The Power behind the Engine
A very simple illustration of the working of a steam engine is given in Figure. Steam under pressure enters through the opening F
, passes through N
, and presses upon the piston M
. As a result M
moves downward, and thereby induces rotation in the large wheel L
falls it drives the air in D
out through O
(the opening P
is not visible in the diagram).
As soon as this is accomplished, a mechanical device draws up the rod E
, which in turn closes the opening N
, and thus prevents the steam from passing into the part of D
But when the rod E
is in such a position that N
is closed, O
on the other hand is open, and steam rushes through it into D
and forces up the piston. This up-and-down motion of the piston causes continuous rotation of the wheel L
. If the fire is hot, steam is formed quickly, and the piston moves rapidly; if the fire is low, steam is formed slowly, and the piston moves less rapidly.
The steam engine as seen on our railroad trains is very complex, and cannot be discussed here; in principle, however, it is identical with that just described. Figure shows a steam harvester at work on a modern farm.
In both engine and turbine the real source of power is not the steam but the fuel, such as coal or oil, which converts the water into steam.
FIG. - The principle of the steam engine.
FIG. - Steam harvester at work.