More cheap steam novels

A recently acquired book is “The Two Georges, A Novel of Alternate America, 1996” by Richard Dreyfuss and Harry Turtledove.  This book involves steam automobiles that are referred to as “steamers” and without explanation or discussion or any history.  The main plot of the book involves an alternate history where George Washington and King George II made peace and thus the world turned out to be different.  Transportation at the end of the 20th Century was by dirigible and steamers, thus implying that it was American inventiveness that took the world from the first industrial revolution of steam power to the second industrial revolution of internal combustion engines.   The steamers appear to have a Stanley type of a boiler, because it takes 8-10 minutes to get steam pressure up.  Sometimes the pilot light is left on or maybe it is just the heat in the boiler so pressure is up and ready to go.  At other times the burner is turned up by the driver for more reserve pressure when driving.  The good news is that a battery powered sparker starts the burner from inside the car.  The writers of this book have never been in a real steam car because they talk about putting it into gear to go places and in selecting one of three gears for going down the road.  I am going to write them a letter encouraging them to ask me for technical advice on their next book that involves steam power.

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2 Responses to More cheap steam novels

  1. stevebb says:

    Could they be meaning a selectable cut off rather than gear selection?

    agree historically that steam cars haven’t used gears, and that reciprocating steam engines don’t stall , but gears aren’t just about generating torque, they can also help with efficency. Selectable gears decouple engine rpm from road speed, allowing access to higher rpms& power at a lower road speed for better acceleration, and still allow cruising (high efficency) at lower engine rpms. According to “Expermental Flash steam by benson and Rayman”- ASME did some *theoretical* work on steam cars in the 70s, their idea was was to use smaller displacement/lighter/lower torque engines, which reved higher to make the required power. and use the steam plant much as a drop in replacement for an IC. ditching an engine that can reverse on it’s own, and allowing the engine to run when vehicle is stationary(clutch) also seemed to have advantages when there’s lot of electrical loads as there is in newer vehicles.

    Benson and Rayman also mention when high rpms are wanted double acting cylinders are problematic and I beleive single acting cyclinders have been the trend in steam model hydroplane racing for years. http://www.douglas-self.com/MUSEUM/POWER/highsped/highsped.htm perhaps offers some reasons why single acting cylinders tend to used for high rpms.

    talking of gearless systems.. I’ve came across George constantinesco’s Inertial Transmission system from 1920s- looks pretty simple but forgotten to history, and perhaps deserving of more publicity/work . Probably best to think of it more as a self adjusting CVT. rather than a gearless system http://www.rexresearch.com/constran/1constran.htm

    • tkimmel3 says:

      November 26, 2012 Dear Steve BB in the UK, And in reply; Benson and Rayman is one of the great steam books of all time and I have accumulated 10 hard cover copies and note that Camden Miniature is doing a re-print in paperback. As for your remarks on gears in steam cars, that is a good idea and one that White had early on. The fact that they had a two speed transmission with a neutral made the car practical. I agree with your analysis on engine efficiency being better controlled by gearing instead of cutoff because long cutoff is inefficient. That said, the context in the book, an action novel more than a technical work, implied that the authors were vaguely familiar with the Stanley. The boiler acted like a pressure vessel fire tube with its long warm up period, stored power, and ability to manually turn up the fire in anticipation of potential driving conditions. I was making a point that the authors had not done their research and not attempting to comment on how steam cars should be designed. One of my great heroes in the steam car world is the late J Warne Carter of Texas. He had a fixed cutoff at 5 % or so 5,000 rpm engine running through a standard VW gearbox. In comment on the work done here in the colonies in the late 1960’s early 1970’s, the best report is in a 1975 publication put out by Jet Propulsion Laboratories entitled: “Should We Have a New Engine? An Automobile Power Systems Evaluation Vol II Technical Reports”. I have recently received permission to re-print the Rankine chapter and that will be available shortly. As an aside I have in my collection the following modern steam cars: Besler 1969 Chevelle SE-124, Keen Steamliner #2, Besler 1953 Kaiser Manhattan, 1974 SES Dodge Monaco, 1963 MSS designed VW Beetle, and the Williams Victress car. If anyone wants to study them they are welcome. Tom Kimmel

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