Classic 1937 steam engine soon to run carbon-free

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A 1937 steam locomotive is getting a makeover in a bid to prove the viability of solid biofuel and modern steam locomotive technology.

A steam train built in 1937 is getting a makeover that will turn it into a “higher-speed” locomotive that runs on biocoal, a coal-like fuel made with woody plant material.

When finished, the train will be able chug along existing tracks at speeds up to 130 miles per hour without contributing to the greenhouse gas pollution blamed for global warming. “Computer simulations already show that the locomotive is about as powerful as two modern passenger diesel locomotives,” Davidson Ward, president of the Coalition for Sustainable Rail.

“But it will burn carbon neutral fuel.”

The biocoal is based on a so-called torrefaction process pioneered at the University of Minnesota in Duluth. To make it, woody material — in this case trees — are heated in the absence of oxygen. The resulting flaky matter is then rammed together under high pressure to create coal-like bricks.

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