Steam Schwinn concept

Discussion in 'Performance Mods' started by JemmaUK, Jan 8, 2008.

  1. JemmaUK

    JemmaUK Guest

    If you do a search on the Hudspith steam bicycle you will find a machine that is nicely built and professional - speed is fair and the bike is rideable when you are used to it...

    The problem is range - namely that the machine uses a solex type setup with the motor on one side and the boiler and burners on the other over the front wheel.

    Given the space that the standard cruiser frame has for fitting engines etc why not fit a custom boiler in that space? or better still mount a water tank along and above the top tube, with the boiler in the upper middle section and condenser towards the bottom of the space..

    Then a twin cylinder engine acting on the pedal cranks (in such a way as the bike is still pedal-able) which means that you (in the case of a hub equipped bike) would have a 3/7/8 speed transmission - which could in the case of the shimano nexus 8 and automatic transmission controller give you a fairly fast machine..

    If this machine was built and could provide just a small amount more power than me pedalling you could have a top speed of 18-20 mph with a fully variable transmission.

    And the best bit.... with a petrol burner you are running on two easily obtainable commodities...

    Any comments?

    Jemma xx

  2. Bean Oil

    Bean Oil Guest

    Comments other than, "You have a technically inquisitive and brilliant mind; full of curiosities"? lol.

    Steam pressure breaches would be painful.

    Other than that, the sheer simplicity of something like the "happy time" 2-cycle is a little more alluring to me fitted to a bicycle rather than a possibly complex system of reservoirs and piping.

    Now, a steam-powered motorcycle, something a bit bigger, would be really cool. Steam power can deliver an almost-insane level of torque...
  3. DougC

    DougC Guest

    With "traditional" sliding-vane type steam engines...... a transmission is not necessary at all, because the steam engine generates its maximum torque at zero RPM's anyway. That's why on old trans, the pistons connecting rods are connected straight to the wheels. There is no transmission (-for a steam locomotive to reverse, the steam engine actually runs in reverse order-).

    Of course for a bicycle use you'd want some way for the engine to "freewheel"; steam locomotives didn't have that. But the engine is going to deliver maximum torque all the time, so you wouldn't even want it running through a geared hub. The hub wouldn't last long.

    Also (at least in the USA) if you want to burn a fuel to generate lots of relatively-low-level heat, propane is a better fuel bargain than gasoline is.
  4. JemmaUK

    JemmaUK Guest

    The breach problem is part of the reason for the engine parts to be at the back, which means the feedlines and the overpressure valve for the boiler etc can be directed aft... hot metal up the bum often offends

    As to the problem with the hub and the gearing - to get a reasonable speed it will have to be geared because I dont know of many steam engines either single or compound that have rpm figures of 8000+

    There is a very easy way to prevent hub munchiness and that is close the regulator...let the bike over-run, change gear, open regulator (...scare patrol car).

    Steam locomotives didnt bother with gearing for several reasons - the main of which was that the majority of lines were fairly flat and if you couldnt make a given hill you just slapped another 0-6-4 on the front and that was that.... the mallard was able to run up a figure of 126 because she was streamlined and brute force powered - the same figure could have been achieved by a smaller engine if it had been fitted with a transmission of some description - indeed some prototypes were...

    Fuel - propane great but its a gas - pressurised - therefore heavy...

    petrol - less energy - liquid - unpressurised - lighter and people have experience with it

    parafin - icky - tends to go solid on you - hard to tell quality and apparently causes coking up in short order... add that its hard to find in decent qualities here at least...

    so we would need

    two tanks - fuel and water + aux tank for engine lubrication

    fabbed boiler & condenser linked to water tank - pre heat water and condense stream - best use of heat energy

    fabbed burner assembly and associated hardware

    2 cylinder reciprocating steam engine horizontally mounted driving pedal cranks through eccentrics

    regulator controls for steam/water/fuel to burner and cut off for latter

    steam regulator could be a twist open affair located in such a way as the regulator can be closed - hub shifting accomplished - and then regulator re-opened

    automatic boiler safety valve venting to rear with manual control

    valve system with setting to enable cylinder venting to atmosphere (allows free pedalling)

    relevant gauges and monitors - speed/boiler pressure/water level etc.

    If the feed water when the machine is started is already boiling (kettle for example) this would shorten the steaming up time...

    anything I missed? :grin:

    It is true I do have quite a mechanical mind and often I dont think of the obvious - just one of my talents I guess :)
  5. Abeagle

    Abeagle Guest

    In some areas you might need a boiler operators license. lol
    You find some of the most interest ideas, thanks for sharing them I really enjoy them.
  6. JemmaUK

    JemmaUK Guest

    The problem with a solid fuel system is feeding it and the size of the required firebox...

    With a burner you have an area that acts sort of like a space heater plate - steaming up the boiler with a high energy production in a small space... but it requires a liquid fuel... trying to shovel in coal at 20mph on a pushbike is the easiest way to bury yourself in the side of an SUV (although the resulting boiler explosion would probably help cut CO2 emissions...)

    My problem is that I have the brains but I dont have the money/tools/experience to make the things work *sigh*.... making up a boiler would require specialist tooling and expertise and yes, in the uk you would need a boiler safety check....

    Additional to the above by the way would be some sort of flue for the boiler - I propose a reward facing horizontal affair somewhat like the twin exhausts on motorbikes - however with the tips angled in such a way as to enhance the 'draw' of the boiler using the vacuum created by passing air and feeding from the bottom back of the boiler to a point alongside the back wheel - venting away from the wheel of course.. running it from the lowest available point means greatest heat transfer.. and therefore better efficiency

    Jemma xx
  7. Bean Oil

    Bean Oil Guest

    With each power stroke, steam is expelled... meaning one may have to have a rather too-large a storage quantity of water on board making the rig a bit too heavy... not to mention the storage of fuel.

    Although a steam-powered motored bike would certainly be a novelty even it it had a very short range.

    Fascinating, yes; a fun project to build. One could spend months on the plumbing alone... and the end result could be beautiful but I'm afraid it's all a bit too complex to be contained within the confines of a rideable bicycle.

    As interesting as this idea is, I also appreciate real simplicity which is why the 2-cycle is so elegant if not obnoxious (or, noxious... lol)
  8. Sianelle

    Sianelle Guest

    This is a really fascinating website on practical steam Jemma.

    Basically they've figured out ways to convert IC engines to function as steam engines which is one way to get past the need to own a lathe and machine everything yourself.
    Have a look at their designs for flash boilers too. Which again is one way to get around all the heavy engineering and the need to have a machine shop.
  9. DougC

    DougC Guest

    I do not see why you need 8000 rpm's, unless you wanted to have a sort of drop-in replacement for a current mini engine.

    As far as steam engines not needing transmissions--most steam locomotives never had them because they simply didn't need them. The maximum torque occurs at zero RPM, and decreases as the RPM's rise (because the boiler can never reach a higher pressure than when the RPM's is zero). For this reason, steam engines are most-efficient at lower RPM's and larger displacements; it would work better to change the displacement and drive system so that the engine spins equal to the rear wheel speed.

    Steam engines in the past had long stroke:bore ratios up around 8:1 or more, which boosted their thermal efficiency. Most modern engines are square (bore~=stroke); the longest crosshead engines now still only have strokes 4X or 5X their bores. A hydraulic cylinder would seem to be a better starting point than converting an existing engine.

    As far as what type of fuel to use goes,,,, since "knocking" isn't an issue and burnt fuel doesn't contaminate the drive system, a steam engine could use any fuel (or combination of fuels) that its fuel delivery system could handle.
  10. Sianelle

    Sianelle Guest

    The advantage of converting an existing engine lies in the fact that you don't need a well equipped machine shop to do it.
  11. JemmaUK

    JemmaUK Guest

    Sianelle - you took the words right out of my mouth - I did think of using a IC engine body as the motor part of the steam system - which has the advantage of being able to link the ports so you have effectively a closed-steamer.... and it wont blow up as the hydrogen peroxide systems did

    Hudspith and others have proved - especially the 1870's 2 cylinder moped that has been built - that the system is completely viable in a bike frame - my comment about RPM's had to do with gearing...

    Fuel actually is an issue because the wrong fuel can coke up the burner good and proper and clearing the burner plate every 20 miles would not be a good thing...

    If you think of the range situation it really only has to equal the range of a current motored bike on one tank - so maybe 20-25 miles... and it would be a whole less petrol greedy than even the most economical Mb..

    Jemma xx
  12. BSA

    BSA Guest

    Cool, I never thought I'd see this. Still, why not? Seems like a good idea to me.
  13. JemmaUK

    JemmaUK Guest

    I had a look at the site sianelle mentioned and with their engine and boiler it could easily be fitted onto a bike....

    given that the engine RPM's are only 800 the relevant gearing to the drive wheel would have to be worked out and the piping and etc fabbed and fitted up but I see no reason why the bike shouldnt be viable :). So far as I can see the engine will have to be ratioed if we want a speed of 25-30 mph...

    now all we need is someone to build it - or bring Fred Dibnah back from the dead... I would *love* to see the look on his face at this idea...

    If i had the spare cash I would play with the idea just to see if its workable - I can imagine steamcycles being built commercially... and they would be even greener than our current machines given that they would use alot less fuel per mile - water isnt exactly damaging to the environment...

    Jemma xx
  14. Cookie

    Cookie Guest

    Jemma some where in the back of my brain I rember reading about the first powered bike being a steam engin I am sure that they worked out most of the problems back then it is just finding the info.
    If I rember right the fire box was mounted on he back rack you had to stoke the burner first get the head of steam up then go.

    As for me I would not want that much heat on a bike it was bad enough burning my leg on the motor one day.

  15. JemmaUK

    JemmaUK Guest

    I cant really see a problem with the machine. The boiler would be vented at over 115psi steam pressure astern of the machine so that would be ok - with the motor fitted (maybe to an adapted GEBE/STANTON mount) to the rear of the machine with piston/cylinder facing back there should be no issue.

    The problem with the solid fuel firebox is that of range and suitability. Also with a rear mounted firebox you have no visual control of it, which means problems with any steam system... for example you wouldnt know the fire was running low until the steam pressure told you so... which would mean you'd already dropped the fire below efficiency... the larger the boiler volume the more time it would take to show up...

    With a liquid fuel like petrol the system can be more flexibly controlled and can be shut down much more quickly should a problem occur - ie shut the burner down and vent the boiler/close the regulator. Also the burner/firebox could be forward mounting - to enable the rider to check visually on pressures etc

    Any issues with the boiler would be, if the system was set up properly, user error and as such fairly difficult to achieve to the point of injury if the rider is competant...

    Jemma xx
  16. Rhop101

    Rhop101 New Member

    Hello Jemma,

    I know it has been two, three years since anyone's posted on this thread, but I own a steam powered schwinn bicycle. I also want to say that that my bike has no gears there is a spindle that sits on the wheel also there is a lever that lifts the engine off the wheels so it can run without turning the wheels also many build stands and just elevate the wheel powered by the engine.

    The boiler is mounted on the left side next to the rear wheel. It is a monotube boiler and currently has no safety valve although it does have a steam automatic which is supposed to shutoff the burner at 150 psi. The person transporting it here said he would look at it as it is not working at the moment, pressure has risen to 400 psi. The engine is a stuart sirius two cylinder single acting it makes about .5-.67 bhp and has a peak rpm around 4000. That is about as high as a small steam engine will go the larger the engine is the slower it will go because the bigger the cylinder the longer it takes to fill the cylinder with steam. A turbine goes much faster up to 30000 rpm, but much more precise machining involved. My bike has a top speed of 25mph. Also I would recommend you find some old steam books and learn how to calculate hp, water consumption, fuel consumption, and understand how pressure, temperature affects performance. Also, being t=in the Uk maybe you could go to steam meets and talk with people who own steam cars, bikes, motorcycles, there are a few around and learn from them and they may be able to help guide you. You need to understand why a boiler should use tubing .125 vs. .25 in. thick tubing.

    This probably has come across as really harsh and I'm sorry if it has, but I want you to understand you don't guess about steam because it can hurt you if you don't understand it.
    My bike is made from still available plans from the Steam Automobile Club of America, it's a Richard Smith Steam Bicycle.

    I was going to build my own, but I found this bike instead and so I will learn from this one if I decide to build my own someday.
    I was like you I was a dreamer I would draw things, but I would do what I thought would make sense, but now I have been able to actually think about it in a way that really justifies how I design something.

    Good Luck and email me if you have any questions need advice.

    Robert Hopkins

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Apr 30, 2010
  17. HeadSmess

    HeadSmess Well-Known Member

    yay, steam :) i knew a search would pop something up.

    ive had this in my head since i was a lil brat with a snotty nose.

    now im starting to get the cash and the machinery to go beyond dreaming...

    firstly, the engine.

    SINGLE PISTON DUAL EXPANSION DOUBLE ACTING. this design has been taken all the way to a quadruple expansion single piston... still double acting, but technically, quad acting...

    i started on retrofitting a small tanaka crankcase with a stepped piston. i then stuffed the 80 dollar piece of brass i intended for the upper cylinder...Patience in set up is critical(as is the freedom of your own workshop) so i put the project on the back burner. but i do have the design worked out.

    boiler. a flash boiler, fuelled with butane/propane. easily available in small "aerosol" style cans... at least a good two hour burn time with a fairly large cooking burner.

    so theres no pressurising of the fuel needed.

    this pressurising of things makes it very difficult.

    there is the need for a water pump. capable of extremely high pressures. to feed the flash boiler. the flash boiler doesnt require ten minutes warming up to get on your way. this pump needs to be driven by the engine, with a section that you can initially pump by hand when cold.

    pressures. while 100 psi sounds safe... you want at least 500. the power is determined by piston area X length of stroke X RPM. X pressure. (torque is exactly the same....just without the time factor of the RPM ie, torque is instantaneous, whilst power is over a period of time) either you need hi pressures or big engines...these pressures are easily contained, AS LONG AS THE MATERIAL IS CORRECT AND ASSEMBLY IS FIRST CLASS. (one grade stainless has hi temperature embrittlement, so is not recommended) so the engine can be smaller...lighter...faster :)

    ive been around engines that operate on 1000psi+ at 1000 degrees C. (superheated dry steam) you cant see a steam leak until its about two metres from the source and is starting to condense. and its also hot enough to light a cigarette. very very dangerous, if not careful. ppl have lost limbs...with no bleeding :p

    lubrication. standard oils dont work too well with steam. you need to use things like graphite. getting this into the engine is also pretty cant go into the boiler... so needs to be injected somehow. depending on that final temp you decide on. low temps can take oil (think dry sump style). another limiting factor on top speeds. friction.

    condensation. there needs to be drain cocks in each and every cylinder. everything coming into contact with steam ideally will be brass and or stainless steel. bearings etc will need oiling regularly.

    condensor. why let all that water vapour escape? reclaim it :) depends on whether you can get efficient enough to equal the extra weight versus just carrying more water.

    so, a compact simple engine, minimum parts.
    a simple compact water feed pump.
    monotube flash boiler.
    regulator/throttle...or adjustable valve timing.
    relief valve.
    burner and if enclosed, an ignitor(piezo)
    drain cocks in engine and boiler

    a guage, while nice, is prone to damage and surplus to requirements...

    still a worthwhile project for those that like getting dirty hands :)
  18. Rhop101

    Rhop101 New Member

    Hello HeadSmess,

    It's always wonderful to see someone else who has a need for steam.
    Your design sounds very interesting.
    I can tell you about my bike now that I actually have it.

    The engine on yours sounds like a double acting steeple engine with 4 inline cylinders
    Could you tell me about what size cylinders it uses and rpms you plan to run at?

    The engine on mine is a 2 cylinder single acting engine. It is not very efficient has probably around a 35% cutoff and because it's small 1x1 cylinders not efficient from thermodynamics perspective, but it's small, light makes power my estimate puts it at about 1hp @250psi at the shaft at around 3000rpms, but it weighs only 6 lbs.
    It's a stuart sirius engine, but stuart no longer is making the casting although there are a few left, but it's not worth the money and time unless there was a specific reason fro this engine.

    When I build my own bike I probably will try to use a converted gas engine and turn it into a single cylinder uniflow engine with a 5% cutoff and a bash valve. That will have better efficiency thermodynamically and use less steam. In a recent edition of the SACA magazine it described the design of uniflow exhaust including equations to make the proper sized holes.

    The boiler on my bike is a flash type and is mounted behind the rider adjacent to the rear wheel. Flash is lighter and much faster to start. Mine runs off 1 lb propane tanks, and I want to upgrade it to a 4 lb tank. Propane is better in my opinion it's easier to buy, a gas at room temperature, and has inherent pressure. DO NOT PLAN ON AEROSOL SIZED CANS. I can guarantee you'll run out of fuel before you even get going. The 1 lb tanks on mine barely last more than 20 minutes and I'm always left to wonder whether if the fuel runs out or there's some other reason why it's not working because the thing chugs down fuel. The 4lb propane tank will probably get you close to 2 hrs due to its larger liquid to gas surface area in the tank. I forgot to mention my bike doesn't function under 50 degree Fahrenheit.

    In the bike that I'll may build in the future I will use an atomizing burner with diesel or kerosene as the main fuel because the ease of refilling and increased fuel milage. I would pressurize the fuel with a had.

    The boiler is amazing though. It's make out of an inner and outer set of coils of 1/8" pipe and it steams well. I have pressure within 10 seconds and full pressure in 1 minutes. What's your boiler design like? Why does it take 10 minutes to start?
    As for a water pump my bike uses a ram type pump basically there's no piston head it's a rod which has a pivot near the bottom and that connects to an eccentric on the drive shaft and that's the only pump. I know that the other bike like mine existence has a Coles Power Models pump in addition to a mechanical water pump and that water would leak backwards through checks at pressures like 500psi it's understandable. I just push mine or pedal mine around and it works fine to pump water in.

    At the moment I am having problems with my manual water bypass, which is a swaglok toggle switch. For the first time since I've had the bike, I couldn't get it to close so no water was getting to the boiler.

    As far as pressures go with my bike it is designed to operate up to 350psi as a system because the engine would be in danger above that pressure. I like to run it 250 to 300 but I don't get much power to the wheel, but otherwise you lose the efficiency in producing steam.
    Temperature peaks around 700 degrees @ around 800 degrees standard 1/8" pipe turns red hot that was a problem in the minibike's boiler it would run 500psi, 800 degrees and it would glow red and that has caused leaking problems for it apparently, but that boiler is a more complex version than the boiler on my bike, but roughly the same size and would produce 30-40lb/hr more I believe.

    As far as heat safety goes all the hot components are behind the rider, which solves issues with burns for the most part and I put on insulation good to 1000 degrees.

    For oiling I use steam cylinder oil mixed into the water with a dispersant and this is actually working well even with super heated steam. It's good for the boiler and engine and all the steel tubing because it keeps everything from rusting and I have had no problems with it the dispersant I use is SC Gunk. I am gonna get a heater to use as a condenser on the bike in the next week or two and I can use this to recycle the water, but more importantly the oil so I don't have to keep adding it.

    Friction though is definitely a problem and I have given though to using an engine that would run at almost human like rpms, but it would be heavy. It would likely be a large 1/8" scale steam train engine just one cylinder peaking at around 100 rpms. Friction's always been a problem with the high speed engines and the faster it goes the louder it gets as well. The seals don't seem to last terribly long.

    As far as extra weight goes for a condenser like I said for me anyways I can not only reuse water, but oil so if when I stop for water all I need is water instead of water and oil that's a bonus and to be fair the bike doesn't care about an extra 5-10lbs for a condenser. Plus I plan on redoing my whole water circuit adding automatics and I want to run the water intake tubing coming out of the tank back and forth across the back of the condenser to cool the condenser and act as a feed water heater. The minibike had it's condenser running sideways to the wind with a fan to draw air through, but it wasn't very successful plus the fan would break due to torsional vibration along with the centrifugal clutch it used. I plan to mount mine underneath the water tank mount so it points the grid into the wind and have the condenser exhaust through a check valve into the bottom of the tank so that if there is steam left coming out of the condenser it has one last chance to condense.

    As far as performance on Water milage my bike only gets 5 miles to the gallon and I carry a gallon so adding an extra 8 lbs for a second gallon so I can go 10 doesn't make sense plus I would have to make a tank. I just use a 1 gallon coleman fuel tank as my water tank.

    How are you planning to drive your bike?
    My current bike uses a friction drive where a spindle sits on top of the rear wheel, but the spindle isn't knurled very well so like I said it just slips and eats the tire away.

    In the bike I will build in the future I would use either chains or belts and possible a CVT or dog clutch. I would depend if I use a 25-50 cc gas engine conversion or another engine like my sirius that's high speed or I use a lower speed engine that has variable cutoff.

    Why don't you think having gauges is a good idea. More information about what's going on inside you machine is better. My bike only has a steam pressure gauge, but I plan to add a water pump pressure gauge to determine if the bike is pumping into the boiler or is bypassing and a fuel pressure gauge to be able to determine if the tank is running low or is able to maintain the pressure required to operate.

    If you don't have a steam pressure gauge you have no clue what pressure's in your boiler although that's why you plan the relief valve, my bike doesn't have one at the moment and the one that was picked out in the 70s to use is no longer available, but what if your relief valve is clogged . You are really relying on that to prevent over pressure. I currently only have a temperature based shutoff fire shut off and a manual water bypass. I want to add automatics which control how much water is going into the boiler based on temperature and pressure and use the manual to force water into the boiler if needed and have an automatic bypass which works off pressure differences in two chambers.

    Well I guess that's enough light reading for now, if you have any questions about my bike feel free to ask and search Richard Smith Steam Bike on youtube to see 3 videos about my bike.

    Robert Hopkins
  19. Stan4d

    Stan4d Banned

    Not positive, but I think this one might be steam. No right hand pic to see its workings.
    Daimler 1885.jpg

    Very cool bike Robert.
  20. Stan4d

    Stan4d Banned