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8 Diesel Technology Firsts

EarlyDieselEngineDiesel technology is so common that you might suspect it’s been around forever. But, of course, there’s a first time for everything, and that includes diesel power. Here are eight firsts in the history of diesel technology:

1. First Semi-Diesel Engine (1886). The first hot bulb engine — an early form of diesel power — was invented by Englishman Herbert Akryod-Stuart. The engine used paraffin oil. Like later true diesel engines, the oil ignited under pressure. Built by the company Richard Hornsby and Sons of Grantham, Lincolnshire, these early “semi-diesels” were produced between 1891 and the late 1920s. Unfortunately, their compression ratios were too small to produce sufficient power compared to later true diesel engines, and the design ultimately became obsolete.

2. First True Diesel Engine (1897). Germany’s Rudolf Diesel looked at Akryod-Stuart’s hot bulb engine and believed he could do better. Diesel’s inspiration was to super-heat air under pressure before introducing petroleum-based fuel for ignition. Between 1892 and 1895, he patented his slow-combustion engine design in Germany, Switzerland, the United States, France, Spain and Belgium. In 1893, he had his first working prototype up and running. Three years later, he produced a model that ran at 75 percent efficiency, compared to just 10 percent for conventional steam engines. By 1898, Rudolf Diesel was a millionaire, and the world was never quite the same.

3. First Diesel Submarine (1904). The French were the first to replace conventional internal combustion engines with diesels on submarines. The French submarine Aigrette was the first sub to use this new technology. Because diesel engines (and conventional internal combustion engines) emit toxic exhaust fumes, they could only be employed when the submarine was on the surface. When underwater, the subs used battery-powered electric engines for propulsion.

4. First Diesel-Powered Ship (1903). The first commercial ship powered by a diesel engine was a French canal barge, Petit Pierre. It was powered by a Dyckhoff/Bochet diesel with a single horizontal cylinder with two opposed pistons. The first ocean-going diesel ship was the Dutch tanker, Vulcanus, which launched in 1910. It remained in service until 1932. The next major commercial ship to use diesel was the Danish Selandia, a merchant freighter launched in 1911. When it debuted, the Selandia was considered the most advanced vessel on the high seas.

5. First Diesel Locomotive (1912). The first diesel locomotive was operated by Switzerland’s Winterthur-Romanshorn Railway just prior to the outbreak of World War I. It was basically a test-bed prototype, and was not a commercial success. The locomotive weighed 95 tons and had a maximum speed of 63 mph (100 km/h).

6. First Diesel-Electric Locomotives (1917). Developed by General Electric engineer Hermann Lemp, this innovative locomotive used a diesel generator to produce power for a high capacity electric engine already developed by Thomas Edison’s company. GE built and tested three prototypes between 1917 and 1918. But diesel-electric locomotives didn’t become commercially viable until the 1930s, when they were used principally in railroad switching yards.

7. First Production Series Diesel-Electric Locomotives (American) (1929/1934). The Canadian National Railway was the first major North American rail company to use diesel-electric locomotives in mainline service. It operated its first diesel locomotive in 1929. In 1934, the Burlington and Union Pacific railroads began running diesel streamliners to haul passengers between major U.S. cities.

8. First Diesel Automobile (1933). France’s Citroen Rosalie Familale station wagon was the first production automobile to offer an optional diesel engine. In 1936, the Mercedes Benz 260D and the Hanomag Rekord also offered diesel engines. But diesel-powered cars didn’t really become mainstream until the 1980s, when improvements in size, weight, power and fuel efficiency made them competitive with conventional internal combustion motors.

Advanced Diesel Training Offered at WyoTech in Laramie, Wyo.

If you are interested in a career in diesel technology, advanced diesel training is available at WyoTech in Laramie, Wyo. The Advanced Diesel Technology specialty is available as part of WyoTech’s Diesel Technology career training program, a nine-month program that prepares students for entry-level positions in automotive and truck repair maintenance facilities nationwide.

About the Laramie Campus

Founded in 1966, WyoTech’s Laramie, Wyo., campus now occupies 298,000 square feet, including a 123,000 square-foot diesel/street rod facility. The school’s instructors are seasoned industry professionals who are eager to share their experiences, insights and advice.

For More Information

For more information about WyoTech’s Advanced Diesel Technology specialty program and other automotive career training programs, contact WyoTech’s Laramie campus today!

Financial aid is available for those who qualify.


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