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Research report about SteamPower

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A Smidgen of Steam

By: Lilly Whitaker

    You twitch and fiddle with your thumbs nervously.You're on your way to sail from the Hudson to Albany on a steamboat. Not just any steamboat, the Clermont; the first steam-boat to travel without mishaps or going to slow.

    You are curious to see if you'll learn anything. You hope to learn about engines, steam carriages, history, and the steamboat itself. After digging up all your knowledge about these topics, you find nothing. It would be cool to learn about some of those things!

    You eventually arrive, and one of the workers greets you. He exclaims,"You look mighty fine today! Welcome aboard! I'm Robert Fulton- designer and builder of the Clermont--would you like to tour the works and intrecasies of our steamboat?"

    "I would love to!" you respond joyously. He leads you by the arm to a table and asks you,"Do you know anything about steam history?" "No sir" you reply guiltily."Well then, you ought to know about the history of steam!" He tells you this:


    Steam is an old way to harness renewable energy. The ancient greeks had something like our engines, But England really invented it.


“I wonder why our world doesn't use steam anymore.  It is renewable and very efficient. Instead of getting gas, get coal and go!  Coal is cheaper than gas.  But I do see how it contributes to pollution, as the engine (see Fire Up the Engines) release hot gas,” you think with hazy eyes as Fulton explains.  When Fulton sees your glazed over eyes, he yells, “Are you even listening? Recite what I said!”  You stumble and can't recite, so he repeats from where you spaced out.

   "Newcomen of England made the first real engine. It was low pressure, and so was Watt’s. as it was based on Newcomen’s. Later Oliver Evans, among others, made high pressure engines. Watt said high pressure engines were dangerous to the public and even proposed a law banning them. 

Steamin' through history

But he ultimately failed as the public found high pressure engines practical. Later inventors, especially renowned ones like myself, applied high pressure engines to our steamboats, and I imagine carriages in the future."


Once Fulton finishes his story he stands triumphantly and helps you out. He takes your arm and exclaims, “To the engine room!”  He leads you through passageway after passageway. Every turn you can hear the engines louder. After a long while you enter a loud and dimly lit room. He says, “These are the engines.”

 “Our engines are high pressure, meaning the steam is more compact and wastes less energy while working with other parts. Low pressure engines are larger, waste more energy and have less compact molecules in the steam. Of course, there is no in between to compare to, so these facts are dictated but he specific engines, “Fulton states. “Most basic engines are a seven step process:

  1. Coal goes into the firebox

  2. Coal turns into hot gas

  3. Gas enters flues (boiler tubes)

  4. Steam is made as gas heats water

  5. Steam enters pistons

  6. Does work

  7. Gas enters smoke box

  8. Exits through exhaust pipe

There are, of course, variations but that's the simple process,” he remarks, "You know, people have invented a microscopic steam engine in your time!"

     “The important thing about that, if it is functional, is that it could possibly improve modern technology. I am not sure exactly how it would work, but you could very likely make a home generator the size of a wooden block costing only around $500.00.  Also, again I don't have exact plans, you might be able to use them as back-up systems for a car, phone, iPad, or even a flashlight. I would love to see how that could work, or it could fail dramatically,” you think.


Fire up the Engines!

In this photo the steam enters at High pressure steam in (red), enters blue after going through pipes, and exits where it says exhaust steam (blue-top).

Fulton stares at you long and hard. But, he eventually gains a satisfied look. He asks if you want to know about the steamboat’s history. Reluctantly you agree, but you also voice the need to sit down on the deck first.


"In the future, I'll be regarded as the one to invent steamboats. In reality, I'm just the first to be successul. The Titanic certainly moved (though long after me) but it failed because the boiler exploded; like 14% of steamboats in 1823. Interestingly, in 1865, more than 1,200 soldiers died on asteamboats.From this year, 1807, to 1850, about 4,00 people will die on steamboats. To be frank, exploding vessels should be used as weapons in over-seas word. First, you'd offer to take them to a desired country, if they accept, make sure it if sturdy enough to get out to sea but faulty enough to explode when wanted. Let it explode mid-sea and you just killed half or more of your enimies. Anyways, our boat will not explode, we follow maritime laws, and I just have a feeling," he states witha suspicious expression while tapping his head.

    "Well, I shalln't scare you anymore. Our ship set  offAugust 17, 1807. Up untill last year, I hade been obsessed with underwater war devices that,"will be so strong it will eliminate war altogether."I have now built this--the Clermont. 

    Livingston and I met in 1802. We discussed for a while, and decided to build a steamboat together so we could gain monopoly of the Hudson. As, we'd surely become rich from it.I built and Livingston proovided finances. I built along the river, and citizens would yell,  jeer, and call the boat Fultons Folly. I hated  it very much, but Livingston helped me through; and I eventually finished what you here ride on today.

Water's influence

The Clermont, aka Fultons Folly.


General Slocum exploding mid-river.


"Yes I would!" you reply. She starts off," Oliver Evans once wrote ,"The time will come when people will travel in stages moved by steam engines from one city to another almost as fast as birds fly--fifteen to twenty miles an hour. Passing through the air with such velocity--changing the scenes in such rapid succession--will be the most exhilarating, delightful exercise. A carriage will set out from Washington in the morning, and the passengers will breakfast at Baltimore, dine in Philadelphia, and sup at New York the same day." "Perhaps Oliver Evans wrote that prophecy so that the ideas would be on paper therefore accredited to him. Or was it to make him mystical; like he could predict the future?  “You think?  Oy!  You listenin’?  I guess I’ll repeat myself for ya.  Let’s start with him shall we?  He wrote many books, invented the Oruktor Amphibolos, and a patent for flour milling machinery.  His Oruktor was built in 1804 and cleaned docks in Philadelphia.  He wanted to make steam carriages, but the associating company turned down his offer.  So others were left to fulfill his dream.

In December 1802, Richard Trevithick finished his steam carriage that did not fulfill Evans” vision.  In fact, this prophecy wasn’t fulfilled until our modern locomotives were invented.  There were so many failure, like the Tom Thumb, which lost to a horse in a race.  Unfortunately Evans didn’t live to see the fulfillment of his prophecy.”


He finishes his thought and , "Well, thats all I have for you, feel free to explore our magnificent boat! Livingston may know a bit more about history and other steam engineers than me, ask him if you have any questions."You mosey on over to the railing. A woman whispers to you, "Well, you heard about steam boatsfrom full-of-himself-Fulton. Interested in learing a tid-bit about lands' future?"

The woman stops talking, and the boat jolts to a halt.  You fly over the railing and spring up.  Sweat pours down your face, but no water.  You remember you’re just dreaming about that article that you read.  You lay back down and fall asleep pondering all that you learned about history, engines, steamboats, and steam carriages.  You also wonder why more schools don’t teach about steamboats and steam power in the curriculum

Land's Resurface

A replica of the Tom Thumb in action