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 Post subject: Steam trains could die out because of government crackdown..
PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2019 4:37 pm 

Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2004 7:52 am
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Location: Strasburg, PA
Saw this from the London Telegraph. Certainly, this is in our future as well, it's really just a question of how distant is it? It's interesting that there seems to be no environmental aspect (at least for steam locomotives directly), just whether the one mine (or whatever) still open in England will gouge steam railroaders once they have a monopoly.

"The comforting chug of a steam train may be left in the past under government plans to crack down on coal, heritage railway operators have warned.

As the country moves towards a carbon-neutral future, officials plan to shut down every coal plant in the UK by 2025.

Members of the £400m steam train industry have said they face an "uncertain future" and have asked for government help, as they fear the coal price rises that will be caused by the plant shutdown will put them out of business.

Conservative councillor Thomas Smith, who drives a steam train in Norfolk said: "Every railway enthusiast needs to write to their MP, and create a big stink.

"Britain is burning so little coal now it's almost all gone from electric generation, time to tackle coal abroad and oil fuels at home..."

Graeme Bunker, who works on a steam train, added: "It’s the cost of fuel not the legislation. It also includes a lot of virtue signalling when their are much bigger issues to manage than folks with open fires in the shires. In cities I see the point, but in the country it won’t be popular."

Industry groups have said a drop in demand for coal could see supply drop in the same way, which has sparked fears that prices will rise.

Ian Crowder, from Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway, told the BBC: "It's all very well the government gives us reassurances but those reassurances needs to be in legislation."

He said heritage railways were "an important tourism attraction for the UK" that bring in millions of visitors.

The steam train worker added that the amount of coal used by steam trains is negligible in terms of the UK's carbon footprint.

He said: "It’s the law of unintended consequences: no-one including government wants railways to be affected but if other coal use disappears that would be the effect. UK currently uses 12m tonnes coal pa - railways use just 26,000 tonnes pa".

A Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spokesman said: "Our policy of phasing out coal in our power system by 2025 will not restrict its use for heritage railways.

"They will be able to continue to source coal either through domestic suppliers or imports.'"

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 Post subject: Re: Steam trains could die out because of government crackdo
PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2019 5:14 pm 
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Location: MA
I guess you will have to run F40PHs at Strausberg then. It's not like steam locomotives can burn other things right?


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 Post subject: Re: Steam trains could die out because of government crackdo
PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2019 5:23 pm 

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Maggie Thatcher strikes again!!!


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 Post subject: Re: Steam trains could die out because of government crackdo
PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2019 5:31 pm 

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Location: Northern WV
I guess they could take the route of the Big Boy & convert to oil firing.

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 Post subject: Re: Steam trains could die out because of government crackdo
PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2019 5:44 pm 

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The part of the post that got my attention was 12m tonnes coal pa - railways use just 26,000 tonnes pa".
There is no way the price will not rise. The railroads use 0.2 percent of the coal produced. I even wonder if any mines would stay open.
They may have to convert to oil if this goes through.


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 Post subject: Re: Steam trains could die out because of government crackdo
PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2019 6:42 pm 

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Besides conversion to oil there is compressed sawdust logs (presto logs) aka bio-mass. Our local museum plans to fire their former Northern Pacific 0-6-0 on them. The ones they are looking at have the same fuel value as soft coal. In part the decision was based on the unavailability of steam coal in less than train load lots in the western US.


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 Post subject: Re: Steam trains could die out because of government crackdo
PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2019 7:57 pm 

Joined: Mon Aug 23, 2004 9:04 am
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Location: Lawrence, Mass.
John T wrote:
Besides conversion to oil there is compressed sawdust logs (presto logs) aka bio-mass. Our local museum plans to fire their former Northern Pacific 0-6-0 on them. The ones they are looking at have the same fuel value as soft coal. In part the decision was based on the unavailability of steam coal in less than train load lots in the western US.


I have to assume that's Northern Pacific 924 (of the four surviving NP 0-6-0s, she's the only one I'm aware of that is currently being restored to operate), but I thought she was being converted to oil?

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 Post subject: Re: Steam trains could die out because of government crackdo
PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2019 8:47 pm 

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Nope, the 924 will burn presto logs.


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 Post subject: Re: Steam trains could die out because of government crackdo
PostPosted: Fri Aug 09, 2019 9:32 pm 

Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2004 7:52 am
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Location: Strasburg, PA
John T wrote:
Nope, the 924 will burn presto logs.
What is the cost per ton of bulk presto logs?

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 Post subject: Re: Steam trains could die out because of government crackdo
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2019 1:59 am 

Joined: Sun Apr 05, 2015 1:28 am
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Location: Ipswich, UK
There's 8 pages worth on this subject on the UK National Preservation Forum if you fancy a bit of a read.....
https://www.national-preservation.com/t ... e.1241955/
It does contain some links to official reports on the subject (as well as a lot of standard Forum wibble...)

Preserved Railways (+ other heritage coal burning operators, eg Traction Engine owners) are going to be indirectly hit with the forced elimination of coal use in other sectors. With a declining market, the few remaining UK coal mining operations are expected to shut down as a result, meaning that any coal supplies will end up being imported. The coal is still there underground in various parts of the UK, it's just uneconomic to mine the stuff in the smallish quantities that will be required for the "heritage" sector.

There is no outright ban on the use of coal proposed (as yet...), but several preserved lines could be classed as somewhat borderline financial operations, so a hike in the cost of coal supplies could push some "over the edge".

The Heritage Railway Association are currently active in finding a solution to it all, if possible, and it is something that is receiving a much higher Public profile in the past couple of months (ie the Telegraph article)

Coal is hardly used here for electricity generation now and yesterday we had a serious power grid outage accross the southern UK - hopefully not the shape of things to come..... (yesterdays culprits being a gas-fired power station and a wind farm, from what I've seen so far this morning)

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 Post subject: Re: Steam trains could die out because of government crackdo
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2019 5:39 am 

Joined: Fri Aug 27, 2004 4:02 pm
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I've been saying this for over five years now, that any group planning a major steam locomotive restoration should seriously consider doing it with a liquid bio-fuel firing system. Whatever our small group might think about coal, that feeling is not shared by the public at-large. The Grand Canyon does it successfully (granted, they are owned by a corporation that provides food service to our western national parks with access to large quantities of used fry oil), and that could show the way for other operations to go.


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 Post subject: Re: Steam trains could die out because of government crackdo
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2019 10:51 am 

Joined: Tue Sep 14, 2004 7:52 am
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Location: Strasburg, PA
RCD wrote:
I guess you will have to run F40PHs at Strausberg then. It's not like steam locomotives can burn other things right?
Hardly. The eventuality of coal no longer being viable is why we have been collecting information, both historic on tradional oil burning systems for steam locomotives, and modern on using vegitable oil for fuel, following the Grand Canyon's lead.

The changeover has already started in the US, albeit for fire risk reduction. All of the Grand Canyon's locomotives were coal burners when they arrived in Williams. Heber is converting UP #618 to oil fuel, Durango is converting #493, and UP has converted both #3985 and #4014. I suppose that we are backward in that we converted BEDT #15 from oil to coal when she had her gender reassignment surgery to become Thomas. If I'm not mistaken, Cass converted a shay from oil to coal.

I grew up in coal country, hearing about how the US has a 300 year supply of coal, how the vein under central Utah is thirty five feet thick, and in years past wondered if centuries after my death, if the then current management of the Strasburg Rail Road could finagle a way for the last shipment of coal mined on the planet to be brought here so it could be burned in #90. Now days though, I'll be surprised if our engines aren't converted to vegitable oil in my lifetime.

For the times, they are a-changin'.

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 Post subject: Re: Steam trains could die out because of government crackdo
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2019 2:04 pm 
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Just for the heck of it, is it possible to buy charcoal BBQ briquettes in bulk and if so, how does their cost compare to various forms of fuel oil?

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 Post subject: Re: Steam trains could die out because of government crackdo
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2019 3:23 pm 

Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2017 11:33 am
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The one thing currently in the US that might help heritage railroads hold out a bit longer with coal, is the prevalence of coal heating that exists in some homes. Currently its estimated in the US that there are 130,000 homes still using coal for heat (https://www.npr.org/2019/03/03/69932556 ... still-king). I know there are government type rebates to upgrade homes to more modern heating, but the small hold out might just be enough to keep a few mines still running on a smaller scale. It might be just enough to keep the heritage railroad industry running with coal for just a bit longer.

The next is a developing tech, using coal as a carbon source for composite materials. Again, the amount of coal mines needed to support a carbon fiber industry would be minuscule compared to the modern day amount operating, but again it might just be enough to still be producing the coal the heritage industry needs (http://compositesmanufacturingmagazine. ... bon-fiber/).

But is it worth it? Personally I think compared to the large coal generating plants still in operation, and the millions of gas burning cars on the road right now; the heritage rail industry's impact on pollution is incredibly minuscule. But, I think as environmental issues take more of the center stage the need to convert to natural gas/fuel oil/bio fuel will become more prevalent. NIMBYs might forget the coal power plant 200 miles away, but they might not be so forgiving to the steam engine running at the railroad across the street. As already mentioned, Grand Canyon is running fun on bio fuels. Disney runs the two busiest narrow gauge railroads in the nation off bio fuels too. So its obvious the tech is out there and proven in use.

Not to mention the fire risks of coal are going to become an increasing issue in the western states. I think everyone here is familiar with the circus going on with the Durango lawsuit, and if switching to oil or biofuel is a preventative measure against such lawsuits in the future I think its a wise investment for wildfire country. Its important to note that many western roads (SP, WP, LASL) all had long oil fired divisions; which while mostly due to economic reasons, also had the happy side benefit of preventing line side fire. So the precedence for using something other than coal goes back all the way to the steam age.

TL:DR I wouldn't count coal out yet as an option for heritage railroads, but its going to become increasingly more difficult to procure and use as the future marches on.


Last edited by xboxtravis7992 on Sun Aug 11, 2019 10:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Steam trains could die out because of government crackdo
PostPosted: Sat Aug 10, 2019 4:13 pm 

Joined: Sun Sep 05, 2004 9:48 am
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Location: Byers, Colorado
I know everybody must be tired of hearing me harp on this, BUT, all the photos of steam engines puking artificially thick, nauseating, FILTHY BLACK SMOKE are not helping our cause. For some reason the general public, and especially the enviro-dogooders, have gotten the idea that steam locomotives cause excess pollution….

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