Two Decades Ago in Popular Mechanics (Jan, 1924)

I’m pretty sure there are better ways to generate electricity on a train than using a windmill, maybe even ones that work when it’s not moving.

Two Decades Ago in Popular Mechanics

WHEN Popular Mechanics Magazine surveyed the field of invention a score of years ago, 1904 was just dawning, full of promise for the world in general. The past twelve months had seen the growth of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition at St. Louis, that was to memorialize a century of progress.

In industry, the mining world marveled at a giant sand wheel weighing a million pounds that was to lift gravel, water, and sand from a stamp mill to a trough 65 feet in the air. Locomotives were expected by one inventor to help light the passenger trains they hauled, by means of a rotary fan that operated from contact with the wind.

Speed in transportation, then as now, was sought by the traffic world and an electric car was built that attained 80 miles an hour in test.

5 comments
  1. Hirudinea says: August 10, 20126:20 pm

    That idea for generating electricity from a windmill on a train might work if it was hooked up to a battery bank, hey the idea worked on the ME-163.

  2. Stephen says: August 11, 20125:39 am

    It was also used on the Handley-Page 42 airliner in the 1930s. However, both those machines operated at a higher speed than the average steam train, and stopped at stations less often.

  3. Zeppflyer says: August 13, 20122:13 am

    It also worked on the Graf Zeppelin, which moved at very much the same speed. (Though I think she may have also had a back up generator motor.)

    I guess that the advantage to this system is that it is very easily retrofitted to existing locomotives. Just bolt it on the front, run some wires, and away you go.

  4. DrewE says: August 13, 20128:23 am

    The usual approach, at least on later steam locomotives, was to have a separate little steam engine (or perhaps turbine?) that drove a dynamo. The fan thing may be slightly more efficient if the locomotive isn’t very aerodynamically clean to begin with, as it doesn’t directly consume steam. It does still have other obvious disadvantages, of course.

    At the risk of going well off-subject, the (British) Great Eastern Railway used the Tower spherical steam engine in this capacity: http://www.douglas-self…

  5. Zeppflyer says: August 15, 20128:50 am

    Drew, you’ll be hearing from my lawyers. Thanks to you, I spent half the morning yesterday reading about rotary steam engines. I’m suing for the return of this time. :)

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