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Unfortunately for steam engine lovers, there is more to locomotive design than thermal efficiency. One problem with steam engines is the poor balance of the driving wheels, which is hard on the track. Also, they are miserable to drive, being uncomfortable and dirty. In addition, modern diesel-electric locomotives have very sophisticated control systems that offer independent control of each axle, which improves the ability of operating at the limit of traction. The introduction of electricity into the equation allows the use of multiple un-manned helper units, and can support an integrated diesel-electric hybrid system.

Perhaps some of these difficulties might be overcome with a large development program...

by asdf on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 12:32:58 AM EST
The driving wheels are not unbalanced. That is the purpose of the large balance weight clearly visible in all such.

The issue is that being driving wheels, where there has to be a direct mechanical linkage between the wheel and the driving force (cylinder assembly), there is a considerable unsprung weight impacting on the track. The "hammer blow" resulting from the combination of the weight and the vertical force from the cylinders can exceed  20 tons per wheel. It is that which wears the track.

I don't dispute that it's a problem tho'.

The issue of the discomfort of working on steam engines is largely moot. Much of that was from a victorian attitude towards worker comfort and safety that was hardly restricted to railways. And anyway, even nowadays you'll find many drivers (mostly now retired) who worked on both steam and other traction who would gladly endure the discomforts of steam for the professional pride of working such beasts.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 04:59:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
poor balance of the driving wheels, which is hard on the track. Also, they are miserable to drive... independent control of each axle

Oh, no problem there, there were special solutions :-) There were of course the steam-electrics -- and the steam-motor locomotives. For example the German 19 1001, built during WWII,  ended up in the USA where it was scrapped:

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jul 13th, 2006 at 03:49:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]