Showing posts with label Steam Engines. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Steam Engines. Show all posts

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Brake Shoe

We just learned about the Trailing Wheel.

Another part of a steam locomotive is the Brake Shoe.

When the train has to stop, there is a rounded piece of metal called the brake shoe that is pushed against the wheels to try and slow them down.

The scraping of the brake shoes on the metal wheel also helps clean the wheels, and after a while the brake shoes get worn down and need to be replaced with new ones.

(from: wikipedia - brake shoe)

Kid Facts - Blast from the past: Electromagnet

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Trailing Wheel

We just learned about the Smokebox at the front of the engine.

Another part of a steam locomotive is the Trailing Wheel.

Back behind all of the other big wheels that move the train is a smaller wheel.
This wheel has an axle bar going under the train that helps make the engine more stable especially where the fireman and engineer are standing.

Because it is not connected to any of the other gears that move the train along, this wheel is very strong and doesn't wiggle around so much.

(from: wikipedia - trailing wheel)

Kid Facts - Blast from the past: Windings

Thursday, September 10, 2020


We just learned about the Air Brakes.

Another part of a steam locomotive is the Smokebox.

This is the place on the front of the locomotive where the hot air and smoke goes to.

The coal burns up and the hot air goes through the boiler.
After that the hot air needs to be released, so it goes into the firebox and then out the chimney.
Because the smoke is so dirty, it leaves a bunch of ashes in the smokebox, so the front of the train can be opened up and cleaned out when it gets too dirty.

(from: wikipedia - smokebox)

Kid Facts - Blast from the past: Stator

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Air Brakes

We just learned about the Sand Dome.

Another part of steam locomotives is the Air Brakes.

When the engineer wants to stop the train, he pulls a lever to use the brakes.
The lever opens up something called an air reservoir which is a place where high pressured air is stored.
It is kind of like a really tight balloon filled with air, and opening it up causes the air to come blowing out.

The air goes through some tubes to get to a piece of metal called the brake shoe, and the air pressure pushes the metal brake shoe up against the wheel to stop the train.

(from: wikipedia - railway air brake)

Kid Facts - Blast from the past: Rotor

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Sand Dome

We just learned about the Safety Valve.

Another part of a locomotive is a Sand Dome or Sand Box.

When a locomotive is speeding down the tracks and the metal tracks get wet, sometimes the wheels might slip.
To keep from slipping, the locomotives can spray sand onto the rails as the train is going.

On top of the train is a dome that opens up so the sand box can be filled up with sand when the train stops at the station, just like it does with water.
The sand goes down into a pipe, and when the engineer pulls the right lever it opens up the sand pipe and using some of the steam it can blow grains of sand onto the tracks so the train doesn't slip and slide.

(from: wikipedia - sandbox (locomotive))

Kid Facts - Blast from the past: Electric Motor

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Safety Valve

We just learned about the Johnson Bar that controls the train speed.

Another part of a steam locomotive was the Safety Valve.

This was a valve that could be opened to let off steam if the pressure in the steam engine was getting too high.

(from: wikipedia - safety valve)

Kid Facts - Blast from the past: Bearing

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Johnson Bar

We just learned about the Valve Gear.

Another part of a steam locomotive is the Johnson Bar, also called the reach rod or reversing lever.

This is a lever that is hooked up to the Valve Gear, and is up in the Cab so that the engineer can push or pull on it to control the speed.

No one really knows why it has the name of Johnson Bar!

(from: wikipedia - johnson bar (locomotive))

Kid Facts - Blast from the past: Axle

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Valve Gear

We just learned about the Train Whistle.

Another part of a steam engine is the Valve Gear.

This is a gear that is hooked up to the piston that is moving the train along, and lets the engineer open or close it to go faster or slower.

If they open the piston up all the way the train will go faster but will use more fuel.
If they close the piston all the way the train will go slower but will use less fuel.

(from: wikipedia - valve gear)

Kid Facts - Blast from the past: Shaft

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Train Whistle

We just learned about the Cab where the Engineer and Fireman work.

Another part of the steam locomotive is the Train Whistle, also called the air whistle or steam trumpet.

When locomotives started becoming popular, people knew it would be dangerous for a big train to be rolling down the tracks and it was very tough for a train to stop.

The engineers put a whistle on the top of the train and hooked it up so that steam could get blown out of the whistle to make noise.

It was hooked up to a lever, and it could be pulled hard or soft, so it could make a little woo or a big WOOO or even a woo-ahh woo-ahh sound.

Because it made different noises, each engineer could have their own style of blowing the whistle, and people could sometimes figure out who was driving the train based on what the whistle sounded like.

Later on they made the whistles even better and would have 2 or 4 different notes combined to make a nice sounding whistle that could be heard for miles.

The engineers used the whistle to tell people the train was getting ready to go, to warn someone at a crossing that the train was coming, and also to let people at the train stations know they were coming.

(from: wikipedia - train whistle)

Kid Facts - Blast from the past: Pulley

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Cab - Engineer and Fireman

We just learned about the Tender.

Another part of a steam locomotive is the Cab.

This is where the engineer and the fireman are at.
The engineer or driver is the person who uses all the controls to make the locomotive go faster or slower, and to help control the engine.

The fireman is the person who is in charge of the fire that keeps the train going.
So he has to shovel coal from the coal bunker into the engine, and also help refill the water compartment for the steam.

(from: wikipedia - cab (locomotive))

Kid Facts - Blast from the past: Sprocket

Thursday, July 16, 2020


We just learned about the Fire-Tube Boiler.

Let's go step by step and learn all the parts of a working steam locomotive!

One part of the locomotive is the Tender, or coal car.

This is a big box that is pulled behind the engine that is full of the fuel that the locomotive needs to run.
It can be full of wood, coal or oil, and it also is full of water that is used for the steam.

Usually the water was on the bottom of the tender, in a place called the water compartment.
The coal or other fuel was on top in a place called the coal bunker.

The engines used a lot of water, which is why railroads came up with places to refill with water using big cranes when they stopped at train stations.

(from: wikipedia - tender (rail))

Kid Facts - Blast from the past: Gear

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Fire-Tube Boiler

We just learned about the Locomotion No. 1.

Another part of how steam locomotives work is the Fire-Tube Boiler.

A boiler is a big tank of water that is heated up to where the water boils and turns to steam.
There are a lot of different kinds of boilers, and the one called a fire-tube boiler was the one most used by steam locomotives to run the engine.

It's called a fire-tube boiler because there are a bunch of metal tubes that take in heat from a fire and then the heated up tubes make the water hot.

The hot water then turns to steam that is used with a steam pump to drive the gears that turn the wheels of the train.

(from: wikipedia - fire-tube boiler)

Kid Facts - Blast from the past: Motor

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Locomotion No. 1

We just learned about the Salamanca steam locomotive.

Another famous steam locomotive was called Locomotion No. 1, made by George and Robert Stephenson in 1825 in England.

This was the first steam locomotive that was used to bring people along in passenger cars.

The first time this locomotive was put to the test it hauled 11 wagons of coal, and special passenger carriage, and then 20 more wagons that were filled with people.

The train could go about 12 miles per hour, and it took the people on a 10 mile trip from Shildon to Darlington.

(from: wikipedia - locomotion no. 1)

Kid Facts - Blast from the past: Machines

Thursday, June 25, 2020


We just learned about the Pen-y-Darren Locomotive.

Another part of the history of locomotives is the Salamanca steam locomotive, built in 1812 by Matthew Murray from England.

Even though people were figuring out how to make steam engines and hook them up to boats and wheels, it took a while for anyone to make one that worked really well on a train track.

Even before there were locomotives, people made metal tracks for carts that would be pulled by horses.
It wasn't until Murray made the Salamanca in 1812, that someone would make a locomotive that was actually used for people to haul big heavy loads around and do some work.

The Pen-y-Darren locomotive was built in 1802, so for 10 years people mostly just saw these steam engines as an interesting invention, but did not put the engines to work yet.

The Salamanca ran on a rack and pinion track, which means the wheels were gears that worked on a track with teeth that it would go along.

(from: wikipedia - salamanca (locomotive))

Kid Facts - Blast from the past: Fire Investigation

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Cugnot's - Fardier à vapeur

We just learned about the North River Steamboat.

Another part of the history of steam engines is Cugnot's - Fardier à vapeur.

A lot of people made steam powered boats that many people liked.
But it took a lot longer for people to make steam powered engines on wheels that people liked.

The first known steam powered engine on wheels was made by a French man named Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot, and he called it the "machine à feu pour le transport de wagons et surtout de l'artillerie" which is French for "fire engine for transporting wagons and especially artillery".

Since that's a long name, people just called it the "Fardier à vapeur" which means "Steam wagon".

He built it in 1769, but not a lot of people used it.
It went about 2 miles per hour, and could carry about 2 tons of weight.

Because it was very slow and broke down a lot, it was not very popular, and steam wagons like this were not used a lot for a long time.

(from: wikipedia - nicolas-joseph cugnot)

Kid Facts - Blast from the past: Forensic Podiatry

Thursday, June 4, 2020

North River Steamboat

We just learned about the Sun and Planet Gear.

Another part of early machines was the North River Steamboat, also called the Clermont.

After all the pieces were invented to make a working steam engine, people started to try and use them to move things around.

In 1807 in New York, the North River Steamboat was built to take people along the Hudson River from New York City to Albany.

The boat was 142 feet long, and went about 5 miles per hour on the river.
It went about 150 miles, and took about 30 hours to make the trip!
Today in a car that takes about 2 hours, but back then it was a big deal.

(from: wikipedia - )

Kid Facts - Blast from the past: Forensic Epidemiology

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Sun and Planet Gear

We just learned about the Rotative Beam Engine.

Another part of the early steam engines is the Sun and Planet Gear.

After the rotative beam engine came up with a way to have a beam go up and down and spin a wheel around,
it was hooked up to a type of gear called a sun and planet gear.

It was called that because one gear goes around the other, kind of like a planet going around the sun.

(from: wikipedia - sun and planet gear)

Kid Facts - Blast from the past: Forensic Entomology

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Rotative Beam Engine

We just learned about the Newcomen Engine.

Another part of steam engine history is Rotative Beam Engine.

After the Newcomen Engine was built, people worked to make it even better.

In the old types of engines, the big rod that was moved by the steam was just pushed up and down.
For a rotative beam engine, one end of the beam uses a type of crank or gear to spin a wheel around.

This moving wheel could be used as a wheel to paddle a boat, or a wheel to move a train.

(from: wikipedia - beam engine)

Kid Facts - Blast from the past: Forensic Dentistry

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Newcomen Engine

We just learned about the Steam Pump.

Another part of the history of steam engines is the Newcomen Engine.

In 1712 in England, Thomas Newcomen took the idea of the Steam Pump and made his own type of steam engine.

He had a big tank full of water called a boiler that was being heated up by a coal fire underneath.
The water would boil and make steam that was let up into another smaller cylinder tank.
That steam would expand and push up on a piston that was hooked to a big long beam.
The beam was like a see-saw, and when the one side got pushed up, the other side was pushed down.

After the steam had filled the cylinder, a plug valve would be closed so no more steam would come in, and another tank of cold water would splash some cold water onto the steam.
This created a vacuum, which sucked the piston back down, pulling the beam down, and pulling the other side of the beam up.

With this steam engine, it would rock the beam back and forth like a see-saw.
The other end of the beam was hooked up to a pump to help pull water out of mines that were flooded.

At first the plugs had to be opened by a person called the "plug man" who would run around and pull the plugs at just the right time.
Later someone figured out a way to use a board with some chains on it called a "plug tree" with weights on it that would automatically open and close the valves.

(from: wikipedia - newcomen atmospheric engine)

Kid Facts - Blast from the past: Forensic Botany

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Steam Pump

We just learned about the Steam Cylinder.

Another invention that led up to the steam locomotive was the Steam Pump.

A man named Thomas Savery came up with an invention that could help pump water up out of a flooded mine, or help pump water to be sprayed or brought to a town that needed it.

His invention called the Savery Engine had a furnace that would heat up water to make steam in one place.
This steam had high pressure and helped pump out.
Then a valve would be opened to let some hot steam out, and the tank would get splashed with water.
This would cool down the steam and make it get smaller, which created a vacuum that sucked back in.

It wasn't an engine with moving parts like a car engine, but the pushing out and sucking in helped people understand how steam could be used to make an engine.

(from: wikipedia - thomas savery)

Kid Facts - Blast from the past: Forensic Anthropology