Steampunk Basics: A (Really) Quick Tour of Steam Power

A Stanley Steamer: the steam-powered car

 

It All Starts, Like So Many Things, In Ancient Greece:

Hero of Alexandria (also known as Heron, rather like Diddy is also P. Diddy or Puff Daddy) started it all with his design of a steam-powered device called an aeollipile, or Hero-engine.  It was never given a practical application (it's been said he intended the device as a toy) and yet the seed was planted...

The cauldron on the bottom gets hot, the steam rises,

and the ball dances -- a simple toy


Wait about 2,000 years and then...

1679: the pressure cooker
1698: the first crude steam engine
1769: James Watt improves the steam engine.  The result?  Just a little thing we like to call the Industrial Revolution.  

Watt's engine, which brought us affordable

mass-produced goods and sweatshops alike

 

The High-Pressure Steam Engine

Richard Trevithick created the next innovation, the high-powered steam engine, sometime in the early 1800s (that pre-Victorian time called the Regency).  Now steam engines could be both more powerful and smaller. 

I am including this picture of a boiler simply because it seems to be wearing goggles!!!

 

Applications:

The Steam-Powered Bicycle;
The Locomotive;

And finally something a bit more, well, modern day, especially if you've been following the news from Japan:







Yes -- steam power plays a role in today's nuclear power plants.  Nuclear energy only produces HEAT.  Only when the heat produces STEAM is useful energy generated.  Without Hero/Heron and James Watt and all the rest, Homer Simpson wouldn't have a job.  And isn't that a chilling thought?

Views: 375

Comment by Jon Hartless on May 28, 2011 at 9:00am
Is the Stanley Steamer parked at the Black Country Museum, by any chance?
Comment by Stephanie Abbott on May 28, 2011 at 9:42am
Yes!  When I am hard up for images that won't offend the copyright gods, I often turn to Wikipedia Commons, all of which is acceptable for reuse.
Comment by Jon Hartless on May 28, 2011 at 1:48pm
Thought I recognised the corner of the building... well worth a visit if you ever get the chance.

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