Full Steam Ahead: some questions

We thought of questions that could help us learn more about maths, science, designing, geography and history. Here are a few:

Kiran:

How fast are steam trains?

How are steam trains made?

How long does it take to get from station to station?

How much coal does it take to fire up a steam train?

Charlie T:

How can you drive a steam train?

Kalisha:

What is the important bit of the steam train?

Morgan:

Who invented the steam train?

How much oil does a steam train have?

Holly:

Where can you still get steam trains?

Grace C:

Do steam trains go chug chug or choo choo?

Tolomy:

How many seats are there on a train?

How far do trains go?

Daisy:

Where do steam trains go to put coal in the train?

Where do the trains travel to?

Maja:

How much energy does a steam train have?

How many miles can a steam train go?

How many different steam trains are there in the world?

What are trains made of?

Grace S:

How do you control a train? How do you stop a train?

How do you do the driving lessons?

Ciaran:

When did the first steam train get built? Where?

Rashmi:

How do the doors open?

How much steam comes from the train?

How fast are they? How big are they?

Morris:

What does the coal do?

Isaac:

How many days does it take to build one train?

How far can it go without steam?

How many years have trains been around for?

Noah:

Are there some trains that go all around the world?

How much does a train weigh?

Elijah:

What country did they start designing steam trains?

What was the name of the person who first designed one?

What year was it?

Charlie R:

How long is a steam train?

Where do they get coal from?

Luka:

Where did the first steam train go?

Who drove the first steam train?

How much coal do they use?

Ruby H:

Why did they design the train?

 

 

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5 comments on “Full Steam Ahead: some questions

  1. Will try to answer some of these, from the Bluebell Railway, Sussex, but not today, because we’re busy running Santa Specials, and Reindeer specials today!

  2. I’ve enjoyed answering your questions! What a lot there were, but all very good questions!
    First a bit of explanation about trains:
    A steam train has a steam engine (sometimes called a locomotive) on the front, which provides the power. The passengers travel in carriages hauled by the engine, or if it is a goods train, wagons were used to carry parcels, fruit, fuel, building materials or milk, or even cows and other farm animals. A steam train has a driver, a fireman (who puts coal on the fire) and a guard (nowdays often called a conductor), who is responsible for the safety of the train.

    Here are the answers:

    >Kiran:
    >How fast are steam trains?
    The fastest was “Mallard”, 126mph. However steam trains rarely went above 100mph. 60mph was more normal for express trains, and much slower (maybe only 20mph) for goods trains.

    >How are steam trains made?
    In a large locomotive works. There were many of these in the UK, both belonging to the many different railway companies that existed 100 years ago, and private companies too. You had to have a foundry to cast the wheels and cylinders, a forge to make axles and connecting rods, a boiler shop (workshop) to make the boilers, an erecting shop where everything was put together, and a paint shop to paint it. You also needed a team of designers and draughtsmen to make the drawings, from which the locomotives were made. You might have had 1000 people working on it!

    >How long does it take to get from station to station?
    It depends how far apart the stations are; sometimes not much longer than on a train today. On the Bluebell Railway it takes about 10 to 15 minutes to get from one station to the next.

    >How much coal does it take to fire up a steam train?
    It depends on the size of the engine. The smallest engine we have on the Bluebell, “Captain Baxter” will steam on a few shovel-fulls of coal, but one of our larger ones might need half a ton.

    >Charlie T:
    >How can you drive a steam train?
    You can sometimes pay to be a driver for an hour or a day, on one of the many heritage steam railways. Or, since most of these railways are run by volunteers, you can train to be a driver – but it takes many years to learn – you start as a cleaner, and then learn to be a fireman, putting the coal and water into the engine, and then learn to be a driver, which is a very responsible position, because you are responsible for the safety of hundreds of other people!

    >Kalisha:
    >What is the important bit of the steam train?
    The steam engine on the front of the train is most important, since it makes it go. The boiler is the most important part of a steam engine, since that’s where the steam is generated (by burning coal) to power the engine.

    >Morgan:
    >Who invented the steam train?
    A difficult question! James Watt is thought to be the first person to notice that you could use steam to create mechanical power, but his engines were static pumping engines, used to pump water out of tin and coal mines.
    The first railway locomotive was built by Richard Trevithick in 1804.
    Some early locomotives were built in 1813-1814 by engineer William Hedley, enginewright Jonathan Forster and blacksmith Timothy Hackworth for Wylam Colliery near Newcastle upon Tyne. Their “Puffing Billy” is the world’s oldest surviving steam locomotive, employed to haul coal wagons from the mine at Wylam to the docks at Lemington-on-Tyne in Northumberland.
    The most famous though were George Stephenson, and his son Robert, who built the first really successful designs of locomotive, “Rocket”, in 1829, and “Planet” the following year, for the Liverpool and Manchester Railway.

    >How much oil does a steam train have?
    Steam trains are usually powered by coal. Our largest locomotives carry 5 tons of coal. But they also use maybe 10 galllons (20 litres) of oil, for lubrication, so that all the mechanical parts slide smoothly over each other, and don’t get worn out.

    >Holly:
    >Where can you still get steam trains?
    There are over 100 heritage railways, many of them running steam trains, all over the UK. Ours, the Bluebell Railway, is South of London, and is one of the biggest, but is still run by volunteers.
    There is a good map, showing most of them here:
    http://www.heritage-railways.com/map.php

    >Grace C:
    >Do steam trains go chug chug or choo choo?
    Both – it’s the steam which powers them, going up the chimney which goes “Chug Chug”. They also have a whistle which the driver sounds when the train is starting, or if he sees someone alongside the track, which goes “Choo Choo”.
    Of course, in the top left-hand corner of Wales they go “psshh-ti-kum”.

    >Tolomy:
    >How many seats are there on a train?
    It depends how big the train is. Our smallest trains on the Bluebell Railway carry about 70 people, in one carriage, and our largest can carry 330 people, in six carriages.

    >How far do trains go?
    Our trains run 11 miles on the Bluebell Railway. On the main line you can go from Penzance to Thurso… the whole length of the country!

    >Daisy:
    >Where do steam trains go to put coal in the train?
    They go to a locomotive shed – we have one on the Bluebell Railway. We use a fork-lift truck to lift half a ton of coal at a time, which is then tipped into the bunker.

    >Where do the trains travel to?
    Our trains travel between Sheffield Park and East Grinstead. There are some steam trains which run on the main line, and you can sometimes get a steam train from London to York, or from Birmingham to Wales. They go all over the place!

    >Maja:
    >How much energy does a steam train have?
    The biggest engines are very powerful, and have the power of 2000 horses.

    >How many miles can a steam train go?
    The largest engines can go all the way from London to Edinburgh on a single load of coal. They used to pick up water without stopping, but now they have to stop every hour or so for water.

    >How many different steam trains are there in the world?
    Many hundreds! Probably thousands.

    >What are trains made of?
    Steam locomotives are mainly made of iron, steel, brass and copper. The carriages are made of steel and timber. Modern trains are made of aluminium and plastic.

    >Grace S:
    >How do you control a train? How do you stop a train?
    You make a steam engine go by opening the “regulator” – this lets steam into the cylinders, which turn the wheels. The driver also controls a “reverser” which adjusts the speed, and also makes the train go backwards. Unlike a car, a train can go as fast backwards as forwards. It is guided by the rails, so does not have to be steered.
    Stopping a train is much harder than starting it, and is the real skill the driver has to learn. The locomotive has brakes, and also controls brakes on the carriages. If the train is going very fast it can take several miles to stop, so it has to start to slow down a long way before the station it is stopping at.

    >How do you do the driving lessons?
    It takes many years to learn, but engine drivers are always happy to help teach new drivers! You have to learn how to be a fireman (to put coal and water into the engine) first.

    >Ciaran:
    >When did the first steam train get built? Where?
    In 1804 at Penydarren in South Wales

    >Rashmi:
    >How do the doors open?
    On an old steam train you have to open the doors yourself, using a door handle. Sometimes the handle is only on the outside, so you have to open the window to be able to reach out to turn the door-handle.

    >How much steam comes from the train?
    When a steam locomotive is working hard it might convert 30 gallons (135 litres) of water into steam to travel a mile. All of the water is turned into steam, so that’s 135 kg of steam in a mile.

    >How fast are they? How big are they?
    On a heritage line they are limited to 25 mph. On the main line in the UK they are now allowed to run at 75 mph, and earlier this year one was allowed to go at 90mph. The fastest in the world was a British streamlined locomotive “Mallard” which reached 126mph.
    The smallest of our locomotives are only 6m long, and the largest are 20m long. They are 2.5m wide and up to 4m high.

    >Morris:
    >What does the coal do?
    The coal is burnt in a “firebox” and the heat is used to boil water, to make steam in the boiler. The steam is kept under pressure, and when it is allowed into the cylinders it pushes the pistons to make the wheels go round.

    >Isaac:
    >How many days does it take to build one train?
    Originally it would only have take a few weeks to build. Now there are very few steam locomotives being built. We are building a new one on the Bluebell Railway, and it will take about 15 years, since we have to raise a lot of money to do it, and build it ourselves!

    >How far can it go without steam?
    Not very far, since without steam the brakes will come on!

    >How many years have trains been around for?
    The first trains were made about 350 years ago, but were pushed short distances by men or hauled by horses. Steam locomotives were first used about 200 years ago, and electric trains were first used just over 100 years ago. Diesel locomotives started to be used about 70 years ago. Steam locomotives stopped being used on ordinary trains about 50 years ago.

    >Noah:
    >Are there some trains that go all around the world?
    The longest train journey is the Trans-Siberian Express, across Russia, which goes about a quarter of the way around the world. There are also trains right across Europe, across China, some in Africa, across Australia, and across America. There are however none in Antarctica!

    >How much does a train weigh?
    A steam locomotive can weigh 20 tons for a very old, small one, up to 130 tons for a very large one. The whole train, for passengers, can weigh 500 tons, and if its a freight train can be 2000 tons.

    >Elijah:
    >What country did they start designing steam trains?
    It all started here in the UK (actually in Wales).

    >What was the name of the person who first designed one?
    Richard Trevithick, who came from Cornwall.

    >What year was it?
    1804

    >Charlie R:
    >How long is a steam train?
    A short train might only be 25m long. The longest train we run on the Bluebell Railway is 130m long. The locomotives are between 6m and 20m long.

    >Where do they get coal from?
    We used to get coal from Kent, Yorkshire or Scotland. Now we get some from Wales, and some from Poland. The best coal for a steam engine has always been from Wales.

    >Luka:
    >Where did the first steam train go?
    It ran from Penydarren Iron Works, Merthyr Tydfil to Abercynon on The Merthyr Tramway in South Wales.

    >Who drove the first steam train?
    Richard Trevithick, who had designed and built the locomotive, drove it on the first journey, which was the result of a bet between the owners of two iron works in the same valley.

    >How much coal do they use?
    On the Bluebell Railway our engines use anything up to 5 tons of coal in a day, depending on how big the engine is, and how far it has to go.
    An express engine would use about 20kg of coal for each mile.

    >Ruby H:
    >Why did they design the train?
    Trains, travelling on rails, need a lot less energy to move them than a cart travelling along a track, and a lot of wagons could be put behind a single engine. The first trains were built to carry coal and iron ore, very heavy loads, which were much easier to move on rails, and a lot faster than canals, which had been used previously.

    ****************************************

    You can see more about our steam engines on the Bluebell Railway at:
    http://www.bluebell-railway.co.uk/bluebell/loco_operational.html

  3. Pingback: Questions about steam trains | kingfisherclassblog

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