is not suitable for a locomotive.

    By the end of this half of the century I predict a coal burning locomotive will be a unique enough experience it will draw people for that reason alone. Not extinct, but so uncommon in the face of other fuel options, it might as well be. Most of these holdouts will be small engines that don't burn a lot or run often, or work hard enough to really need every last BTU out of the coal."

    "So outside of iron and steel production which will always rely on high quality coal and coke as a carbon source, there is a very slim market for fuel coal in the future. Which is why we need to seriously realize that for the railroad preservation industry if we don't plan now via showing legitimate research into how the carbon output from historic rail is marginally slim compared to other carbon sources, and how its acceptable due to the historic preservation mission of our cause; we will be caught with our pants down and it will cause a mass ripple effect in this industry within the next decade or two. Because the high quality steel coal will remain too expensive for us, and the cheap power plant coal will eventually dwindle in supply and we won't be able to buy single carloads for rail preservation use anymore without exorbitant prices. Its already happening in Britain, and its only logical we will see that here in the US maybe by the 2030's if not certainly the 2040's."

    "In the US, the rate that coal burning steam locomotives are being converted to oil is accelerating, especially in the west, where the drying climate is making coal burning untenable. In the east, there is no threat of wildfires (yet) but the times, they are a changin', and it isn't too far in the future when people will start voting with their wallets and choosing to spend their vacation dollars somewhere else than at "that dirty polluting railroad". At SRC, we had started collecting all of the information that we could find on oil burning after witnessing GCRy's #4960's performance on french fry oil at the TRAIN convention several years ago. Personally, I will be surprised to see the engines at the Strasburg Rail Road still burning coal by 2030."


    "In today's reality there's zero question that converting to oil is the future and my WAG is before 2030 all the short line tourist operations will have converted and most if not all of the very few mainline steamers.

    P.S. I had the honor of running the 4960 on the GCRR a few years back with her burning used french fry oil. We worked her REALLY hard on one stretch and she steamed beautifully.

    Smelled good too!!!"
     
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  6. Hermod

    Hermod Member

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    Sorry.I meant that a fireless steam locomotive where the stored steam is generated by an electric immersion heater overnigth from surplus wind /nuclear etc cheap/clean energy,when available .
    The steam to wheel power can be around 15% and the immersion heater efficiency is basicly 100%.New steam drums are less than20% cost of the equivalent Stephenson boiler.
    I love steam locomotives and sailing ships but I need some creative inside moral management considering that children in underground mines and slaves,gunpowder and alcohol in hold was primary ecconomic driving fuel..
     
  7. 3855

    3855 Member

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    Its quite evident that people to do the engineering work are in decline which will lead to a natural reduction in available workingsteam locomotives regardless of the coal supply situation.
    I too have been made aware of likely difficulties with coal supply and substantial price increases going forward. Which makes a mockery of recent government and HRA messaging to the heritage movement of 'carry on lads you are exempt....'
     
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  8. Allegheny

    Allegheny Member

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    Notwithstanding the inefficiency, the battery would be extremely heavy, to do anything useful.
    It's cheating, but you could have a fireless locomotive providing chuffing noises and exhaust steam and some traction, with an electrical battery providing assistance using traction motors.
     
  9. Kylchap

    Kylchap Member

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    I think the message to draw from this thread is "Enjoy it while you can".
     
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  10. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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    Can we have the link to this please?
     
  11. QLDriver

    QLDriver New Member

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  12. S.A.C. Martin

    S.A.C. Martin Part of the furniture

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  13. SomeWeeb

    SomeWeeb New Member

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    This is what IMLEC is for.
     
  14. Ruston906

    Ruston906 New Member

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    The existing lines can carry on with Battery or hydrogen units you could convert older units to give a historic look. There are numerous other issue than coal travel will be greatly reduced as road pricing is only years away which will have an effect on visitor numbers.
    I do think that any new build which is not a good way to completion should be stopped or build to run on alternative fuel source bio mass or vegetable oil.
     
  15. Flying Phil

    Flying Phil Part of the furniture

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    I think there is too much pessimism. Yes there is a problem with burning so much fossil fuel, and yes the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is increasing...but with no CO2 there would be no plant growth and No life. So we need some CO2.
    I suspect that our heritage steam locomotives (and diesels) will, in future, be rather like horses are today. In the past they were essential, but now they are, by and large, pampered pets - and much loved....and very expensive to run!
     
  16. Phill S

    Phill S New Member

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    You can say the same of water. No water would kill all life too, but you can also be killed by drowning.
     
  17. 30854

    30854 Resident of Nat Pres

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    Read Frank Herbert's 'Dune'. From a ducal dinner gathering on Arrakis ..... "Immersed in water? What an interesting way to die".

    The issue for the future of steam isn't coal, per se. It's specifically fossil fuel. With sufficient progress eliminating CO2 emissions from the economy, the contribution of a few dozen working steam locos, at any given point, is unlikely to be a serious issue. Carbon neutral fuels will suffice. We already have such fuels, which will render locos operable, but with some concerted development, we could have something to guarantee a long term future for heritage steam operations. The alternative is a lot of expensive ornaments .... dunno 'bout anyone else, but that's certainly not my prefered option.
     
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  18. Phill S

    Phill S New Member

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    I'm telling you, lump of uranium in the firebox, one firing will last the entire boiler certificate. Sorted.
     
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  19. mdewell

    mdewell Well-Known Member

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    Yes but it'll be a longish wait for it to cool down before the next boiler overhaul. ;):D
     
  20. 2392

    2392 Member

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    One thing is for certain. If it goes wrong it'll go like a bomb and anybody left will glow in the dark. Mushroom soup anybody?:Resistanceisfutile:
     

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