- - - - - - download - - - - - -
The invention of the steam engine was definitely one of the most siginificant events in the development of modern civilization; its impact on the course of North American history alone was as direct and powerful as its own mechanical action. This creation is one of the simplest and, at the same time, most beautiful power mechanisms that man has ever devised; to me all other machines pale by comparison. This is an engine with a number of cylinders with a piston travels straight back and forth inside each of the cylinders, i.e. "reciprocating". Steam, being admitted and exhausted alternately at both ends of the piston stroke, pushes the piston forward and back, making each stroke a power stroke—a unique feature of the reciprocating engine. It means that the force is transmitted directly from the piston to either a wheel or a crankshaft by a system of rods and cranks, creating a sublime precision of movement. The fact that there are no gears or transmission makes this the only engine with equal power both in forward and in reverse, and enables it to move anything so long as there is enough steam to push the piston.