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Thursday, October 1, 2020

Steam locomotive ~ this day 195 years ago !!

 In the city of Chennai, it appears as if – Corona has been won over ! – people are so casual. City buses are running, shops are open, malls are open – you see crowds and traffic on the roads – metro trains too are running but not the locals ie., Electric trains as also MRTS.  At a different level, Indian Railways is initiating clone trains – a list of 40 (20 pairs) – main feature being lesser stoppages and increased speed !  

Indian Railways has come a long since that day in 1953 ~ the rail network which is the biggest employer,  traverses the length and breadth of the country, covering in 2011 a total length of 64,460 kilometres (40,050 mi). If you are to search any of the Qs above in google – you will be pleasantly surprised to find the google doodle on Indian First Passenger train. The doodle has a train, pulled by a steam engine, chugging along over a background dotted with palm trees and a structure in the distance. Indeed, 16 April, 1853, was the day on which the first commercial passenger train left Mumbai's Bori Bunder for Thane. The train was pulled by three locomotives - Sindh, Sultan, and Sahib; was greeted by a 21 gun salute when it was pulling out of the platform. Now most routes are electrified, if not they are pulled by Diesel engine .. remember my early days the advice was not to look out through the window or stand near the door – for flying coal particles could fall into one’s eyes !! 

Poland authorities and mining unions said on Thursday that an agreement on a plan to restructure the country’s unprofitable and polluting coal industry is imminent, as hundreds of workers protesting the government’s intention to shut mines refused to return to the surface. Some of the miners have been underground since Monday when the protest began. From two mines, the movement has expanded to 10. Other miners have staged shorter demonstrations across the country’s southern coal region, a spokesman for one of the unions told Reuters on Wednesday.

Sixteen workers died and one is in a critical condition after being trapped underground in a coal mine in southwest China on Sunday, reported state broadcaster CCTV.  A conveyor belt caught fire in the early hours of the morning, state news agency Xinhua cited the government as saying, which produced dangerous levels of carbon monoxide.  The facility, Songzao Coal Mine, is owned by state energy firm Chongqing Energy and located just outside the city of Chongqing. Mining accidents are common in China, where the industry has a poor safety record and regulations are often weakly enforced.

Coal is a hard rock which can be burned as a solid fossil fuel. It is mostly carbon but also contains hydrogen, sulphur, oxygen and nitrogen. It is a sedimentary rock formed from peat, by the pressure of rocks laid down later on top. Peat, and therefore coal, is formed from the remains of plants which lived millions of years ago in tropical wetlands, such as those of the late Carboniferous period.  Coal can be burned for energy or heat. About two-thirds of the coal mined today is burned in power stations to make electricity. Like oil, when coal is burned its carbon joins with oxygen in the air and makes a lot of carbon dioxide, which causes climate change.  Coal can be roasted (heated very hot in a place where there is no oxygen) to produce coke. Coke can be used in smelting to reduce metals from their ores.

Coal from the inland mines in southern County Durham was taken away on packhorses, and then horse and carts as the roads were improved. A canal was proposed by George Dixon in 1767 and again by John Rennie in 1815, but both schemes failed.  Meanwhile, the port of Stockton-on-Tees, from which the Durham coal was transported onwards by sea, had invested considerably during the early 19th century in straightening the Tees in order to improve navigation on the river downstream of the town and was subsequently looking for ways to increase trade to recoup those costs. A few years later a canal was proposed on a route that bypassed Darlington and Yarm, and a meeting was held in Yarm to oppose the route. The Welsh engineer George Overton was consulted, and he advised building a tramroad. The Scottish engineer Robert Stevenson was said to favour the railway, and the Quaker Edward Pease supported it at a public meeting in Darlington in Nov  1818, promising a five per cent return on investment.   A private bill was presented to Parliament in March 1819, but as the route passed through Earl of Eldon's estate and one of the Earl of Darlington's fox coverts, it was opposed and defeated by 13 votes.

The Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&DR) was a railway company that operated in north-east England from 1825 to 1863. The world's first public railway to use steam locomotives, its first line connected collieries near Shildon with Stockton-on-Tees and Darlington in County Durham, and was officially opened on 27 September 1825. The movement of coal to ships rapidly became a lucrative business, and the line was soon extended to a new port and town at Middlesbrough. While coal waggons were hauled by steam locomotives from the start, passengers were carried in coaches drawn by horses until carriages hauled by steam locomotives were introduced in 1833. 

A steam locomotive is a type of railway locomotive that produces its pulling power through a steam engine. These locomotives are fuelled by burning combustible material—usually coal, wood, or oil—to produce steam in a boiler. The steam moves reciprocating pistons which are mechanically connected to the locomotive's main wheels (drivers). Both fuel and water supplies are carried with the locomotive, either on the locomotive itself or in wagons (tenders) pulled behind.

Steam locomotives were first developed in the United Kingdom during the early 19th century and used for railway transport until the middle of the 20th century. Richard Trevithick built the first steam locomotive in 1802. The first commercially successful steam locomotive was built in 1812–13 by John Blenkinsop, the Salamanca (locomotive); the Locomotion No. 1, built by George Stephenson and his son Robert's company Robert Stephenson and Company, was the first steam locomotive to haul passengers on a public railway, the Stockton and Darlington Railway in 1825 (this day 195 years ago !). In 1830 George Stephenson opened the first public inter-city railway, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Robert Stephenson and Company was the pre-eminent builder of steam locomotives in the first decades of steam for railways in the United Kingdom, the United States, and much of Europe.

In the 20th century, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the London and North Eastern Railway (LNER) Nigel Gresley designed some of the most famous locomotives, including the Flying Scotsman, the first steam locomotive officially recorded over 100 mph in passenger service, and a LNER Class A4, 4468 Mallard, which still holds the record for being the fastest steam locomotive in the world (126 mph). From the early 1900s, steam locomotives were gradually superseded by electric and diesel locomotives, with railways fully converting to electric and diesel power beginning in the late 1930s. The majority of steam locomotives were retired from regular service by the 1980s, although several continue to run on tourist and heritage lines.

Locomotion No. 1 (originally named Active) was an early steam locomotive built by the pioneering railway engineers George and Robert Stephenson at their manufacturing firm, Robert Stephenson and Company. It became the first steam locomotive to haul a passenger carrying train on a public railway, the Stockton and Darlington Railway (S&DR). Locomotion No. 1 was ordered by the Stockton and Darlington Railway Company in September 1824; its design benefitted from George Stephenson's experience building his series of Killingworth locomotives. It is believed that Locomotion No. 1 was the first locomotive to make use of coupling rods to link together its driving wheels, reducing the chance of the wheels slipping on the iron rails. However, the centre-flue boiler proved to be a weakness, providing for a poor heating surface compared to later multi-flue boilers.

In September 1825, Locomotion No. 1 hauled the first train on the Stockton and Darlington Railway, and became the first locomotive to run on a public railway. On 1 July 1828, it was heavily damaged when its boiler exploded at Aycliffe Lane station, resulting in the death of its driver, John Cree. It was rebuilt but, as a consequence of the rapid advances in locomotive design, Locomotion No. 1 became obsolete within a decade. It was used on the railway until 1841, after which it was converted into a stationary engine. In 1857, as a consequence of its historical importance, Locomotion No. 1 was preserved and put on display. Between 1892 and 1975, it was on static display at one of the platforms at Darlington Bank Top railway station. It is presently at the Head of Steam museum. A working replica of Locomotion has also been built and following years of operation at Beamish Museum it is now currently on static display in Darlington at the Head of Steam Museum. 

George Stephenson (1781 –  1848) was a British civil engineer and mechanical engineer. Renowned as the "Father of Railways", Stephenson was considered by the Victorians a great example of diligent application and thirst for improvement.  His chosen rail gauge, sometimes called 'Stephenson gauge',  was the basis for the 4 feet 8 1⁄2 inches (1.435 m) standard gauge used by most of the world's railways. Pioneered by Stephenson, rail transport was one of the most important technological inventions of the 19th century and a key component of the Industrial Revolution

Interesting !


With regards – S. Sampathkumar




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