Steam engine

A model of a beam engine featuring James Watt's parallel linkage for double action.
A mill engine from Stott Park Bobbin Mill, Cumbria, England
A steam locomotive from East Germany. This class of engine was built in 1942–1950 and operated until 1988.
A steam ploughing engine by Kemna
Jacob Leupold's steam engine, 1720
Early Watt pumping engine
Steam powered road-locomotive from England
A triple-expansion marine steam engine on the 1907 oceangoing tug Hercules
Union Pacific 844 a "FEF-3" 4-8-4 "Northern" type steam locomotive
An industrial boiler used for a stationary steam engine
An injector uses a jet of steam to force water into the boiler. Injectors are inefficient but simple enough to be suitable for use on locomotives.
Richard's indicator instrument of 1875. See: Indicator diagram (below)
Centrifugal governor in the Boulton & Watt engine 1788 Lap Engine.
An animation of a simplified triple-expansion engine. High-pressure steam (red) enters from the boiler and passes through the engine, exhausting as low-pressure steam (blue), usually to a condenser.
Double acting stationary engine. This was the common mill engine of the mid 19th century. Note the slide valve with concave, almost "D" shaped, underside.
Schematic Indicator diagram showing the four events in a double piston stroke. See: Monitoring and control (above)
Animation of a uniflow steam engine.
The poppet valves are controlled by the rotating camshaft at the top. High-pressure steam enters, red, and exhausts, yellow.
A rotor of a modern steam turbine, used in a power plant
Turbinia – the first steam turbine-powered ship
Operation of a simple oscillating cylinder steam engine
An aeolipile rotates due to the steam escaping from the arms. No practical use was made of this effect.
Flow diagram of the four main devices used in the Rankine cycle. 1) Feedwater pump 2) Boiler or steam generator 3) Turbine or engine 4) Condenser; where Q=heat and W=work. Most of the heat is rejected as waste.
A steam locomotive – a GNR N2 Class No.1744 at Weybourne nr. Sheringham, Norfolk
A steam-powered bicycle by John van de Riet, in Dortmund
British horse-drawn fire engine with steam-powered water pump

Heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid.

- Steam engine

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Beam engine

A Watt engine: showing entry of steam and water
The cast-iron beam of the 1812 Boulton & Watt engine at Crofton Pumping Station – the oldest working, in situ example in the world
Back of Museum De Cruquius near Amsterdam, an old pumping station used to pump dry the Haarlemmermeer. It shows the beams of the pumping engine and the 9 meter drop in water level from the Spaarne river. The beam engine is the largest ever constructed, and was in use till 1933.
The remains of a water-powered beam engine at Wanlockhead
A small rotative beam engine, built in 1870 by Thomas Horn to a design by James Watt. The crank is visible at the front, the flywheel part-hidden by the engine. (Originally installed in a waterworks in Ashford, now operational and preserved at the Bredgar and Wormshill Light Railway.)
Beam machine by Thomas Horn Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia "Leonardo da Vinci", Milan.
Baseplate and mahogany lagging, beam engine, British Engineerium, Brighton

A beam engine is a type of steam engine where a pivoted overhead beam is used to apply the force from a vertical piston to a vertical connecting rod.

Reciprocating engine

''This article mainly describes reciprocating engine as heat engine.

Ray-traced image of a piston engine

The main types are: the internal combustion engine, used extensively in motor vehicles; the steam engine, the mainstay of the Industrial Revolution; and the Stirling engine for niche applications.

Stationary steam engine

A stationary steam engine, preserved at Tower Bridge in London. This is one of two tandem cross-compound hydraulic pumping engines formerly used to raise and lower the bridge.
Double-acting horizontal stationary steam engine. The piston is on the left, the crank is mounted on the flywheel axle on the right.
Mill engine, Queen Street Mill, Burnley. William Roberts horizontal tandem compound engine - 'Peace'.
Marshall undertype steam engine
The restored Kittoe and Brotherhood beam engine at Coldharbour, which is steamed up regularly on Bank Holiday weekends.

Stationary steam engines are fixed steam engines used for pumping or driving mills and factories, and for power generation.

Steam locomotive

Rail vehicle that provides the force to move itself and other vehicles by means of the expansion of steam.

LNER Class A4 4468 Mallard is officially the fastest steam locomotive, reaching 126 mph on 3 July 1938.
LNER Class A3 4472 Flying Scotsman was the first steam locomotive to officially reach 100 mph, on 30 November 1934.
Trevithick's 1802 Coalbrookdale locomotive
The Locomotion at Darlington Railway Centre and Museum
The Stourbridge Lion
Photo of the Adler made in the early 1850s
First locomotive in Russia. 1834
The main components of a steam locomotive (click to enlarge)
A steam locomotive with the boiler and firebox exposed (firebox on the left)
Aftermath of a boiler explosion on a railway locomotive, c. undefined1850
Thermal image of an operating steam locomotive
Running gear animation
Steam-cleaning the running gear of an "H" class locomotive, Chicago and North Western Railway, 1943
Running gear of steam locomotive
Water gauge. Here the water in the boiler is at the "top nut", higher than the normal maximum working level.
A locomotive takes on water using a water crane
A locomotive crew in France
The boiler safety valves lifting on 60163 Tornado, creating a false smoke trail
Pressure gauges on Blackmore Vale. The right-hand one shows boiler pressure, the one on the left steam chest pressure.
Typical self-cleaning smokebox design
Watering a steam locomotive
South African Class 25 condensing locomotive
"Wakefield" brand displacement lubricator mounted on a locomotive boiler backplate. Through the right-hand sight glass a drip of oil (travelling upwards through water) can be seen.
Big-end bearing (with connecting rod and coupling rod) of a Blackmoor Vale showing pierced cork stoppers to oil reservoirs
Preserved Great Western Railway locomotive 7802 Bradley Manor, with two oil lamps signifying an express passenger service, and a high-intensity electric lamp added for safety standards
A typical AWS "sunflower" indicator. The indicator shows either a black disk or a yellow and black "exploding" disk.
U-127, the oil burning De Glehn compound locomotive that pulled Lenin's funeral train, in the Museum of the Moscow Railway at Paveletsky Rail Terminal
A South Australian Railways 400 class Garratt locomotive, built in 1952 to a Beyer, Peacock & Company design by Société Franco-Belge. Articulation is enabled by pivots at the ends of the locomotive's central frame.
David Lloyd George Leaves Tan-y-Bwlch Station, Gwynedd - a Fairlie locomotive on the Festiniog Railway, Wales
Fireless locomotive
Heilmann locomotive No. 8001, Chemins de Fer de l'Ouest
The Gov. Stanford, a (using Whyte notation) locomotive typical of 19th-century American practice
Esh 4444 at Varshavsky Rail Terminal, St. Petersburg
Great Western Railway No. 6833 Calcot Grange, a 4-6-0 Grange class steam locomotive at Bristol Temple Meads station. Note the Belpaire (square-topped) firebox.
60163 Tornado on the East Coast Main Line in 2016
California Western Railroad No. 45 (builder No. 58045), built by Baldwin in 1924, is a Mikado locomotive. It is still in use today on the Skunk Train.
The 200th steam locomotive built by Clyde Engineering (TF 1164) from the Powerhouse Museum collection
60163 Tornado, a new express locomotive built for the British main line, completed in 2008
Reading Blue Mountain and Northern Railroad 425 being readied in Pennsylvania, US, for the daily tourist train in 1993
Er 774 38 0-10-0 on Steam Special Train in Moscow 11 July 2010
2-6-0 type "N3" steam locomotive built by Beyer, Peacock & Company in 1910 and restored 2005–2007 by the Uruguayan Railfan Association (AUAR). The photo shows the locomotive with a passenger tourist train in March 2013 at a Montevideo railway station museum.
South African Class 26, the Red Devil

Functionally, it is a steam engine on wheels.

Boiler (power generation)

Device used to create steam by applying heat energy to water.

An industrial boiler, originally used for supplying steam to a stationary steam engine
Type of steam generator unit used in coal-fired power plants
A superheated boiler on a steam locomotive
Diagram of a water-tube boiler
Supercritical steam generator - note the absence of a boiler drum
Large cation/anion ion exchangers used in demineralization of boiler feedwater

The form and size depends on the application: mobile steam engines such as steam locomotives, portable engines and steam-powered road vehicles typically use a smaller boiler that forms an integral part of the vehicle; stationary steam engines, industrial installations and power stations will usually have a larger separate steam generating facility connected to the point-of-use by piping.

Paddle steamer

A typical river paddle steamer from the 1850s.
Fall Line's steamer Providence, launched 1866
Finlandia Queen, a paddle-wheel ship from 1990s in Tampere, Finland
USS Advance (1862), a Greenock-built American Civil War blockade-running side-wheel steamer
Left: Riveted steel paddle wheel from a sidewheeler paddle steamer on the lake of Lucerne
Right: Detail of a steamer
The Nettie Quill, pictured in Alabama in 1906, shows a typical early sternwheeler design.
Old sidewheeler "Pittsburgh" in Gore Bay, Manitoulin Island
Morgan's feathering paddle wheel (Steam and the Steam Engine, Evers)
Ox-powered Roman paddle wheel boat from a 15th-century copy of De Rebus Bellicis
A 15th-century paddlewheel boat powered by crankshafts (Anonymous of the Hussite Wars)
Paddle boat, by the Italian artist-engineer Taccola, De machinis (1449): The paddles wind a rope fixed to an anchor upstream, thus moving the boat against the current.
Model made by de Jouffroy in 1784 to show the French Science Academy the engine and paddle wheels used on : The model is now in the National Maritime Museum in Paris.
A paddle tug pulling to a breaking yard in 1838
A Chinese paddle-wheel ship from a Qing Dynasty encyclopedia published in 1726
, the last seagoing paddle steamer
One of Commodore Perry's fleet: either USS Mississippi (1841) or USS Susquehanna (1850)
Matthew C. Perry's paddle frigate USS Mississippi (1841), part of the Black Ships expedition to Japan (1853–1854)
, a British paddle minesweeper built in 1916.
on Table Rock Lake in Branson, Missouri is a sternwheeler showboat. It is run aground in this picture.
MPV Constitution in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
PS Mahsud in Morrelganj, Khulna, Bangladesh
An historical photo of a ticket of PS Ostrich
Str. Natchez on the Mississippi
RMS Ludwig Fessler on Lake Chiemsee in 2012
Steam paddler Hohentwiel in Bregenz, Lake Constance
Franz Josef I. on Lake Wolfgang
Skibladner in traffic on lake Mjøsa
CGN paddle steamer Montreux leaving Evian-les-Bains in July 2002
(to the left) and in Zurich-Wollishofen
SS Montreux outside Lutry, Lake Geneva in August 2018
PS Adelaide at Echuca on the Murray River.
Kookaburra Queen and CityFerry, Brisbane River
PS Kookaburra Queen and a CityCat
Michigan on Lake Biwa in 2007
Bayou Navigation in Dixie, 1863

A paddle steamer is a steamship or steamboat powered by a steam engine that drives paddle wheels to propel the craft through the water.

Industrial Revolution

The transition to new manufacturing processes in Great Britain, continental Europe, and the United States, in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840.

A Roberts loom in a weaving shed in 1835.
Handloom weaving in 1747, from William Hogarth's Industry and Idleness
European colonial empires at the start of the Industrial Revolution, superimposed upon modern political boundaries.
A weaver in Nürnberg, c. 1524
A model of the spinning jenny in a museum in Wuppertal. Invented by James Hargreaves in 1764, the spinning jenny was one of the innovations that started the revolution.
The only surviving example of a spinning mule built by the inventor Samuel Crompton. The mule produced high-quality thread with minimal labour. Bolton Museum, Greater Manchester
The interior of Marshall's Temple Works in Leeds, West Yorkshire
Lombe's Mill site today, rebuilt as Derby Silk Mill
The reverberatory furnace could produce cast iron using mined coal. The burning coal remained separate from the iron and so did not contaminate the iron with impurities like sulfur and silica. This opened the way to increased iron production.
The Iron Bridge, Shropshire, England, the world's first bridge constructed of iron opened in 1781.
Horizontal (lower) and vertical (upper) cross-sections of a single puddling furnace. A. Fireplace grate; B. Firebricks; C. Cross binders; D. Fireplace; E. Work door; F. Hearth; G. Cast iron retaining plates; H. Bridge wall
A Watt steam engine. James Watt transformed the steam engine from a reciprocating motion that was used for pumping to a rotating motion suited to industrial applications. Watt and others significantly improved the efficiency of the steam engine.
Newcomen's steam-powered atmospheric engine was the first practical piston steam engine. Subsequent steam engines were to power the Industrial Revolution.
Maudslay's famous early screw-cutting lathes of circa 1797 and 1800
The Middletown milling machine of c. 1818, associated with Robert Johnson and Simeon North
The Thames Tunnel (opened 1843).
Cement was used in the world's first underwater tunnel.
The Crystal Palace housed the Great Exhibition of 1851
The Bridgewater Canal, famous because of its commercial success, crossing the Manchester Ship Canal, one of the last canals to be built.
Construction of the first macadam road in the United States (1823). In the foreground, workers are breaking stones "so as not to exceed 6 ounces in weight or to pass a two-inch ring".
Painting depicting the opening of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway in 1830, the first inter-city railway in the world and which spawned Railway Mania due to its success.
Wedgwood tea and coffee service
Winchester High Street, 1853. The number of High Streets (the primary street for retail in Britain) in towns and cities rapidly grew in the 18th century.
The Black Country in England, west of Birmingham
Manchester, England ("Cottonopolis"), pictured in 1840, showing the mass of factory chimneys
A young "drawer" pulling a coal tub along a mine gallery. In Britain, laws passed in 1842 and 1844 improved mine working conditions.
Luddites smashing a power loom in 1812
Levels of air pollution rose during the Industrial Revolution, sparking the first modern environmental laws to be passed in the mid-19th century.
Slater's Mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
Sächsische Maschinenfabrik in Chemnitz, Germany, 1868
Sir Henry Bessemer's Bessemer converter, the most important technique for making steel from the 1850s to the 1950s. Located in Sheffield (Steel City)
Regional GDP per capita changed very little for most of human history before the Industrial Revolution.
Interior of the London Coal Exchange, c. 1808.
European 17th-century colonial expansion, international trade, and creation of financial markets produced a new legal and financial environment, one which supported and enabled 18th-century industrial growth.
As the Industrial Revolution developed British manufactured output surged ahead of other economies.
William Bell Scott Iron and Coal, 1855–60
William and Mary Presenting the Cap of Liberty to Europe, 1716, Sir James Thornhill. Enthroned in heaven with the Virtues behind them are the royals William III and Mary II who had taken the throne after the Glorious Revolution and signed the English Bill of Rights of 1689. William tramples on arbitrary power and hands the red cap of liberty to Europe where, unlike Britain, absolute monarchy stayed the normal form of power execution. Below William is the French king Louis XIV.
A Philosopher Lecturing on the Orrery by Joseph Wright of Derby (c. 1766). Informal philosophical societies spread scientific advances
A primitive lifestyle living outside the Industrial Revolution
A dog forced to eat trash due to pollution, the Industrial Revolution has forced animals into harsh environments most are unable to survive in, leading to starvation and eventual extinction

This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, the increasing use of steam power and water power, the development of machine tools and the rise of the mechanized factory system.


Branch of physics that deals with heat, work, and temperature, and their relation to energy, entropy, and the physical properties of matter and radiation.

The thermodynamicists representative of the original eight founding schools of thermodynamics. The schools with the most-lasting effect in founding the modern versions of thermodynamics are the Berlin school, particularly as established in Rudolf Clausius’s 1865 textbook The Mechanical Theory of Heat, the Vienna school, with the statistical mechanics of Ludwig Boltzmann, and the Gibbsian school at Yale University, American engineer Willard Gibbs' 1876 On the Equilibrium of Heterogeneous Substances launching chemical thermodynamics.
Annotated color version of the original 1824 Carnot heat engine showing the hot body (boiler), working body (system, steam), and cold body (water), the letters labeled according to the stopping points in Carnot cycle.
A diagram of a generic thermodynamic system

Historically, thermodynamics developed out of a desire to increase the efficiency of early steam engines, particularly through the work of French physicist Sadi Carnot (1824) who believed that engine efficiency was the key that could help France win the Napoleonic Wars.

James Watt

Scottish inventor, mechanical engineer, and chemist who improved on Thomas Newcomen's 1712 Newcomen steam engine with his Watt steam engine in 1776, which was fundamental to the changes brought by the Industrial Revolution in both his native Great Britain and the rest of the world.

Portrait of Watt (1736–1819)
by Carl Frederik von Breda
Statue of Watt (Hunterian Museum, Glasgow, by Francis Chantrey)
James Watt by John Partridge, after Sir William Beechey (1806)
Bust of Watt in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery
James Eckford Lauder: James Watt and the Steam Engine: the Dawn of the Nineteenth Century, 1855
Original condenser by Watt (Science Museum)
The ruin of Watt's cottage workshop at Kinneil House
Cylinder fragment of Watt's first operational engine at the Carron Works, Falkirk
Engraving of a 1784 steam engine designed by Boulton and Watt
A steam engine built to James Watt's patent in 1848 at Freiberg in Germany
Portable Copying Machine by James Watt & Co. Circa 1795
Scientific apparatus designed by Boulton and Watt in preparation of the Pneumatic Institution in Bristol
James Watt's letters from the Science Museum Library & Archives in Wroughton, near Swindon
An 1835 painting of "Heathfield", Watt's house in Handsworth, by Allen Edward Everitt
James Watt's workshop
A preserved Watt beam engine at Loughborough University
The James Watt Memorial College in Greenock
Chantrey's statue of James Watt

While working as an instrument maker at the University of Glasgow, Watt became interested in the technology of steam engines.

Hero of Alexandria

Greek mathematician and engineer who was active in his native city of Alexandria, Roman Egypt.

17th-century German depiction of Hero
Hero's aeolipile
Hero's wind-powered organ (reconstruction)
The book About automata by Hero of Alexandria (1589 edition)

Hero published a well-recognized description of a steam-powered device called an aeolipile (sometimes called a "Hero engine").