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Is coal dead? No yet, but it's dying slowly and painfully. 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Adam Varga
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Not really.  I predict that coal will make a surprising comeback, in the rail transportation sector.  New coal-fired locomotives will be built that can output over 5,000 hp, and will operate at one-ninth the cost of fuel of a comparable diesel trainset.  the technology exists, and it is only a matter of time before a prototype will be built.  I will go out on a limb here and predict the first unit will be operated on the BNSF RR. Stick around and watch!

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12 minutes ago, Jan van Eck said:

Not really.  I predict that coal will make a surprising comeback, in the rail transportation sector.  New coal-fired locomotives will be built that can output over 5,000 hp, and will operate at one-ninth the cost of fuel of a comparable diesel trainset.  the technology exists, and it is only a matter of time before a prototype will be built.  I will go out on a limb here and predict the first unit will be operated on the BNSF RR. Stick around and watch!

Steam? Or PC deisel?

Rebuilt UP 4014 passes by my home several times in the past year...

5,500–6,290 hp (4,100–4,690 kW) @ 41 mph (Drawbar)

 

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Edited by turbguy
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Great stuff!  Note that 4014 seems to be oil-fired; my guess is that the original configuration was for using Bunker "C", probably 180 centistoke material.  I would be surprised if the Union Pacific can even source that oil today; those run-bys are more likely to be fuelled by rail diesel oil. the Big Boys were originally intended to pull  full consists up the grade over the Wasatch Mountains, without having to stop to couple on any helper locomotives.  But I think they ended up in passenger service for a decade, then relegated to hauls "on the flat" instead of those heavy grades.  I am not a rail aficionado, so my memory is a bit hazy on that. 

The difference between 4014-seeries machines and modern coal locomotives is that modern coal will use a gasifier fire-box, where the coal itself is not burned.  Instead, the coal will be converted to a gas through oxygen-starvation, then the gas ignited downstream to develop a hot, clean burn.  The resulting steam will be channeled through a high-pressure zone, likely at 275 psi, to gain more power on the steam card.  With a full condenser, that should get you 5,000 hp without having to go to an articulated wheel-set.  You should be able to get the power with a 4-8-4 or 4-10-2 set  (with smaller drivers). 

Freight does not typically get hauled over 59 mph, so large wheel-sets are not necessary. The smaller wheels should allow a higher piston stroke speed, so that power is available across the typical speed range.  I see a nice future for rail steam off coal!

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13 hours ago, Jan van Eck said:

Great stuff!  Note that 4014 seems to be oil-fired; my guess is that the original configuration was for using Bunker "C", probably 180 centistoke material.  I would be surprised if the Union Pacific can even source that oil today; those run-bys are more likely to be fuelled by rail diesel oil. the Big Boys were originally intended to pull  full consists up the grade over the Wasatch Mountains, without having to stop to couple on any helper locomotives.  But I think they ended up in passenger service for a decade, then relegated to hauls "on the flat" instead of those heavy grades.  I am not a rail aficionado, so my memory is a bit hazy on that. 

The difference between 4014-seeries machines and modern coal locomotives is that modern coal will use a gasifier fire-box, where the coal itself is not burned.  Instead, the coal will be converted to a gas through oxygen-starvation, then the gas ignited downstream to develop a hot, clean burn.  The resulting steam will be channeled through a high-pressure zone, likely at 275 psi, to gain more power on the steam card.  With a full condenser, that should get you 5,000 hp without having to go to an articulated wheel-set.  You should be able to get the power with a 4-8-4 or 4-10-2 set  (with smaller drivers). 

Freight does not typically get hauled over 59 mph, so large wheel-sets are not necessary. The smaller wheels should allow a higher piston stroke speed, so that power is available across the typical speed range.  I see a nice future for rail steam off coal!

The UP Big Boys were originally coal-fired.  They certainly did not condense.  Not many steam locos did. The UP rebuild of 4014 several years ago involved a conversion to oil.  They have trouble enough with obtaining "easy" water along the way (note the extra tenders to haul water) as all the water supplies along the lines were abandoned once diesel electric took over.  Big Boys were primarily freight service from the get-go.  Big Boys were also required on the climb over Sherman Hill (the highest point on the Main Line) between Cheyenne and Laramie.  I don't believe open-exhaust recip steam engines were thermodynamicaly effected by high-altitude operation (I could be wrong) as diesels are.   But you just add supercharging (and more radio linked diesels) as required.

You might also note the single diesel loco behind the steam.  That is primarily there to provide dynamic braking instead of wearing out the steamer's brakes (and provide backup meager propulsion, just in case).  

I reside on the west side of Sherman Hill, between tracks 1&2, and track 3.  Track 3 is within two hundred feet of the original roadbed of the Transcontinental Railroad.

I certainly would like to have the grease business for these babies...

As the main component of coal is carbon, followed by hydrogen, what does the gassifier "do" with all the extra carbon?  Make "ash"?

Edited by turbguy

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(edited)

UP's #844 has the unusual distinction of being the only steam loco in their fleet that has never been retired.  More info here if you want a ride.

https://www.up.com/heritage/steam/

 

 

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Edited by turbguy
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17 hours ago, turbguy said:

As the main component of coal is carbon, followed by hydrogen, what does the gassifier "do" with all the extra carbon?  Make "ash"?

I would have to check it out, but I vaguely recall that it drives CO to CO2. Probably no ash. 

Great photos, Wayne

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32 minutes ago, Jan van Eck said:

I would have to check it out, but I vaguely recall that it drives CO to CO2. Probably no ash. 

Great photos, Wayne

Thanks.  The UP established Laramie.  They needed water all along the way.  Fuel (and tie availability) was easy (lots of trees nearby).

So f it drives the carbon ultimately to CO2, why not just burn the coal directly?  You get all of the BTUs/lb out of it that way.

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33 minutes ago, turbguy said:

So f it drives the carbon ultimately to CO2, why not just burn the coal directly?  You get all of the BTUs/lb out of it that way.

As a gas burn, you don't end up coating the boiler tubes with soot deposit which dramatically deteriorates heat transfer., 

Also, apparently when burned as a gas you can put more heat into the tubes and less goes out the stack as waste heat, with a hotter, cleaner burn spread over much more surface area.  I don't remember all the technical details  (I am getting old, so give me a break!) but there are others out there. 

I am curious as to whether the 4014 and 844 have roller bearings in the connecting rods and axles.  One of the problems with sleeve bearings was the irregular occurrence of loss of lube oil.  In that case you would end up with a burned bearing or a thrown con rod, which would be disastrous.  Amtrak refuses to allow antique passenger coaches to be moved on their rails in the US Northeast unless retrofitted with roller bearings, so the museums have to dismantle the coaches, put the wheel-sets on a flatbed, the car itself on another flatbed, and pay a fortune just to move it ten miles - instead of rolling it over the Amtrak rail. Talk about ridiculous!

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24 minutes ago, Jan van Eck said:

As a gas burn, you don't end up coating the boiler tubes with soot deposit which dramatically deteriorates heat transfer., 

Also, apparently when burned as a gas you can put more heat into the tubes and less goes out the stack as waste heat, with a hotter, cleaner burn spread over much more surface area.  I don't remember all the technical details  (I am getting old, so give me a break!) but there are others out there. 

I am curious as to whether the 4014 and 844 have roller bearings in the connecting rods and axles.  One of the problems with sleeve bearings was the irregular occurrence of loss of lube oil.  In that case you would end up with a burned bearing or a thrown con rod, which would be disastrous.  Amtrak refuses to allow antique passenger coaches to be moved on their rails in the US Northeast unless retrofitted with roller bearings, so the museums have to dismantle the coaches, put the wheel-sets on a flatbed, the car itself on another flatbed, and pay a fortune just to move it ten miles - instead of rolling it over the Amtrak rail. Talk about ridiculous!

I am not certain of EVERY bearing, but I suspect most are rolling element design as-delivered from Schenectady, with some brass sleeve bearings as well.  I understand that ALCO's Board of Directors were "honored" to push it out of the factory, by hand, when new. Part of UP's contract with ALCO was ownership of all factory drawings.  In fact, all the mechanical drawings I have seen have UP title blocks!  Here's some info...

https://www.up.com/heritage/steam/4014/4014-project/index.htm

Edited by turbguy
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(edited)

On 2/10/2021 at 5:14 PM, Jan van Eck said:

Not really.  I predict that coal will make a surprising comeback, in the rail transportation sector.  New coal-fired locomotives will be built that can output over 5,000 hp, and will operate at one-ninth the cost of fuel of a comparable diesel trainset.  the technology exists, and it is only a matter of time before a prototype will be built.  I will go out on a limb here and predict the first unit will be operated on the BNSF RR. Stick around and watch!

BNSF and Wabtec (GE) Commence Battery-Electric Locomotive Pilot Test 

image.thumb.png.d8660f158c171e217f9a38adebef853b.pnghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A7vCyNxfjSA

Edited by Jay McKinsey

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