A review of The fire burns much better… By J.J.G. Koopmans
by Neil Knopf


The Fire Burns Much Better... by J.J.G. KoopmansThe second edition of J.J.G. Koopmans’ scientific treatise is now available for all serious students of the steam locomotive, particularly those interested in combustion engineering. The author delves deeply into the intricacies of reliable and economical firing of steam locomotive boilers. Stationary steam boilers can be sized, constructed, and outfitted with nearly unlimited ancillary devices to improve the extraction of nearly every BTU of heat from the fuel and particulate emissions from the stack gases. That is not so easily done with the constraints placed upon the steam locomotive designer.

The subtitle of the book is: 200 years of steam locomotive exhaust research, 1804-2004. In this reviewer’s eye, the most fascinating aspect of the book is the inclusions of numerous early and obscure locomotive designs. The engines of the famous Rainhill Trials are described along with reports of their performances – or lack thereof. Quite a bit of objective analyses have been included to satisfy the discerning historian. The book cannot be read like a novel, but more importantly, the author has included a goodly amount of easily digested commentaries on each of the studies presented. With today’s clamor to reduce CO2 emissions, some of the design points therein may well apply to improving our hobby steamers or our museum locomotives.

Studying the works of those early locomotive designers can lead to a greater understanding of the difficulties encountered by those iron pioneers who were so intent upon creating the “greatest” designs of their times. Their failures can be easily picked out, with the help of those engineers who discovered generations later just where they went wrong, proving again that hindsight is better that foresight – but without foresight, there can be no hindsight.

Containing nearly 230 figures and over 60 tables in its 490 pages, the 6-3/4″ × 9-1/2″ softbound book will make a good addition to the library of the steam locomotive designer. It can be purchased from Camden Miniature Steam Services, Barrow Farm, Rode, Frome, Somerset BA11 6PS. The price is £24.95 plus £8.35 Airmail postage to the USA. More information can be obtained by writing an email to info@camdenmin.co.uk  or telephone +44 (0) 1373 830151.


Published by:

Camden Miniature Steam Services

Barrow Farm

Rode, Frome, Somerset BA11 6PS