Steam train

Transport uses of steam engines

Transport uses of steam engines

Steam engines are used to power a wide variety of self-transport applications. These are a few examples:

  • Marine applications, naval transport: steamships, steam boats, steam yachts.
  • Applications of the steam engine in the field of rail transport: Steam locomotive.
  • Agricultural applications: used as traction motor for agricultural machinery. The first tractors in the sector were steam tractors.
  • Road transport: Steam vans, steam buses, steam tricycles, steam car.
  • Applications in construction machinery: Steam steamroller, steam excavator
  • Applications of steam engines in the history of military development: Steam tank, steam catapult.

In some of these applications of steam engines, today internal combustion engines or electric motors are used.

The reason why the steam engine has lost strength is due to its high power-to-weight ratio, the weight of a steam engine is much higher than that of an internal combustion engine for a similar power. Another drawback of steam engines is that they require more maintenance and take up much more space than a diesel engine, for example.


The steamboat is a ship driven by the force of steam produced by a steam generator using either a paddle wheel, or a propeller.

Many specialists believe that Robert Fulton was the inventor of the steamboat. But there were already different variants of boats powered by steam pressure before Fulton's invention. Its merit is to demonstrate that a well constructed ship could be made with the technique available at that time and could be a viable mode of transport. In general, people looked with distrust at these unusual naval constructions

The first propeller steamer was built by the Austrian Josef Ressel; In 1836, the ship proved to be superior to the speed and strength of the rowing ships. The first modern passenger ship, with its metal hull (instead of wood) and propelled by a steam engine that acts as an axial propeller (instead of paddle wheels) was built in Britain. This first steamboat was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel and put into the water in 1843.

Steam locomotive

In railway technology and rail transport, a steam engine is defined as a vehicle powered by a steam engine and intended for the traction of a train.

The steam locomotive is an application of steam engines invented by several technologists at the beginning of the 19th century. The steam locomotive revolutionized the land transport system allowing the passage of transport with animal traction to transports with mechanical traction, to become synonymous with the machine.

The steam locomotive was flanked and then replaced by other traction systems (mainly traction with electric motors and traction with internal combustion engines) due to its low power and modest efficiency. At present, traction with a steam engine is still fundamental in the history of technology, also because of the contribution it makes to thermodynamics.

Steam Tractor

The first self-propelled machines with the steam engine appeared in the 19th century. These machines were used for multiple uses, but their main application was in the agricultural sector, in fact, it was used mainly for the threshing of cereals and the pressing of forages.

The first tractors were steam tractors. They were used in pairs on each side of a plow field (steam plow), drawn back and forth between them using a steel cable.

This type of vehicle, the precursor of the modern tractor, was gradually replaced by the Testa Testa tractor due to the purchase cost and lower maintenance and ease of use.

Publication Date: March 26, 2019
Last Revision: March 26, 2019