This Tiny Coal-Fired Steam Turbine Locomotive Actually Works
Have you ever seen something so small and powered by a coal-fired steam turbine? My guess is probably not.
Steam turbine-powered locomotives never really caught on. Similar to gas turbine engines, steam turbines are efficient at certain rpm, and extremely inefficient at many others. At high speeds, they worked great. At slow speeds, not so much. That doesn't mean they didn't capture the hearts of tinkerers, though, like one YouTuber named Leslie Breame.
Breame's channel is eclectic, but his latest few posts highlight a small steam turbine locomotive which he assumedly made completely by hand. There's another video he put out that details the construction of the machine's turbine, but little else showing its construction.
As charcoal is added to the smoky little machine, it slowly builds steam pressure before a valve is released and it's sent on its way. Unlike piston-operated steam engines, there is no chugging noise with a turbine. It just whizzes away with a little push.
The tiny locomotive is an impressive piece of amateur engineering. Its minuscule boiler seems to produce around 50 psi of pressure, which is pretty impressive for what this thing is, and what fuel it uses. Breame appears to be putting regular charcoal into it, which is more than potent enough to get the thing moving along. A small fan driven by 12 volts seems to be blowing a steady stream of air onto the charcoal as well. Breame mentions in a previous video that he was running the motor on nine volts, which was just barely enough to produce the hot fire he needed. The higher voltage and resulting airflow make this thing run much better.
In the end, electric power is the standard for little trains like this, but there's still something appealing about something so small and delicate being powered by a steam boiler and charcoal. The backyard engineering on display in this tiny locomotive is impressive, and although it may be impractical, it's still incredibly charming.
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