and Diesel Train Engines
"All aboard!" Have you ever ridden on a train before? Did you know that the very first trains were pulled by horses? That all changed with the invention of two locomotives that have ruled the rails for decades. So climb aboard as we ride the rails and discover the magical world of trains.
The first successful steam locomotive was built by Richard Trervithick in 1804. As the steam locomotive improved, more railroads started to use them. A steam engine runs by burning coal, wood, or oil in the firebox. The fire in the firebox heats water to create steam. That steam is then forced into the cylinder, moving the piston back and forth. The piston is connected to the driving rod which is connected to the wheels. When the piston moves back and forth, it moves the driving rod which turns the wheels.
But steam was a far cry from the luxuries of diesels and steam locomotive manufacturers knew that. They started to streamline their locomotives to make them look modern. Of course the streamlining didn't make the locomotive operate any better, but it did help the locomotive's image.
Rudolph Diesel, inventor of the diesel engine, was born in Paris, France in 1858. He graduated at Munich Polytechnic to become a refrigerator engineer. Diesel always loved engine design and wanted to create an internal-combustion engine that would not need a spark to ignite the fuel. Diesel operated his first successful engine in 1897 and dubbed it "The Diesel Engine."
The diesel locomotive was invented in the 1890's by Rudolph Diesel. By 1925, the diesel locomotive started to hit the rails. A diesel engine is a lot like a car engine; in fact it can be used in tractors, cars, trucks and many other pieces of machinery. The one difference between the internal-combustion engine that runs on gasoline and the diesel engine is that a diesel engine ignites the fuel without a spark. This happens when the piston in the engine compresses the air in the cylinder, and it gets hot. When the fuel is sprayed into the cylinder, it ignites forcing the piston to move. In a diesel-electric locomotive the diesel engine turns a generator. The generators send the power to the wheels. The electricity from the generator runs a motor which turns the wheels.
The diesel locomotive started taking over steam in the 1950's. Some advantages diesels have over steam are that: diesels are cleaner, they don't need as much repair, they don't need to refuel as often as steam, and finally they are more powerful than steam. It might have taken two steam engines to haul a heavy train where one diesel can handle that train very well.
Stone, Lynn M. Steam Locomotives. Vero Beach: The Rourke Corporation, 1999.
"Rudolph Diesel-Inventor of the Diesel Engine" Inventors. 14 January 2005 <http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bldiesel.htm>
Permission to use photograph of horse drawn train and Rudolph Dielsel is granted under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page>.
Photograph of a steam engine from Paris France has been released into the public domain under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page>.
Copyrighted animated train at top of page from "Microsoft Office Online" <http://office.microsoft.com/clipart/default.aspx?lc=en-us&cag=1> (October-March, 2004-2005). Clip art available only to licensed users for non-commercial purposes.
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