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Modern steam

Modern Steam

No steam locomotive ever built included all the available proven techniques to maximize its performance in service.
This fact, more than any other factor, is what lead to the downfall of world steam.


Recently I met the chairman of the Workgroup Rolling Stock of the Dutch Railway Museum. Conversation turned to the restoration and use of the NS 3737 and the cost to maintain and operate the Old Lady of Dutch steam. This conversation gave cause to write an essay to indicate possible measures to reduce the cost of maintenance and operation of this locomotive by applying techniques that have been developed since the 1930's and are usually referred to as "Modern Steam".

These pages are partially a translation of this essay and have been adapted to offer a more generic view towards museum steam locomotives in general. In due course I will continue to update the information contained herein.

May these pages contribute to the proliferation of the knowledge of modern steam. May they also contribute to the reduction of total cost of ownership and to expanding the lifetime and usabiltlity of operational heritage steam locomotives to ensure their operational condition on the long term.

Steam is synonimous for obsolete and outdated. The mental image that we have is that of the state of affairs of one hundred years ago. The design of the 3737 dates back to 1909. Development of the steam locomotive in the Netherlands ceased in the twenties. Since that time lots of new developments have taken place that can enhance the performance of the steam locomotive considerably.

Modern steam stands for a new economic and ecologic steam technology, providing the following advantages:

  • One man operation for steam locomotives
  • Light-oil firing with clean combustion
  • Low cost of ownership provides good return on investment
  • High thermal efficiency of engine and boiler
  • High level insulation of boiler, steam engine and piping
  • Up to date bearing technology reduces maintenance and protects the environment
  • Electric preheating device enables to put or keep an engine in steam without attendance

Conluding it can be claimed that a steam locomotive can have the same total cost of ownership as a comparable diesel. Having said that, the steam locomotive can be much more environmentally friendly and economically viable than is the case today.