Seltzer on wheels

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Seltzer on wheels

Postby chnhrr » Sat Mar 14, 2009 9:40 pm

A few months ago I purchased a copy of Fred Westing’s “The Locomotive that Baldwin Built”. I was astonished the see a small unit developed by Baldwin for the Minnesota, Lyndale and Minnetonka that ran on soda. I’ve drunken enough soda in my life to know of its reactive force, but I didn’t think there was enough force to drive a motor. How did this work? Obviously the technology did not prove entirely successful, but who knows, it could be used on today’s eco friendly cars.
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Re: Seltzer on wheels

Postby Allen Hazen » Sat Mar 14, 2009 10:41 pm

Maybe not the drinkable kind of soda...
I recall seeing the picture in Westing's book. I don't know for sure anything about the technical details, but I can guess. The basic machinery of a steam locomotive-- pistons, connecting rods, valve gear etc-- can run on any pressurized gas. This can be steam generated in an on-board boiler, steam from a stationary boiler stored in an on-board tank, compressed air (small-- industrial rather than mainline-- compressed air locomotives, with an air tank instead of a boiler, were I think not uncommon in industrial applications like mines where having a fire could be dangerous: since the working parts are cooled rather than heated, compressed air locomotives may have had different lubrication problems from steamers', but the basic principles are the same), CO2 from a block of dry ice in the tender (I think this was tried by a model railroader).... So some sort of chemical gas generator would be another option: replace boiler with a reaction chamber where chemicals that produce gas when mixed can be mixed.

....In principle, I suppose you could use drinking soda: fill the boiler with Coca Cola, have some mechanism for spraying in granulated sugar! For a practical locomotive, though...

(The "eco friendly" bit may be relevant. A lot of early non-steam locomtives were built in order to eliminate a smoke nuisance, particularly in urban areas: many of the Alco-GE-IR diesel switchers of the 1920s were sold to railroads trying to comly with New York City's smoke laws. My guess is that, if we knew more about the Minnesota (?are you sure it wasn't Minneapolis?) Lyndale and Minnetonka, we'd find out that it EITHER switched an industry that was antsy about sparks that might cause explosions -- grain elevators come to mind -- OR it operated in an urban environment where the voting neighbors didn't like coal smoke: either could lead to the use of a non-steam locomotive, even one whose technology wasn't competitive in other applications.)
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Re: Seltzer on wheels

Postby Allen Hazen » Sat Mar 14, 2009 10:48 pm

Isn't Google marvelous?
http://www.trolleyride.org/CHSL_Main/history.html
The Minneapolis, Lyndale and Minnetonka was basically a street-car line that ran with steam "dummy" locomotives, but found that steam locomotives were "unpopular". So the soda locomotive was probably an experiment in an effort to find a smokeless locomotive. Eventually trolley-wire was strung...
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Re: Seltzer on wheels

Postby Allen Hazen » Sat Mar 14, 2009 11:10 pm

More Googling...
http://www.dself.dsl.pipex.com/MUSEUM/L ... a/soda.htm
I was wrong in my guess about the technology: the chemical reaction (involving CAUSTIC Soda, a.k.a. lye) was not used directly to generate gas: it was used to produce heat to boil water. Exhaust steam was fed into the chemical reactor (an outer tank surrounding the boiler), so my guess as to the MOTIVE for this motive power was right: smokeless, and silent since exhaust was not to the air.

(The site hosting the page I've linked to here, b.t.w., has LOTS of weird and wonderful locomotives....)
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Re: Seltzer on wheels

Postby chnhrr » Sun Mar 15, 2009 1:27 pm

Thanks Allen for the information and interesting links. You are right; the trolley line was called the Minneapolis, Lyndale and Minnetonka. I’m surprised that Baldwin even entertained developing this unit, but given this was constructed in the grand age of experimentation, it would seem reasonable.

Three years ago I visited the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania and saw the Heisler 0-8-0 “Fireless” type steam locomotive which originally belonged to Pennsylvania Power & Light during the 1940’s. Prior to the visit, I had no idea that this type of “thermos bottle” steam engine existed. Did Baldwin ever produce a “fireless” steam loco? As of yet, I haven’t located one in Westing’s book.

I find these unique engines fascinating.

Chuck
Alexandria, Virginia
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Re: Seltzer on wheels

Postby Allen Hazen » Mon Mar 16, 2009 4:44 am

http://www.nrhs.com/web_exclusives/fireless_cooker/
says that Baldwin built two types of fireless steam locomotives, doesn't say how many or when. This part of the steam locomotive market seems to have been dominated (in the U.S.) by minor builders, in particular Porter.
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Re: Seltzer on wheels

Postby alchemist » Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:32 am

Fascinating! Just to bring this technology closer to home (in the home, actually), caustic soda (also called lye or sodium hydroxide) is the active ingredient in Drano and similar drain cleaners. In addition to its ability to chemically dissolve grease, it releases vast amounts of heat when it dissolves in the water that's in the drain. It can easily cause boiling and reflux of the caustic solution up from the drain and into a careless user's eyes.

As an aside, some drain cleaners contain chips of aluminum in addition to the lye. Aluminum reacts with lye in solution to produce hydrogen gas which adds to the physical action to dislodge the blockage. Don't smoke while using one of them!

Shakespeare said "Double, double, toil and trouble / Fire burn and cauldron bubble."
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Re: Seltzer on wheels

Postby GSC » Thu Apr 09, 2009 2:12 pm

I'm wondering how the reactions of soda-acid (like those old turn-upside-down fire extinguishers) would work to bring up some fast pressure, rather than be used for a heat source to boil and pressurize some other medium. Those old fire extinguishers could whip up some pressure in a hurry. Curious as to how it could be sustained in pressure vessel use.
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