Rebooting Steam

NW Mailing List nw-mailing-list at
Mon Oct 8 19:34:01 EDT 2012


I have been a member of N&WHS for almost 10 years now and am known by
several members. As VP and Treasurer of Sustainable Rail International/
Coalition for Sustainable Rail and a member of this group I am available at
jrhodes at if you have any questions about what we are attempting
or would like to get involved. We are an R&D organization and not an
excursion or restoration group. We have some of the best and brightest in
the industry involved along with several railroaders.

Dave Phelps:
I am glad you made it to the ASME/IEEE presentation. If I may speak to a
few of your statements below. We didn't say we planned to make a steam
locomotive with the same Drawbar Thermal Efficiency as current diesels. We
said we planned to make a steam locomotive with lower fuel cost than a
current diesel in the same service, this is quite different along with
other objectives. Yes, I do understand microcreep and have for years. I
was caught off guard by the question since I had not put much thought into
its application in this situation. We are focusing on passenger rail only;
passenger trains are not heavy by any stretch of the imagination and I
don't think microcreep would be necessary but is worth investigation. As
to machinery speed, we are planning to use the Class J's 525 rpm as a
precedent, but also plan a lower piston speed than the J as well. The
fuel, torrified biomass, could be made from plant stalks but current
implementations use wood. We do not feel we have overlooked basic physical
and engineering fundamentals. I would suggest you investigate Modern
Steam, including Andre Chapelon of the SNCF and L.D. Porta of Argentina.
As stated earlier I welcome emails to those with more questions or who
would like to get involved.

Best Regards,

John Rhodes
Vice President & Treasurer
Coalition for Sustainable Rail
2107 Wilson Blvd. Suite 750
Arlington, VA 22201
E jrhodes at

On Mon, Oct 8, 2012 at 4:07 PM, NW Mailing List <nw-mailing-list at>wrote:

> **

> I have read several articles about their proposal and listened to a

> presentation from them. They plan to use the latest state of the art

> boiler technology, emissions technology, and computerized dynamic analysis

> to come up with a steam locomotive as efficient, fuel heating value to

> drawbar horsepower, as a diesel, and able to have machinery speeds what

> would make a J blush without destroying the rail. They also plan to use

> fuel pellets made from plant stalks that have zero NOx and particulates,

> and negligible ash residue.


> It all sounds wonderful to the uninitiated, and there's just enough

> substance that it's worth studying in detail, as an intellectual exercise

> in being open minded if nothing else. However, their naive enthusiasm

> overlooks some basic physical and engineering fundamentals and will

> probably die a natural death once cold hard reality hits them in the face.


> They expect to obtain significant improvements in adhesion (coupled axles

> and microprocessor controls); when I asked them if they were going to take

> advantage of microcreep, their hand-waving answer demonstrated that they

> had not the vaguest idea what I was talking about. I assure you an EMD or

> GE presenter would have been able to go on at great length on that subject.


> Until reality does overtake them, I recommend that we do present an open

> mind and ask the tough questions to see how they answer them.


> Dave Phelps


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