Big engines


| May/June 1979



106 South Elm Street, Newkirk, Oklahoma 74647

Quite often someone writes to the IMA telling about the biggest steam engine ever built. Now I wish to tell about some fair-sized engines that are being built a few miles south of here by the Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company. These are steam turbines. There will be two units when the plant is complete. Each turbine will be able to turn up 750,000 horsepower at the shaft. They will be directly connected to alternators that produce 515,000 kilowatts.

About a year ago the steam drum of the boilers was hauled by here on the Sante Fe Railroad. It was carried on three specially built flat cars. It weighed over 300 tons. Now understand this is only the steam drum. There is a mud drum, or more properly called the lower drum, of similar size at the bottom.

These boilers when completed stand 120 feet high and will weigh around 200 tons each. Now the incredible the steam pressure will be 2,600 pounds to the square inch, super-heated to 1000 degrees Fahreinheit. Also please note these turbine units will only burn one-half pound of coal per horsepower hour. About the best official record for a steam traction engine was made by the Case 110 HP at Winnipeg, Canada in 1913, when it won sweepstakes in the economy contest by developing a horsepower-hour on 2.65 pounds of coal. The 80 HP Case with Woolf compound cylinder was second with a fraction of a pound more but all the other competing makes burned over three pounds. The late, very-much-liked steam engine man, Leroy Blaker, got some economy runs with his Port Huron Compound that were equal to these. Leroy was a fine operator and he owned the best Port Huron that escaped the junk man. The best Corliss engine in use 60 years ago burned 1.5 pounds of coal per horsepower-hour.

Now there is another side to the picture. To be able to withstand the incredible heat and pressure a very high grade of alloy steel must be used in these boilers and turbines. Among other ingredients, CHROME is absolutely necessary and there is practically none produced in this country. The best and the most chrome comes from Rhodesia, and it looks like that country is about to fall into the hands of our enemies. Most people in this country don't seem to be concerned, but I'm scared. Perhaps I'm just an old fogey like most of the other steam engine buffs?

Chrome is necessary in the jets of airplanes and is used in several other modern machines. Stainless steel cannot be made without it. Molybdenum and Vanadium are metals that are used in high grade steel. Both are scarce in this country and must be imported.