History 3 - August Zoom Meeting
Wed 26th August, 10 am:
'Victorian Clean Fast Public Transport: Atmospheric Propulsion'
speaker Roger Boyle, Aberystwyth u3a
When steam engines were first used to move trains in the early
19th century it soon became clear that, although they were in many ways at the cutting edge of technology at the time, they nonetheless presented a number of problems. Locomotives were much heavier than the coaches or waggons that they hauled (partly because the latter were so flimsy and thus very unsafe!), so very heavy and robust rails were necessary; the adhesion between the metal wheels and the rails was limited, so there were problems with gradients and also in any weather which made the rails greasy; the locomotives were very noisy; and huge amounts of filthy smoke, steam, ashes etc were emitted, making life uncomfortable for the crew, the passengers and for those living by the lineside. Several inventors therefore proposed the use of stationary steam engines (which could be large and powerful) to generate a vacuum, usually in a tube lying between the rails. Trains carried a coach linked to this tube by a rod and a piston, and the differential pressure behind and in front of the piston moved the train.