Steam engine - brief facts

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[img] First ever steam locomotive of the country kept in Central Railway Building (CRB), Chittagong (2021)

A steam engine is a heat engine that converts the energy stored in steam into mechanical work. It was a pivotal invention during the Industrial Revolution, powering various machines and locomotives. Here are some key facts about steam engines:

  1. Invention: The steam engine was first developed in the early 18th century. Thomas Savery built the first practical steam engine in 1698, and Thomas Newcomen improved upon it in 1712.

  2. James Watt's Improvement: The most significant advancements in steam engine technology were made by James Watt in the 1760s. Watt's improvements, such as a separate condenser, greatly increased efficiency.

  3. Industrial Revolution: The steam engine played a crucial role in the Industrial Revolution, transforming industries by providing a more reliable and efficient source of power than water or muscle.

  4. Steam Locomotives: Steam engines powered the first locomotives, revolutionizing transportation. George Stephenson's "Rocket" became one of the most famous early steam locomotives in 1829.

  5. Reciprocating Engines: Early steam engines were often reciprocating engines, where the steam pushed a piston back and forth. This motion was then converted into rotary motion to perform work.

  6. Steam Turbines: In the late 19th century, steam turbines were developed, offering a more compact and efficient way to convert steam energy into mechanical work. They are commonly used in power plants today.

  7. Decline: While steam engines were widely used in the 19th and early 20th centuries, they gradually declined with the advent of internal combustion engines and electric power.

  8. Legacy: Despite the decline in use, steam engines left a lasting impact on industry, transportation, and the development of mechanical engineering.

​While not as prevalent as in the past, steam power is still used in some industries, particularly in power plants for electricity generation.

Steam engines, especially steam locomotives, hold cultural significance and are often associated with a sense of nostalgia. Heritage railways and museums preserve and showcase these historic machines.