Love the analogy! And yes, steam engines were and are very maintenance-intensive which is hugely expensive. I’m very close to the North Carolina Transportation Museum which used to be a steam engine servicing center. Today, it is one of the very few active steam engine rebuilding and servicing centers and it performs a lot of work on it’s and other museum’s fleet of active steamers. Fascinating for us chronologically-advanced folks to watch, ride in, and even drive from time to time.RonDawg wrote:goldbrick wrote:And yes steam engines are very maintenance intensive. That’s why steam locomotives mostly faded from existence quite quickly once diesel-electric ones became widely available. Normally a company would wait for such a large investment to simply wear out before replacing it, but the maintenance savings were worth retiring many of them early.
According to some of the folks at the museum, @RonDawg is quite correct: maintenance was a key driver to the demise of steam locomotion but there were others as well. Operating costs beyond maintenance were high too. A steam loco eats horrendous amounts of oil, coal, wood, or other fuel. It consumes a massive amount of water that has to be frequently refilled and heated impacting any trip length. It takes hours to start one up from cold, not just flipping a switch to start up a diesel, and hours for one to shut down and get cool enough to work on. It requires a significant infrastructure of water and fuel servicing stops and the maintenance of those stops. And accidents are very dangerous since you have high pressure water/steam and a large open firepit with a blazing fire in it.
With all their drawbacks, for me there is nothing quite like seeing a steamer in operation, and to actually drive one at the museum? Priceless. Thanks @RonDawg for this trip down memory lane!