Sunday, March 21, 2010

Steam Cars -- Their Operating Characteristics and Limitations

Early steamers were seriously hampered by water-feeding problems, numerous gauges, burner and boiler trouble, defective fusible plugs, and complicated automatic valves and pumps. in addition, the long waiting time period necessary to :"fire up" and the long time in "blowing down" the boiler at the end of a run were necessary evils. Firing up took anywhere from 10 to 25 minutes, depending on the car and driver. It was necessary for the drive to pay attention to pilot lights, fuel oil,, water, pumps, and a variety of other gadgets.
Mileage per gallon of fuel, whether kerosene or gasoline, was a variable factor, as was the mileage achieved form each load of water. Existing weather conditions, the terrain an the speed at which the car attained, all affected the distance traveled before refueling was necessary. The first steamers permitted the exhaust steam to escape into the air and mileage was very poor. Condensers (or radiators) were utilized in later models. These permitted air to circulate around the exhaust steam which condensed it it back to water and it was used again in the engine. Mileage improved, but not enough. In operation, the exhaust steam entered the condenser, was forced downward by incoming steam, was condensed to water by cool air and returned to the main water supply. Originally the majority of steamers were equipped with fire or water tube boilers. these boilers maintained a steam reserve which powered the car. They were deficient in that a waiting period was necessary to generate steam although, once it was generated careful operation of the car permitted driving until the water supply ran out. On overnight stops, the pilot light maintained sufficient pressure so that the car could be driven immediately the following day. many openers removed the water-tube boilers and installed flash boilers, which generated only the minimal; amount of steam required to drive the car. Thus no waiting period was necessary wit this type of boiler, but there was never a steam reserve and the operation of the car was limited by the output of the boiler.

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