I judge from the nature of suggested steam engines that have appeared in the "Discussion" page that the designers know very little about the thermodynamics of steam. I am convinced that the steam car projects of the early 1970s failed, at great cost to us (taxpayers), because they tried to design engines from "first principles", without admitting, let alone studying, the results of 200 years of building steam engines.

Therefore, I am setting forth a short list of books that should be of interest to prospective steam engineers.

"Kent's Mechanical Engineers Handbook" Robert Thurston Kent, John Wiley & Sons., New York, 10th or 11th edition. (1923 or 1936). The 11th edition is in two volumes, engines are treated in "Power".

"Mechanical Engineers' Handbook", Lionel S. Marks, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1st through 4th editions (1916-1941).

"Steam, Air and Gas Power", W. H. Severns & H. E. Degler, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1939.

"Steam Power Plant Engineering", G. F. Gebhardt, John Wiley & Sons, New York. The 6th. edition (1928) was still in print in 1944.

"Elements of Heat Power Engineering", C. F. Hirshfeld & Wm. N Barnard, John Wiley & Sons, New York.

"Elements of Heat Power Engineering", Wm. N Barnard, F. O. Ellenwood & C. F Hirshfeld, 3 vol. John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1933. This is the 3rd. edition of the previous text.

"Steam Power and Internal Combustion Engines", D. P. Craig & H. J. Anderson, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1937.

"Uniflow, Back Pressure, and Steam Extraction Engines", T. Allen, Pitman & Sons, London, 1931.

"The Efficient Use of Steam", O. Lyle, Her Majesty's Stationery Office, London, 1947. Still in print in 1972.

This is by no means a complete list, it contains books I have read and can recommend. Most of these books are available in used book stores, if you look hard enough, which can now be done on the Internet!

If one obtains and studies one of the above books, one should, at least, learn some of the things that limit the efficiency of steam car engines. In particular, read the sections on the efficiency of real steam engines, or the differences between theoretical and actual steam consumption.

Admittedly, these books will have almost nothing on automotive engines or boilers. None the less, techniques that improve power plant efficiency can be applied equally to cars.

Also, one will not find any discussion of single acting, or trunk piston, engines. Why? Because, excepting the direct connected generator engines made by Westinghouse in the United States, and Willans in England, which were obsolete as soon as turbines were available, no trunk piston engines were ever used in power plant service. They had poor efficiency due to heat losses from the pistons, and serious water in the crankcase and oil in the exhaust problems. If anyone is willing to listen, I can discuss the issue at a later time.

My advice is: before you make expensive hardware, do your homework!

Return to Steam Help

Last update: 13 November, 2000.
Web Master: D. K. Nergaard