How Steam Engines Powered Giant Vehicles in the Past (+video)

The Steam Engines Powered Giant Vehicles

You may have heard of steam engines but not everything about it may have been made available for your perusal. We are going to discuss the steam engines, how they operate and why we no longer see them in modern machines and vehicles.

The early History of Steam Engines

Technology started with research and inventions which led to implementations of found results. The history of steam engines could be dated to as far as the first century AD when a Greek mathematician known as Hero of Alexandria made a steam-powered experimental engine called ‘aeolipile’.

However, the first commercial steam-powered device was a water pump built by Thomas Savery. Since then, the expansion of its application began. Though many concepts of steam-engine applications in other areas such as locomotive, industrial machines, turbines, etc. had been made none was actually built until Thomas launched his first steam-powered water pump in 1698AD. Shortly after that, more steam engines started springing.

In less than a century, the use of steam engines spread across almost every sector of engineering thereby helping in the booming of the early industries that depend more on machines.

How the Widespread Use of Steam Engines Took Place

It is not in dispute to say that the high exploring of steam engines and the ability to come up with varying designs meant for different areas of applications actually helped the early engineers to prepare ahead of the arrival of internal combustion engines which powered by oils, fuel, gas, diesel, etc. which shortly retired the use of steam engines.        

Before the drop of steam engines due to the new invention and development of internal combustion engines, there are already railway trains running with steam engines powered by coal. There are steam engine cars running on the road.

There are stationary steam engines powering industrial machines. There are steam engines used by ships and other marine vehicles. There are steam engines used by heavy-duty farming equipment and machines and many other applications.

Today, let us talk about how the steam engines powered most heavy-duty vehicles in the past and how they operated to achieve such success.

The early inventors that predicted the arrival of steam engines actually mentioned the high areas of application the engine could be applied but none of them actually built the engine until years later when engineers adopted the inventions, worked on them, made necessary modifications, and was able to come up with sophisticated steam engines that produced unimaginable power used in industries, transportations, and farming, etc.

Though there were many designs and models of steam engines each seems to be made to suit a specific purpose. For instance, the steam engine used in powering a ship may be inefficient in powering a road car. The steam engine use in industries may not be suitable for tractors used in farming, etc.

This implies that early engineers took time to design each steam engine for a specific purpose.

Though we have said goodbye to steam engines, their roles in modern engineering will still be in our memory.

As the world is currently making predictions on lithium-ion and graphene batteries to be the next power source, all hands are currently on the desk to say goodbye to internal combustion engines.

How Steam Engines Powered Giant Vehicles in the Past

Steam engines work with the principle of the Carnot cycle. The following operations/working cycles must take place for the steam engine to produce power useful for the needed work:

The Isothermal expansion

The Isentropic expansion

The Isothermal compression, and

Adiabatic reversible compression.

The above four cycles are the same cycles that your refrigeration and air condition are using to work to date though little difference exists between the two.

Simplified explanations

The Isothermal expansion

This can be referred to as the heating stage. That time the water in the boiler starts to expand as a result of the applied heat.

The Isentropic expansion

This is the stage the water starts to boil and produce high-pressure vapor that moves into the engine piston and forces it to either close or opens depending on the engine design. The steam runs through the engine mechanisms with its acquired kinetic energy and is used to operate necessary parts such as the piston

The Isothermal compression   

As a result of work done by the steam, its kinetic energy starts to drop as it leaves the engine mechanism leading to a compression process.   

Adiabatic reversible compression

This is the condensation stage where all the steam (hot water vapors) are gathered together to return to their initial stage as water before being sent to the boiler for the repetition of the cycle.

The above actions are the simplified explanation of how steam engines work to power heavy vehicles and machines.

Due to the separated cycles and stages the machine requires undergoing for optimum power out, the steam engines are usually bulky due to the many parts they need to function.

The video below shows how the steam engine was used to power tractors in the past. It shows how farmers and many other sectors depended on steam engines.

Video of the Steam Engines Powered Giant Vehicles

What do you have to say about steam engines? We are waiting for your response in this regard.

Philip Nduka

Philip is a graduate of Mechanical engineering and an NDT inspector with vast practical knowledge in other engineering fields, and software.

He loves to write and share information relating to engineering and technology fields, science and environmental issues, and Technical posts. His posts are based on personal ideas, researched knowledge, and discovery, from engineering, science & investment fields, etc.

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8 thoughts on “How Steam Engines Powered Giant Vehicles in the Past (+video)”

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