Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Our "Steamy" Adventure begins

Our “steamy adventure” is all about our desire to use a steam engine to provide backup power for our solar system. This dream began in our heads about 30 years ago but at last the real thing is getting underway.

Heather first became fascinated by the power of steam energy in her childhood. On holidays in the 1950’s, her family often set up their caravan near country rail lines. From these locations they frequently encountered steam locos being used to haul freight. Often, the family would make detours just to catch sight of a huffing and puffing train hauling its load along.
Much later (in the early 80’s), we read articles about innovative people using steam technology to generate electricity. A few years later, whilst visiting an alternative energy display, we came across Rod Mueller with a working version of his “Liberty” Steam Engine. By then we had purchased our bush block at Dixons Creek, and the dream of using our wood to drive one of Rod’s engines to generate power took shape.
A Liberty Stream engine in action
During this time, Heather and her friend Jean, decided to do a boiler attendant’s certificate with volunteer workers at the Puffing Billy Railway Society, in Belgrave. This involved hours and hours of theory as well as doing 300 hours of practical work operating steam engines to put the theory into practice. Although it was hard work, Heather enjoyed working with a variety of locos as well as the “Wattle” steam boat and steam engines being used for other purposes. Eventually we found out that Rod’s boilers did not need a qualification, as they had a surface area less than 40 square inches. But at least Heather developed a good understanding of how these machines work.
Rod builds the units at his engineering works in Goolwa, South Australia. Originally he started making boilers and engines for people who wished to install them in boats. Soon he was getting orders for machines to be set up to generate power, when people realised this potential use.  
Our boiler (with door) in Rod's workshop

Over the past 30 years we have not lost sight of our dream- however a multitude of things needed to be done first (building our house and setting up our gardens for starters). In more recent times one of the factors that held us up was the fact that setting up steam engines is quite complex and we were waiting for someone else to do it so we could call on their expertise if needed. Then last year some people in Healesville (about 30 min away) set one up. They kindly showed us their system and offered to help us if we needed it. At last we were ready. We took the plunge and ordered our very own steam engine. Over the next few months we will record our “steamy” story on our blog. Hopefully it will not take another 30 years to get it all set up.
For more information about Strath Steam’s products their web address is  and Rod is very helpful.

No comments:

Free Hit Counter