Welcome to the 'New Somerset and Dorset Railway'
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
the future's bright, the future's wood ...
Yes! At last the wider movement is beginning to appreciate the value of wood as a fuel source for locomotives in an oil-less and coal-less future. This month's Steam Railway (June 2007) carries a five page article on wood burning, looking at the Kielder Railway and the wider picture. Good news is that some types of wood have almost as high a calorific value as coal, bad news is that locomotives that were built for coal don't take to wood - but that doesn't rule out some sort of reasonably cheap conversion - we did it with leaded to unleaded petrol.
The simple fact is that in a warming world burning coal for what's seen essentially as 'pleasure' will become frowned upon. Coal will also become very expensive as the last mines are emptied at a rapid pace to keep up with the demand for energy generation. Everyone will be looking to wood.
Wood has huge advantages - it can yield a very good harvest in a relatively small area as it grows upwards, it can be grown locally to the railway (very cheap transport costs), it is carbon-neutral provided enough is planted to cover burnt stocks and it can grow very quickly - up to 9 feet a year for eucalyptus.
The downside is that land values will probably rise as more and more is needed for harvested forests - so heritage lines should be building land purchase for forests in their business plans now, not in 20 years time!