Steam locomotives are a type of rail vehicle that moves itself using the expansion of steam. Fuel is heated, which heats water, which creates steam. That steam then becomes gaseous and starts to expand. As it expands, the locomotive is powered to move. Steam locomotives have a rich history. Without steam locomotives, our rail systems wouldn’t be where they are today.
History of the Steam Locomotive
The history of the steam locomotive goes all the way back to 1804. In 1804, the first steam locomotive that traveled a distance with a load of product was made by Richard Trevithick. It wasn’t until 1825 that the first steam locomotive carrying passengers made a successful trip though. The 1825 model was built by George and Robert Stephenson, a father and son duo.
By 1830 the first public inter-city railway was opened using steam locomotives to carry passengers. Railways using steam locomotives became popular in the United States, United Kingdom, and Europe. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that the development of electric and diesel locomotives began to replace steam locomotives.
Types of Steam Locomotives
Many different versions of the steam locomotive were created over the years, but most of those can be put into one of 3 categories.
- Non-articulated – a non-articulated steam locomotive features a rigid frame. This style didn’t last long as it doesn’t handle curves well and was prone to design issues.
- Duplex – this design divides the driving force of the wheels with two cylinders that sit under the frame of the locomotive
- Articulated – an articulated locomotive features a rigid rear with pivots in the front so it’s easier to take curves. A pair of drivers are located under the boiler in an articulated locomotive.
Steam Locomotive Manufacturers
The most notable steam locomotive manufacturers are:
- American locomotive company
- Baldwin locomotive works
- Davenport locomotive works
- K. Porter Company
- Lima Locomotive Works
- Vulcan Iron Works
There are around 200 steam locomotives still operable in the United States in 2022. Preserving those existing steam locomotives has become an important mission for locomotive enthusiasts.
Steam locomotives are no longer used to transport passengers or products because electric and diesel locomotives are faster, more efficient, and easier to maintain. The locomotives that are still running are a piece of history dating back to the 1800’s that really put into perspective just how far we’ve come! Some of the earliest steam locomotives are still used as a base to create accurate model trains today.
Contact Charles Ro to learn more about the history of steam locomotives, how they were made, and how you can get involved in the locomotive community. Locomotive hobbyists are always looking to bring new people into the community and educate them on this fun, exciting, historical topic.