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Steam Tractor of Modern Design

Posted by LarryMAden 
Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 13, 2015 10:49PM
I am looking for folks interested in collaboration on a two-wheeled walking garden tractor project for use in under-developed countries.
Larry M. Aden
2694 - 180th Street, Nemaha, IA 50567
105 East Main Street, Jolley, IA 50551
Cell phone number: 712-661-8467
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 14, 2015 12:34PM

This should be a relatively simple project. Maybe a one or two cylinder Westinghouse style engine and an Ofledt style boiler. A vapor tension thermostat could control feed water delivery to the drum and a Bourdon tube might regulate the damper. You could skip a condenser and use a steam jet to induce draft or attach an air-compressor style flywheel with fan to provide combustion air.....


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/14/2015 12:36PM by frustrated.
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 14, 2015 04:34PM
Dear Larry, If this were an easy project we would all have one of them. On the other hand, all of the components are around and our club has the experience to assist. Be prepared for many different opinions, all mutually exclusive and heartfelt. Secondly, you are always welcome to come to my shop and library and look at all of the kinds of boilers and engines that are available. That is the best place to start. Also Ross Hilgendorf has the parts for something similar up in Southern Minnesota. I suggest that you start with the burner and then the boiler and then the engine. Let us know what kind of fuel you are thinking of. Kubota makes some nice machines like this but diesel fuel is needed and it is very expensive, so I am assuming something like wood. In which case a good clean wood burner is the place to start, a down draft type similar to a John Wetz design that can be top loaded and then a monotube or Ofeldt boiler and on from there. Welcome to the steam world and good luck. Tom Kimmel
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 14, 2015 10:09PM
Just to stimulate conversation, throw some ideas out and generate some discussion about what kind of system is actually needed for the application; I am posting the following and assuming a conversion engine to keep initial costs low...


Might be possible to do a conversion with a new cast cylinder head...


Ofledt boiler


Gravity fed hoppers can deliver fuel to the burner grate without a stoker. The Germans and Russians built some trucks that were fired this way except that they put a diagonal floor on the bottom of the hopper rather than the grate and had the floor direct the fuel into the grate (which was positioned directly beneath the boiler).
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 16, 2015 05:14PM
Ok, don't laugh too hard, but this is a practical design for the application. 2 + 2 X 3 twin simple engine, connected via roller chain to a jack-shaft.

Wood burning, even has a seat for the fireman/engineer, or the operator has to stop frequently.
Ofeldt boiler. 250 psi operating pressure. Exhaust up stack for forced draft.
No electronics
No pneumatic tires, Oliver style tiptoe wheels.
Water capacity for a few hours running.
Easy and inexpensive to build.
Large flat baffled water tank design for low center of gravity for hilly terrain.
Easy to operate and very easy to maintain. Just keep chunking wood in the firebox and tend the water.
Locomobile style differential (with shields) and axles.
All up weight around 800 lbs.


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/16/2015 08:12PM by IronChief.

Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 18, 2015 03:25PM
Thank you, so much, Gentlemen, for participating in this discussion, and for your helpful ideas.

As I am new to your group, and would like to come to know all of you, well, I would only request that you provide as complete contact information as possible on yourself and anyone that you mention in your posts, as well as any other personal information that you might care to share with me.
Let me dial that last statement back one notch, we probably don't need to share any information about our southernmost bodily ends.

I am, of course, not without some of my own ideas, also, having pondered this question for far too long, without hardly turning a wheel toward it's practical completion.

One must first consider and fully comprehend the problem(s) to be solved, or, in other words, the work to be accomplished by the finished product.

ANSWER: Every automotive, tractive or stationary power task that ever enters into the mind of a farmer, in the swamps of Ilha do Marajao, Brasil, to the top terrace in the Himalayas of Nepal, in short, everything!

Always remember that poverty-stricken subsistence farmers in under-developed countries, do not have an over-abundance of investment capital to buy a whole lot of separate pieces of motorized equipment, like a tractor, and a truck, and a light plant, and irrigation pumps.
They are lucky to afford one motor.
So, this one machine must be highly adaptable to accomplish any task which presents itself, on the farm, in the forest or on the road.
In fact, they will end up spending as much time on the road as off, pulling trailers, hauling workers and consumables to the farms, and the commodity production, out to market.
So, it would seem an imperative to have pneumatic tires, yet, the Third World is fraught with field, forest and road hazards, which will surely leave them stranded, somewhere, without a round wheel to run on, so it would seem prudent to opt for the dependability of steel wheels. Yet, both steel or rubber traction lugged wheels would give an awful rough ride and wear excessively, on paved roads, and smooth steel wheels would offer no traction in soft dirt. Tho' wheels can be changed, and made to be quick disconnect, that all presents more cost, time and a jack or jackstand, and one cannot carry a full trailer load of wheels and tools, along, everywhere one goes. A hybrid wheel system seems the most logic answer to this problem.
Similarly, straight solid axles, steel power transmission components, locked differentials and a whole mess of unsprung weight is a great idea for the field and forest, but not so much, on a hard-surfaced road. Also, the most uneducated, inexperienced and careless operators imaginable, in such countries, where one will be stuck traveling for many hours, on standing room only buses, to distant cities, to retrieve very expensive and sparse choices in replacement parts, can destroy more steel than they can carry, in a heartbeat.
Therefore, belt drives are a simpler, better, quieter, smoother, more versatile and more readily replaceable option for power transmission.
In a pinch, a belt can be hand-woven from locally-produced vegetable or animal fibers, or even from every imaginable synthetic polymer scavenged from the trash.
My brother and I once drove 80 miles with a pair of nylon pantyhose cooling his 430 Buick engine!
Further, the utter simplicity and economical cost of a large water supply in a pressure vessel, no boiler feed pump and no condenser would seem fabulous, in a region where both water and fuel are plentiful, but not so much, in a desert, or in any under-developed country, as they are most usually so poor, because they have no energy, or no water, or neither.
Also, remember that these are not steam engineers.
So, a very small amount of working fluid, inside of monotube flash boilers and condensers, with precisely metered automatic boiler feed pumps, is the best and safest option, for all concerned.
Assorted types of BIOMASS are what they will likely have the most of, for fuels. Yet, the boiler should offer the maximum amount of options for heat generation, especially to utilize compressed and low-pressure locally-generated gaseous fuels, like Producer Gas (PG) and methane (Renewable Natural Gas, RNG).
Tho' I am not a steam expert, neither am I a novice.
I am convinced there is an acceptable answer to every problem, have resolved many, yet I just have not settled on such a truly inspired design that I felt compelled to build it.
I do own my own machine and fabrication shop, but, as we all know, "The cobbler's kids have no shoes."
But, nearly two decades of thinking about this has at least refined my design parameters:

1. Inexpensive Manufacture - Primarily, utilizes cheap and widely available ferrous metals and alloys, wherever weight is not an issue.
Wherever weight is an issue, it should make greatest possible use of the cheapest, most readily weldable and malleable, yet noblest, possible, aluminum or its alloys.
Wherever structural strength is required maximum use of hot rolled, cold roll-formed or extruded profiles, of the appropriate metal, should be made.
Wherever hollow profiles are required preference should be given to the cheapest and most widely available metal and industrial production processes that will meet the need, for instance, welded pipe for structurals versus DOM tubing for pressure containment, or off-the-shelf copper tubing versus aluminum tubing for condensers or stainless steel tubing for boilers.

2. Maximum Facility of Maintenance and Repair - In any case, the units should leave the factory, with the right metal for the job, but be designed to be repaired or replaced with that which is widely available, and, with the greatest possible ease.
If we don't think that the monotube boiler or condenser, which leaves the factory with stainless or aluminum tubing will end its useful life with rolls of copper tubing with wire wrapped around the ends for ferrules, then we don't know much about life in the 'real' world.
Likewise, a farmer, who previously farmed with one grub hoe, one machete and one file to sharpen them both, is not likely to grow a complete set of tools, and the skills to use them, over-night.
So, every possible attention should be paid to every detail of the design, to make the unit most adaptable, maintainable and repairable, with a bare minimum of tools and skills.

3. Maximum Durability - Likewise, durability is key, because downtime is unproductive, even counterproductive, and expensive, and, it requires more of those non-existent tools and skills.
So, in most cases, liberal use of rolled steels and aluminum extrusions will serve better than iron or aluminum castings.

4. Maximum Facility of Manufacture - The entire machine should be replicable in the most rudimentary of deep backwoods workshops, like the Pashtun hand-built gunshops of Pakistan, with little more than a vise, a hand drill, a hacksaw and a file.
It must be manufactured with the maximum employment of cost-effective, dependable and widely available standard, off-the-shelf, precision machined components, like sealed, self-aligning bearings, which are commonly used in agricultural machinery, the world over.
Yet, it should use the minimum of total machining, and welding, and the maximum of pins, instead of bolts, and nuts, rather than threaded holes.
Even washers should be avoided, in favor of deformed or flanged locknuts.
Any design that minimizes the total number of parts, loss complexity or damage of parts, or maximizes less expensive manufacure, repair or replacement of the components, should be considered.

5. Maximum Utility - The frame should have an over-abundance of mounting holes, on all sides, which permit the rapid mounting of any imaginable attachments, both, currently available from other walking tractor attachment manufacturers, and a new line of super-adaptable and utilitarian attachment designs, with nothing but standard hitch pins as fasteners.

6. Maximum Adaptability -
a. The Power Unit, like those on current Asian walking tractor models, should be available, both, mounted on that tractor frame, or as an integral, stand-alone, stationary power unit, easily attached to any load, with nothing but standard bolts or hitch pins, but, also, as a light-weight power unit, for other automotive, aviation and marine applications, for maximum interchangeability of parts and economy of scale in manufacturing, with standard SAE mounting hole patterns, and, preferably, surface-flush power output shafts, to avoid the need for myriad safety shields, facing in all directions, preferably, all fitted to 'plug in' standard PTO stub shafts, of 1 1/8" or 1 3/8" - 6 splines, 1 3/4" - 21 spline, or any other current or future standardized drive, and any ancillary equipment, at will.
b. On the chassis, even the axles should have a quick-attach PTO splined terminus, and heavy fenders, that double as jackstands, to facilitate changing wheels or track widths, and converting the tractor to a stationary PTO drive application, very quickly.

7. Maximum Multi-Fuel Capability - Concentrating on the most labor and energy-free and dependable gravity-feed of biomass granules, from sawdust to wood pellets to shelled corn kernels and ground nut shells or crushed coconut palm husk and shell particles, or stoker coal, the boiler must also be capable of using hand-fed standard 16" firewood lengths.
It should also have some emergency capabilities for utilization of diesel or vegetable oils, gasolines or alcohols, and all gaseous fuels, especially Low-Pressure Producer Gas (LPPG), RNG, CNG, LPG or Butane.

Bizarrely, I now have come to believe that this miracle boiler can and should be made capable of making and efficiently burning Producer Gas, while, simultaneously, producing charcoal cooking fuel, for use, or sale.

The integral power unit should be capable of producing 20 taxable horsepower at 540 Rpm of the engine output shafts, at 150 PSI.

That is surely enough dreaming, for now.

Of course, at this late date, I have let the perfect be the enemy of the good, for far too long.

What would you do?
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 18, 2015 04:57PM
"The integral power unit should be capable of producing 20 taxable horsepower at 540 Rpm of the engine output shafts"

That would be much larger than a walk behind steam unit, that would be a traction engine. If I wanted one of these, I'd build the one I sketched with quite a bit of confidence that it would suffice to work moderate soil.

Boiler feed pumps are mandatory, even to produce five shaft horsepower results in about 1/2 gallon per minute of water consumption. 40 gallons makeup water would be good for a little over an hour under load.

Monotube boilers are fickle beasts beyond the scope of hand firing, they need electronic controls - sensors - batteries - wiring etc. The welded Ofeldt is a good candidate for your requirement - excellent steam generation for their weight, some reserve volume, good internal circulation, can be ran dry without damage.

Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 18, 2015 06:45PM
Thanks, Ron, I have found your contributions very useful and practical.

As we need to do dozer and subsoil ripper work with these, and the heaviest, most powerful Japanese and Chinese two-wheeled tractors (2WT), as well as the attachments made for those, are of 20 Hp diesels, I settled on that as my target.

What would you all think about one of my early ideas (from my scuba diving youth), of banking up steam in a spun-cast pressure vessel inside of a monotube coil?

I whole-heartedly resist the idea of putting any boiler with seams, of any kind, in the hands of anyone who has not graduated from steam school.
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 18, 2015 06:52PM
AH, not to stir the pot, BUT.
If you are going to burn wood chips already, why not just build a wood producer gas plant and stick with the existing engine? It certainly works.
Infinitely easier, might actually get done vs, some steam system, cheaper, and could actually be done quite easily on a commercial scale. Internet is loaded with information on wood producer gas systems.
Get Bill Gates to fund a thousand of them and distribute them free all over Africa and India

Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 18, 2015 08:01PM
One of the main issues with wood gasification is it takes much pre-processing of the fuel before it can be used. Large peices do not gasify efficiently, it needs to be cut in to small chips or blocks to provide adequate surface area, which requires a lot of energy up front. A hand fired steam boiler can run on anything that burns, fuel size and type is not so important.

Here is a diesel tractor trying to outpull a traction engine..


Didn't go as planned


Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/18/2015 08:28PM by IronChief.
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 18, 2015 10:11PM
Ya, I saw that video a while back, isn't it beautiful?

I already have a PG gasifier designed for the diesel tractors, I have run gasoline engines on my earlier designs, and I will build this one, but, as Ron mentioned PG units require small chunks of firewood that is unnaturally dry or kiln dried lumber scraps, or extremely large, expensive and cumbersome large-diameter flued condensers to clean the water vapor from the gas produced from wet wood scavenged from forests, so they are really not the answer for automotive or Third World applications.
I will put it to the test, but I do not expect that it will prove to be as practicable in reality as it might seem in the abstract.
I have been working tractors, and burning wood, since I was 3 years old, and I just once want to see one tractor that I can run all day long on whatever scrounged wood or biomass, without one drop of diesel fuel, the choking NOX, carbon black particulates in my nostrils and lungs, and that infernal rattling, vibrating, noise disturbing the simple, peaceful joy of fieldwork.

When I have achieved that, then I will have what the poorest farmers, all over the world need.

If you have Bill Gates' phone number, just send it to me, I will be happy to call him, so he can finally do something truly worthwhile with his money.
I know he thinks he is helping, but he is really just causing more misery thru dependency.
Henry David Thoreau once said, "There a thouand striking at the branches of every problem, for every one digging at the roots."
Farming teaches one to attack the roots of every weed.
That is what I intend to continue.
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 18, 2015 10:21PM
I always felt like those compressor fan pulleys would be a good and cheap 'supercharger' for the boiler, also.
I wish someone would make one like a Tesla turbine.

Has anyone here ever seriously looked at that Cyclone engine from Florida?
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 19, 2015 06:25AM

We are NOT going to discuss the Cyclone engine in any way, shape or form!!!

It's too much work to go back and delete posts.

This means YOU!!!! (You all know who you are)
Send me a Private Message if still interested.

As for "supercharging" a burner, you want to watch just how you do that. Pushing air into a burner is called "forced draft" and it has a nasty tendency to blow flames out the door you open to add wood....hence it typically is used in liquid fuelled applications. Another way of supplying air is "induced draft", you take a suction on the smoke stack (or whatever) and expel to atmosphere. This draws (induces) more air into the burner. Heck, you don't need a door to fire, the air flow will direct the flame the other way. As Ron mentioned, you exhaust the steam up the stack through a nozzle, this creates a jet pump to draw in the exhaust gasses. Simple enough, no moving parts. While condensing and recycling the water is nice, you have oil in the water after it passes through the engine. This oil, if returned to the boiler, will decompose and leave carbon deposits in the boiler tubes. First their efficiency drops and then the tube burns out because the deposit insulating effect prevents the water from carrying away heat in the metal.
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 19, 2015 09:33AM
The door on a wood firebox is quite important. What it does is seal the secondary stage of the combustion chamber. Draft air is then introduced under the fire through the grate, rather than over the top which would direct cold air right in the tubes in proximity of the door. Some coal fireboxes ala Locomotives introduce air above the fire to burn secondary gases, this is not required when burning wood.

A random note about burning wood with especially with induced draft. Keep the ashes removed. I've noticed over the years running my wood fired tug that as soon as I remove the ashes under the grate, the performance increases immediately. Took me a while to figure out why and it was simple. With the fire door closed and a violent draft through the ashpan area, the velocity of air is picking up ash with it and extinguishing the fire, of course, I couldn't see this elusive effect with the door closed - or open. This ties in with something else I read a long time ago. The Brits in some of their SBA steamboats keep water in the ashpan, the writer said it caused an increase in efficiency, but it was a bit of a mystery as to why, some theorized the fire was reflected off the water etc. It is the water absorbing the ash and preventing it from entering the combustion chamber.

Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 19, 2015 09:46AM
For a monotube boiler with all mechanical controls look at the work of John Wetz. A little cleaning up and modern manufacturing could result in a very reparible simple biofuel fired unit. After all John built his steam plants on a shoe string with common, simple tools. He even built a steam powered garden tractor. There is discussion of his control unit on this forum, but I suspect a trip to Tom Kimmmel's shop would be in order if you are serious.

Another simple, low pressure monotube boiler is described here. There is a lot more discussion of steam concepts on the Lynx forum.

Lohring Miller
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 19, 2015 11:43AM
Sorry, Ken, I did not know I was picking at old wounds with my query about the Cyclone.
Must I rummage back thru years of posts to get your opinions on it? Can you at least give me a hint as to where to look?

Now, everyone, please, try to remember, the title of this thread includes "of Modern Design", I know that Grampa was right about almost everything, but almost is not enough.

We now have much better metallurgical, measurement and control technologies available to us, we should use them to resolve the problems that were the reasons that people moved away from steam.

If we are to resolve these problems, we must cut a new path, because the old one just don't go there!
I am sure that if we all keep an open mind, and don't get hung up on the way we've always done it, we can successfully make it thru this process.
We will make this work!

Doesn't anyone want to comment on my spun-cast pressure vessel with a monotube coil wrapped around it hybrid boiler idea?

I would really like you to ponder that one, to see if you can foresee any advantages or disadvantages inherent to that general configuration.

Next subject, oil in the steam and boiler, hasn't anyone here ever heard of Teflon rings or water?

It is has been a very long time since hydraulic systems have had cast iron rings in them, Gentlemen, they now have hard-chromed bores and really impressive surface finishes. You should really check them out some time!
Teflon is what is known as a self-lubricating polymer, with a melting point sufficiently high for use in any properly designed steam cylinder.

There is absolutely no reason for using cylinder oil in a steam engine, at least, if you think in terms of modern materials or any type of technologically modern design.

Nobody, today, would ever think of driving across our country at interstate highway speeds in an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) powered automotive contraption, of any kind, or take any tractor into the field for a full day of plowing, if it did not have a pressurized lubrication system.

Why ever in the world would we consider that would be a good idea with a steam engine?

In fact, it was never really necessary to use cylinder oil, because they could have lubricated the old steam engine cylinders, if just the cylinders, pistons and rings had been properly designed, with just pure water. They had the technology, just not inspired creativity. They were just all following each other to greater complexity.

Think KISS and modern, gentlemen, it can't be all bad!
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 19, 2015 03:15PM
"Doesn't anyone want to comment on my spun-cast pressure vessel with a monotube coil wrapped around it hybrid boiler idea? "

It's a good idea, but like many other steam designs, it's nothing really new. The Ofeldt up in the top of this thread is essentially as you have suggested, instead of one monotube, there are 16 monotubes and a central drum. As far as spun cast pressure vessel, it's overkill and depending on the hardness of the material may even be dangerous to use at boiler temperatures. The ASME today, calls for ASTM- A106 seamless pipe for boiler construction. It's correct that we have better metallurgical standards than we had a hundred years ago. That isn't antiquated thinking, that is what the governing body mandates today. A-53 welded seam tubing can be used in some instances, but it must be radiographed and have a written certification from the lab that performed the test. The Ofeldt above has a 6" Schedule 80 center drum, the material came with written certification and will withstand 2800 psi working pressure at 300 degrees F. Overkill? probably, but it is very reassuring when sitting atop it at 250 psi winking smiley

"Next subject, oil in the steam and boiler, hasn't anyone here ever heard of Teflon rings or water?"

Yes, teflon rings, PEEK rings, lots of different materials. Much effort is made to keep from administering oil to the engine to keep it out of the condensate/boiler. And it can be gotten away with for a while. Engines are metallic mechanisms, and they need oil. Water is not a lubricant for steel, water washes any lubrication like oil away. If proper steam cylinder oil with tallow is administered properly to a steam engine it will outlast it's owner, no chrome lined cylinders or exotic ring materials needed. And it will not rust internally - thanks to the tallow.

"Nobody, today, would ever think of driving across our country at interstate highway speeds in an Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) powered automotive contraption, of any kind, or take any tractor into the field for a full day of plowing, if it did not have a pressurized lubrication system.

Why ever in the world would we consider that would be a good idea with a steam engine?"

Hydrostatic or displacement lubrication administers oil in to the steam line which lubricates the valves and cylinder directly. The lower end of a steam engine can be sealed roller bearings i.e. axle bearings.

"In fact, it was never really necessary to use cylinder oil, because they could have lubricated the old steam engine cylinders, if just the cylinders, pistons and rings had been properly designed, with just pure water."

There is a guy in Germany that runs a steamboat, the engine is made entirely of stainless steel and the rings are PEEK material. He reports good performance and reliability from it with no lubrication. It's not an inexpensive engine to build ( It may be on Rainer Radow's steamboat website). In a small steamplant often the focus is put on the engine. The boiler is what needs to be concentrated on, without it, the engine is zero horsepower. Just another opinion, but I think the Ofeldt is the best small design there is.

Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 19, 2015 03:50PM

Welcome to the forum. It is good to have new blood and ideas. Your proposal is an interesting technical challenge. Many of us on this forum are hobbyists, some with engineering background. I dabble in science and engineering at a national laboratory which will remain nameless. I am interested in history for the purpose of not having to reinvent the wheel quite so often. Hobbies and intellectual pursuits are for people lucky enough to enjoy middle to upper income status in stable socio-political environments.

I make annual visits to very rural areas of what used to be called the third world. I have acquaintance with a number of farming families. These are clever people, and I believe poverty is the mother of invention but they are severely limited in time and resources.

I have encountered a number of two wheel tractors. They are sometimes very primitive but serviceable machines, often manufactured by local concerns. When the tractors are not being used to plow the field or paddy, the wheels are changed or the carcass of worn out truck or construction machine tires are slipped over the lugged wheels and the tractor can be used to pull a wagon.

These tractors are invariably powered by small packaged single cylinder Diesel engines originating in Asia. These engines are SAFE, reliable, small, light weight, robust, efficient, versitile and easy to use. When the engine does require more than simple maintenance, it is easily removed as a package for replacement or transport to a repair shop. These engines represent a substantial investment for the family or community who owns them, but they are cost effective.

Your brief: "Every automotive, tractive or stationary power task that ever enters into the mind of a farmer, in the swamps of Ilha do Marajao, Brasil, to the top terrace in the Himalayas of Nepal, in short, everything!" is doomed to failure. There are fundamental differences in requirements for size, weight and center of gravity that make a machine suited for the rice paddy unsuited for negotiating mountain tracks or plowing the flat lands. Subsistence farmers can not afford to pay for features they will not use.

Your requirement: "Maximum Multi-Fuel Capability - Concentrating on the most labor and energy-free and dependable gravity-feed of biomass granules, from sawdust to wood pellets to shelled corn kernels and ground nut shells or crushed coconut palm husk and shell particles, or stoker coal, the boiler must also be capable of using hand-fed standard 16" firewood lengths. It should also have some emergency capabilities for utilization of diesel or vegetable oils, gasolines or alcohols, and all gaseous fuels, especially Low-Pressure Producer Gas (LPPG), RNG, CNG, LPG or Butane." is also doomed to failure. You are a good engineer and persistent technician if you can build a furnace that will consume any of these fuels efficiently. The difficulty goes up exponentially with every additional fuel that must be accommodated.

The two wheel tractor has already been invented and refined to a high state by local experts all over the world. What you (and most of us on this forum) are dreaming of is a SAFE, reliable, small, light weight, robust, efficient, versatile and easy to use steam engine. There are fundamental thermodynamic reasons why such a power plant can not be built for any cost that subsistence farmers can afford. It will certainly never compete with a small packaged IC engine.

I too am a dreamer. I would love for small steam to make a come back. Greater minds and more skillful hands than mine have spent lifetimes at this enjoyable but frustrating pursuit. If I could offer some advice it would be to choose your battles carefully and take things in reasonably sized steps.

Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 19, 2015 06:57PM
Another modern design with electronic controls and water lubrication is described here. The materials are exotic and very expensive, however. The model seemed to run very well. With low pressures and rpm seals like teflon may work for a while. However, the unit would be heavier and shorter lived than the above mentioned IC engines. Construction costs probably would be a lot more as well. Modern high volume production makes mass produced IC engines very inexpensive. The Cyclone (sorry) was an attempt to develop a compact package to compete with modern IC engines. Its a lot harder than it looked. Tried and true steam designs were described above. They would be a lot less compact than an IC engine.

Lohring Miller
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 19, 2015 10:28PM
Thank you, sincerely, Ron, Tom, Ken, Kerry and All, for all of your very sincere and well-intentioned help, and even your can't do and condiscending attitudes.
It caused me to fondly reminisce and remember how it felt to have my hard-nosed conservative German Methodist farmer father talk down to me, since I started helping him farm, at the age of 2, like there would never be a snowball's chance in Hades that I would ever turn out to know a single thing, unless he physically beat it into my thick head.
Oh, the joyous memories!
I wonder how I ever maintained a 3.95 GPA, invented all those gadgets, worked all over half the world, taught myself two foreign languages, and, basically, just somehow got along without you all, these past 59 years.
Please, don't take offense, as I didn't, just try to laugh with me, here, or at me, that's fine too, as I learned to laugh at myself, a very long time ago. If I hadn't, I would not have survived.
If there is anything at all that you might remotely consider learning from me, I would hope that it might be, it is far easier to accomplish challenging tasks, if you start out with an open mind, a can-do attitude, and a focus on solutions, rather than problems.
This discussion puts me in mind of one of the two wisest things my mother ever told me, "If you have nothing constructive to say, just don't say anything."
I can appreciate the fact that you all, undoubtedly, believe that you have been being constructive, tho' that is not exactly how it is all coming thru on this end, please, continue in any way that you feel comfortable, as I would much rather have your opinions, than not.
I was just hoping for a more positive spirit and maybe even a little inspired creativity.
I do appreciate the opportunity to glean a few constructive tidbits, in any case.

I think we have put the boiler design issue to bed.
Does anyone have a blueprint for an Ofeldt of 10 to 20 Hp?
I am going to meet with Ross Hilgendorf, on Monday, to take measurements of his Ofeldt.
If at all possible, I will construct my hybrid boiler design and the firebox, to accept the Ofeldt dimensions, so that we can employ either boiler, even swap them out, at will, for the most comprehensive testing.

Now, any other good ideas on the firebox?
Have any of you ever taken note of any wood-burning firebox designs that seemed to leave an uncommon abundance of charcoal inside, upon shutdown?

This may seem a frivolous goal to most of you, but you would have to live with a destitute family, as I have, for months, to understand how important charcoal is to their survival and economy.
Making charcoal is a very common cottage industry, and the only cooking fuel that most can afford, in most under-developed countries. It would be highly advantageous for the operators of these tractors to be able to shut the firebox up tight, to produce charcoal, at will.
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 20, 2015 04:16AM
Larry, first thing to do if you haven't already would be to read every single post on this forum. A lot of good information can be gleaned from it. The people on here for the most part have a can do attitude, if they didn't they wouldn't still be involved in steam when most of the world had given up on it. I don't think anyone is trying to be condescending you asked for opinions and are getting them from people with experience in steam power. As far as hard chroming and Teflon etc. I'm fairly certain the majority of posters here are aware of these developments and their application to steam. You have on here engineers who in some cases have helped man reach the moon, as well as others of us who don't have degrees but labor away in our own way on steam. All of us have knowledge to share much learned through hard experience. I personally would recommend you look at Jim Tangemans steam garden tractor. It seems to me if you moved around some components on it you could have a 2 wheeled tractor which may do the work you want it to. Don't give up on your project at the very least you will learn something. And with luck will have something that will do some work. Since you mentioned the noise and smoke of a diesel remember a non condensing steam engine will bemaking a bit of noise and your boiler may be making some smoke as well. If you want to plow without the noise and smoke a horse or cow or mule are all smoke free and can produce fertilizer and fuel. Most importantly don't give up on steam, the more of us working on it the more likely we will come up with solutions. Joe
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 20, 2015 09:08AM
"Have any of you ever taken note of any wood-burning firebox designs that seemed to leave an uncommon abundance of charcoal inside, upon shutdown? "

Woodstoves that have had their dampers closed, yes. Boiler fireboxes burning hard creating steam, no. A handfired boiler generating steam with seasoned wood will completely consume the fuel in about 15-30 minutes of an average sized firebox. Green wood, more time - more boiler contaminating creosote, less steam generation.

I apologize if you've interpreted my posts as condescending, I was only trying to help with your project, quite frankly I think it's a case where you have some ideas that run across the grain of known steam practice and disappointed we're not all agreeing with you. If one wants to disregard ASME code and risk life and limb building a fire under a scuba tank, feel free, how could it ever be approved for sale though?. If the goal is 20 shaft horsepower in a walk behind steam unit, that should not be a problem. No oil, that engine will provide many years of trouble free service. See, now I'm being condescending (and facetious too). smiling smiley

Okay, now back to helping with your project. The goal as stated above is 150 psi relief pressure @ 540 rpm and 20 shaft horsepower. using the PLAN formula results in a very large steam engine and a considerable amount of boiler heating surface, probably in the 100 sq ft range for water tube types. As you can see, this is far out of the scope of a walk behind unit. The Ofeldt above is 25 sq ft and produces around 5 horsepower, consistent with the rule of thumb, 5 sq ft per horsepower for a water tube and 10 sq ft per horsepower for a firetube.

Method for determining theoretical horsepower:

P=Mean Effective Pressure in Cylinder (MEP)
L=Length of Stroke in FEET (times 2 for Double acting engine)
A=Area of Piston in Inches
N=Revolutions per minute

Since 1 HP = 33,000 ft-lbf/min

Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 20, 2015 02:48PM
Thank you, so much, for the encouragement, Joe, I was starting to feel the need for it. I am sorry if it was just me being overly sensitive. I try to remember to guard against that in myself, but I fail, sometimes. It took me 51 years to get a "Good job, Son." out of my father, until then, I was convinced that he regretted every breath I took, but after that, I was on Cloud Nine, and we talked for hours on the phone, almost every day, until he died, on Father's Day, last year.
I love your attitude and approach to the challenges before us. In fact, you have all been wonderful in sharing your quite similar opinions.
I have plenty of experience with, and appreciation for, using both draft animals and the very appropriate early steam technologies.
If we were to race to a workable 2WT, you would all beat me to that prize.
Hey, maybe that is not such a bad idea!
What would you all think of a contest?
Your club has done that, before, right?
If it's worked to stimulate development, before, maybe that is what we need, now.
I heard about your car races, many, many years ago (I can't remember how, "the world was void and without form", before the Internet, right?), and I always dreamed of showing up there, unanounced, and blowing everyone's doors off with my own steam car, driven by five identical aluminum wheelmotors.

Anybody want to go into the open-source cooperative car manufacturing business?

Well, that's for another discussion.

I can't stop myself from dreaming.
Maybe, when I retire.

That same engine, of my design, or a stack of them, is still what I would prefer to employ in these tractors, tho' not necessarily as wheelmotors.

I know that variety is the spice of life, and it is great to see and study all kinds of different engines, for specific applications.
However, I just want to concentrate on one particular engine design that does a reasonably good job for all consumer, automotive and aviation products.

In fact, except for the final firebox configuration, I really have my tractor almost completely designed. Tho' I have already made one minor change to that, to accommodate the Ofeldt boiler, because standardization is always a worthy goal.

I am always looking for an off-the-shelf gearbox that gives me everything that I could dream about, at an affordable price.

If anyone has any suggestions that would give the tractor live and ground-drive front, rear, bottom and both sides PTO, with at least 3 traveling speeds, forward and reverse, or reversing variable speed drives, on both wheels, independently, for less than a complete new Chinese 2WT (about $1200), I would love to hear about it.
I don't ask for much, do I?

Also, I am still very much open to any suggestions, whatsoever, which could make a more adaptable and utilitarian firebox, that would burn, at the least, pellets, kernels and firewood, and CNG, yet, could be closed up tight to produce charcoal, at will.

I already have one design for the latter, but it would have performance limitations for steam production.

I think I found the inspired solution for that and a couple other improvements on Tom's site, in the work of John Wetz. Thank you all for pushing me toward John's work, and, thank you Tom, especially, for such incredible resources on a wonderful site!

My only complaint is that you have all been so helpful with so many interesting reading resources that I am not getting my chores done!

Please, everyone, forgive my earlier feeble and facetious attempt at humor. I should know better. It never comes off as well in print as in person. I am almost personable, or at least almost bearable, in person.

I would love to meet you all, but my Summers are just way too busy. Again, maybe someday I can retire, and that might change.
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 20, 2015 03:10PM
Oh, I forgot to thank you, Gentlemen, for showing me that I misspelled 'condescending'. I used to be an impeccable speller, but, since I learned to read, write and speak, both, Spanish and Portuguese, in my total of 13 years, living with campesinos, and doing development work in Latin America, I can get the darnedest brain blockages in my own mother tongue.
Consequently, it gets really hard to live with my perfectionist self.
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 20, 2015 07:11PM
Larry, glad to see you aren't giving up. A thought on the multi fuel firebox perhaps you could have a different door that mounts a burner similar to an oil fired furnace. I seem to recall there being a conversion of the sort for old coal furnaces. It of course wouldn't be ideal but if it allows your tractor to keep working then it would have met your goal I think. Whatever you develop I hope you will keep us abreast of your work as Bill Hinote was doing for a time. Sometimes one picture isall the inspiration someone needs to solve there own problem. We need to all keep working on steam if for no reason than to inspire others to do the same who knows what we can come up with. And Larry once at work a supervisor said there's no I in team and I grabbed a pen and paper wrote equipe on it and said there it is. My point being sometimes it takes looking at things differently to come up with a solution. Good luck. Joe
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 20, 2015 08:59PM
You are exactly right, Joe, that is why I decided it was necessary to come to you folks, looking for someone that could shake me out of my deep-feathered comfort zone, and get me looking at the problem from some different angles. I think it has already born fruit.
I was raised and still live in an area over glacial till that is full of slightly radioactive ground granite, which caused an inordinately high occurrence rate of both cancer and mongoloidism.
I am probably even more Spartan and judgmental than my father was, about those who are mentally, physically or genetically challenged, but really only when it comes to those who flatter themselves in their own personal assessments of their own abilities. When it came to the several "retarded" (still not very politically-correct, am I) neighbor kids, first, they were blameless in their condition and were humble, open, positive and always happy, but, tho' sometimes difficult to understand, I was always amazed at their very unique angle of perspective on some problems that one wouldn't even expect them to understand was a problem, distilling them down to the most simple, basic and true assessments. They just see things that we rush right past. So much so that I always thought, if I ever have a factory of my own, I will hire at least one Downs Syndrome kid and one autistic kid, for the design studio team, just to make sure that we are not all overlooking something that's staring us right in the face.
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 21, 2015 02:58PM

Open Source Blueprints for Civilization. Build Yourself.

We’re developing open source industrial machines that can be made for a fraction of commercial costs, and sharing our designs online for free. The goal of Open Source Ecology is to create an open source economy – an efficient economy which increases innovation by open collaboration.
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
December 26, 2015 04:57PM
The Hasbrouck #8 might be a workable engine for this project, could be scaled up or down as needed. Has a built in water pump.

No casting needed,

looks like it was designed to power a small boat

youtube video of Hasbrouck #8

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12/26/2015 05:07PM by DougW.
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
January 03, 2016 11:29AM
Again, everyone is welcome to visit my shop and library and steam engine collection here in SW Michigan. As for a working wood fired garden tractor, I have Jim Tangeman's very nice small garden tractor here and it is running. I should say the late Jim Tangeman as he died a couple of weeks ago and the steam community is the poorer for that. Jim was the nicest person ever to exist, as well as a good machinist and steam person. Jim used cylinder castings from a Loco something company out of Florida that makes Shay models. He made the rest of the engine himself. The boiler is a Worthington type. It involves a lot of welding which is why the Ofeldt is better. I really like the Gary Hadden engine design although i have not run one at all to see how it works. Hadden sells casting kits. When making one of these small steam power plants, I suggest the first try is to bread-board it to make certain that all of the parts work, and then put it together into a package. Many people have tried to do this the other way around and wasted a great deal of time in the process. And now a brief comment on opensourceecology. This was a good idea however without a lot of practical knowledge to go with it. I am pretty sure that this operation has vanished. I visited it once and the experience will be forever burned into my memory. Tom Kimmel
Re: Steam Tractor of Modern Design
February 08, 2016 01:17PM
It might be worthwhile to check out Ricardo's steam engine and ALUMINUM boiler, he too was looking to make up a alternate prime mover that would be cost effective to build. It wasn't. cheers rp
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