There is nothing quite like the raw power inherent in the silence of a steam powered machine. A well tuned Steam Engine merely hisses as it turns over, none of the rumbles, explosions, and growls associated with an internal combustion machine. Of course a steam machine which incorporates both the engine and boiler co-located can get noisy as the bark of the exhaust up the chimney and the roaring of the fire give indication of their presence. Indeed you will often hear the phrase "The romance of steam" but never "The romance of diesel" - it just does not sound right.
The Steam Preservation movement around the world is probably at the strongest it has ever been, but with mostly older people involved the level of preservation may wane. On a personal level I try to keep my kids interested in steam hoping to introduce a new generation to the hobby. This is made a little easier by TV series such as "Thomas The Tank Engine" (© Britt Allcroft) which help our movement by encouraging kids to think of "good steam engine" and "bad diesel engine".
In Australia there have been some very public engine unveiling, the most notable being West Coast Railway's R Class No. 711 which has been rebuilt at considerable cost to be a more efficient running example of steam. Using South African technology and incorporating diesel controls the engine is now driven in much the same way as the companies diesel fleet, but there is no mistaking the attraction of the steam engine even in bastardised form like this one. WCR use the locomotive to run trains on their intercity mainline on Saturdays and have turned an empty train set into one which is always near full of enthusiasts, tourists, and more importantly kids. If more railway organisations take their preservation example we'll be well taken care of for this new millennium.
In this section of Steam & Engine you will find both details on the processes and engines, but examples of the usage of those engines.
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS PAGE IS HERE FOR HISTORY ONLY - COALS IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE
Additions for Australia by Paul Pavlinovich…
Arguably the most important ingredient in steam operation is water. All steam engines require water to generate steam. This water is heated in a pressure container called a boiler. As the water is heated (usually by some fire source, eg. Coal, wood, gas) it expands and vaporises into steam. Dry steam is 1600 times greater in volume than the water it came from. This is why boilers must be able to hold great pressure within them selves and why even small steam engines are so powerful. This pressure makes it difficult to put new water into the boiler to keep the cycle going. The new water has to be forced into the boiler under greater pressure than the water/steam already there.…
Disclaimer: I am not an engineer, this article is constructed from the advice of many people I know.
When a low water condition is noticed (nothing in the gauge glass) the operator should not draw or pull the fire. You cannot safely remove the fire through the little bitty firebox door in a hurry when there is a low water condition.…
refers to the main sheets of metal from which the boiler is constructed. Typically rolled steel which is either overlapped and rivetted at the join or in more modern units seam welded to make a cylinder.…
All steam engines (and other steam applications) have something in common. They all need a steam generating plant which is usually in the form of a steam boiler where water is heated in a large vessel and steam taken from the vessel to the steam engine itself. There are five main kinds of steam generator:…
In the centre of Oakleigh very close to Oakleigh Railway Station and the shopping district is this ruin of a boiler house of sizeable proportions. The factory around it has been demolished and the walls of the structure have been removed. The remains are surrounded by a chain link fence. The equipment inside is fairly intact although everything that could trap someone has been opened by method or force. There is quite a bit of graffiti. I would like to get inside the chain link and do some close up photography of this plan before it goes so if you know who has the key to the lock and can authorise entry please contact me.
The installation seems to be a pair of water tube boilers (where water runs through tubes in the fire space) that was likely coal fired. There is a loader for the coal into a supply hopper where it is fed into the firebox from there. One firebox for both boilers in the bank.
The stack is an impressive brick structure I would guess at around 35m high. Unfortunately it has been broken through. This would be a fantastic structure to make as the centre piece of a new building much like the shot tower within Melbourne Central. I hope this is slated for preservation rather than destruction.
Looking inside the chimney you can see how substantial the stack structure is with around four to six layers of bricks.
Fuel is loaded from ground level using this massive loader tower. It is dumped in a hopper out of the truck (probably a train originally given its proximity to the railway line) and is lifted up to the hopper at the top of the structure. The loader likely has an electric or perhaps a steam engine at the top of the tower driving a bucket chain. This is only a guess because I did not have access.
This image shows the fuel storage hopper that holds the fuel until it is needed to satisfy the hungry firebox.
The hopper discharges into the inlet to the firebox. I can see an electric motor here, I would guess it powers a crusher and perhaps a screw that throws the fuel into the firebox in a wide spread pattern. There is also some cool graffiti.
This weir pump (what is left of it) would have been one of the water supplies for the boiler. There should have been another pumping mechanism around somewhere. Weir pumps always throw dribbles of water this would have been contained by the small dam around the pump.
What little is left of the control board probably had some electrical controls and the steam pressure gauges.
You can see the tops of the boiler barrels here, I have presumed without information that this is likely a watertube boiler where the tubes descend from the barrel down to the combustion space.
You can see that the two boilers form a bank with multiple tubes joining the two boilers. The massive steam pipe coming from the top of the righ hand boiler gives some idea of the steam generation capacity of this plant.
This is the other side of the boiler barrels. There are what look like man holes into the combustion space. An awful but necessary inspection job.
I would like to find out the future for this structure and see if it would be possible to legally gain entry to photograph the inside.