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one point oh four megawatts!
June 12, 2008 11:58 AM   Subscribe

In 1876, the US celebrated the centennial with an International Exposition. The centerpiece of Machinery Hall, and the source of power for all the machinery therein, was the world's largest steam engine. A beam engine (previously), it produced 1400 horsepower and was built in a mere 7 months when other bids to provide motive power proved inadequate.

While not the walking beam type that the Corliss was, this large Watt beam engine probably gives a similarly enormous feel.
posted by DU (19 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
That Corliss is simply beautiful.
Excellent! Thanks, DU!
posted by Dizzy at 12:05 PM on June 12, 2008


Look at that picture and tell me you're going to make one of those in 1000 AD. Nah. Maybe you get a shitty Newcomen engine going if you can find someone who knows how to make you a boiler, etc., but you're not gonna be building locomotives.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 12:18 PM on June 12, 2008


Nobody said anyone would make 1 megawatt power plant in 1000 AD. Whereas a Newcomen boiler is at atmospheric pressure and therefore making one is as easy as resting a lid on a boiling pot.
posted by DU at 12:21 PM on June 12, 2008


1400 Horsepower or 5 Hummerpower.
posted by three blind mice at 12:25 PM on June 12, 2008


Look at that picture and tell me you're going to make one of those in 1000 AD. Nah.

Well, if someone was going to go back in time, they might be more interested in building a more compact engine. I mean, with today's technology 1,400 horsepower can fit under the hood of a truck. You can probably find turbine engines that will do that in even less space.

So, if you were going back in time, you'd want to take as much knowledge with you as possible. If you have to start from 'the ground up' with technology, it might be better to target a higher level of technology.
posted by delmoi at 12:48 PM on June 12, 2008


Hell, go forward in time. We may want more of these soon. And there's likely more people in the world today that can design a jet engine than a Corliss engine.
posted by StandardObfuscatingProcedure at 12:52 PM on June 12, 2008


The first person to mention anything remotely resembling the word "steampunk" in a non-deprecative manner gets a live steam enema.
posted by loquacious at 1:09 PM on June 12, 2008


Hell, go forward in time. We may want more of these soon

I don't know, it seems like if we're at that point it's bad news. Steam these days, whatever source is used to generate it, is converted to motive power with turbines rather than engines. Turbines are harder to build than engines (more precision/stress on the components, blade geometry is important), so "wanting more of these" would imply a significant loss in manufacturing techniques. On the other hand, there do seem to be some people working on the new hotness steam engines.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:13 PM on June 12, 2008


I'd call you out for a thorough thrashing, dearest Loq, but my manservant is braising salsify on the thermo-dynamic nutrient processor and needs my attention.
posted by Dizzy at 1:13 PM on June 12, 2008


The world can be saved by steam!
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:30 PM on June 12, 2008


I'd call you out for a thorough thrashing, dearest Loq, but my manservant is braising salsify on the thermo-dynamic nutrient processor and needs my attention.

I don't speak whatever crazy Jules Verne moonman language it is that you're speaking, so I'm just going to go fire up the boiler and find an appropriately sized brass bung-fitting for your backside.
posted by loquacious at 1:49 PM on June 12, 2008


I'll be there in 15 minutes, but for the love of God PLEASE close the curtains this time.
posted by Dizzy at 2:12 PM on June 12, 2008 [2 favorites]


From 1976 until sometime in the 90s, The Castle (the original red brick building on the Mall in DC which once housed the first exhibits of the Smithsonian Institution) was filled with many of the objects and exhibits from the 1876 Exposition. It was one of my favorite places in the world to visit, and I was heartbroken when one day in 2001 I walked in to find... an empty hall.
posted by mwhybark at 2:18 PM on June 12, 2008


Oops, not the Castle, the next-door arts and industries building.
posted by mwhybark at 2:19 PM on June 12, 2008


I don't know about steam being the future, but Stirling engines1 sure could be.

1I wanted this post to be about Stirling engines, in fact, but it's already been done. PS: Stirlingpunk
posted by DU at 2:39 PM on June 12, 2008


Technology is always at it's most beautiful the generation before it's replaced by something new.
posted by Grimgrin at 7:29 PM on June 12, 2008


> Technology is always at it's most beautiful the generation before it's replaced by something new.

Agreed. I think it's because, since it's the last generation of that particular technology, it's forever the "pinnacle" of development in that area. Also, you sometimes see the most dramatic engineering improvements as a dying technology tries desperately to stay afloat, and the designers pull out all the stops.

It's also the reason why, I think, you can look back in retrospect at many failed technologies and see the very last model or evolution as the version that could have been successful, if it had only been produced earlier. It looks like this way in hindsight because typicaly that "last model" only comes out once the writing is on the wall -- it represents the A-game of the failing technology's designers, but gets held up against the later work of the successful technology (generally after they ceased to have any real competition and consequently rested on their laurels).
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:36 PM on June 12, 2008


mwhybark - I loved the old Centennial exhibit at the Arts and Industries Building also. Sadly, the exhibit is now gone and the building itself is now closed but you can see a few pics. from it here on this page which has info. on the Smithsonian and the original Centennial displays. The A & I building was built mainly because the Smithsonian got so many artifacts added to the collections after the Centennial of 1876 that they needed more space.
posted by gudrun at 11:26 PM on June 12, 2008


gudrun, glad to hear others loved it too. It was a little time machine.
posted by mwhybark at 10:25 AM on June 19, 2008


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