How much can you tow with a steam vehicle and still have the ability to turn? We are working with very early steam engines, so multiple pistons are not fancied, but accepted. Size is of no mater unless you go very overboard, I do not want to drive the Titanic afterall (also I am pretty sure it wasn't steam powered) I am looking for something that

  • can turn tightly considering size

  • can be powered with primitive fuels

  • Is reliable

  • Does not need special driveways, has to be able to fell some trees on its way and cross ditches (this implies a tank, but I'm not going to mandate it).

  • Can stay on as long as supplied fuel (closed steam cycle, other fluids can be used for cooling.)

With all above requirements how much power can such machine exert on trailer at highest possible in earth-like enviroment?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Titanic was equipped with three main engines—two reciprocating four-cylinder, triple-expansion steam engines and one centrally placed low-pressure Parsons turbine—each driving a propeller. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Jul 24, 2018 at 18:55
  • $\begingroup$ What you can tow depends on force/torque, which with proper gearing can be pretty much whatever you want. You're not going to be towing very fast unless you have adequate power though, which is what's going to be your limiting factor. But you don't mention a speed requirement... $\endgroup$
    – Gene
    Jul 24, 2018 at 19:20
  • $\begingroup$ How you make the power isn't really related to how you use it. $\endgroup$
    – user25818
    Jul 24, 2018 at 19:49
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ With a tracked vehicle you can turn on a dime, there is no limitation there related to engine. Maybe I should really ask how fast you want your vehicle to move? $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Jul 24, 2018 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander, a tracked vehicle can turn on a dime, a tracked vehicle towing a trailer cannot without damaging the trailer. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Jul 24, 2018 at 21:31

2 Answers 2


It sounds like you are looking for something similar to a better developed steam tank, weighing about 50 tons.

The Steam Tank (Tracked) was an early U.S. tank design of 1918 [...] the two main 2-cylinder steam engines with a combined power of 500 hp (370 kW) remained, each engine driving one track to give a maximum speed of 4 mph (6 km/h). The transmission allowed two speeds forward and two in reverse. The steam engines used kerosene for fuel. [...] The design combined serious cooling problems with a dangerous vulnerability due to its two steam boilers and large fuel reservoirs needed to heat the two main engines, and feed both the auxiliary engine and the flame thrower.

Since this was just an early design, it's plausible that further research and refinement could have improved the performances.


About "how much can you tow" you can look at the last big steam tractors. This article say

The Case 40 x 150 HP Traction Engine was designed for heavy hauling, such as ore from the Sater Copper Mine, carrying lumber and freight loads up to 50 tons.

One big problem at that time was

The two-speed gear arrangement led to the end of production because there was no available metal alloy good enough in those days to hold up on such huge engines.

It certainly could move a 2 m/s or more, with the adequate gearing, and for the turn radius, it will depend on what it would be being towed.

Here you can see one monster of these pulling 44 bottom ploughs across a field.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .