Post by Joe Kerr
Just out of curiosity, as we are on the subject of powering trains: Has
anybody ever built a steam engine fueled by oil or anything else other
than coal/wood or similar? I would have thought it would be more
practical than coal and retain the character of a "real" loco but I
expect that it would be too inefficient compared with a true diesel engine.
Yes, oil fuelling has been used quite a bit over the years. Many locos
have even been converted between coal and oil firing as availability
and costs changed. Some of the Welsh steam railways used it, though
I think all have been converted back to coal now as it's much cheaper
at present. Oil is easier on the fireman (no shovelling!) but needs
care to not heat/cool the boiler too quickly.
Sugar cane straw ("bagasse") has been used in the sugar fields.
Two Irish locos were built to experimentally burn peat, though neither
was a great success.
The Swiss, faced with wartime coal shortages but having plenty of
hydro-electricity, converted a few shunting locos to steam-electric by
fitting heating elements in the boiler.
"The Internet, a sort of ersatz counterfeit of real life"
-- Janet Street-Porter, BBC2, 19th March 1996