The correct operation of the valve gear is prerequisite for economical and low-wear operation as well as the full performance of a steam engine. This applies equally to steam locomotives, marine steam engines, but also to stationary steam engines.
Incorrect valve setting mean:
These points, in addition to inconvenience to the staff, are a source of avoidable and sometimes significant additional costs for operation and maintenance. Even in today's heritage or tourist operation, therefore, the proper working of the steam engine should be taken into account in the interests of the most careful and economical operation as well as the avoidance of engine damage.
Valve setting of the steam engine by using an indicator offers the most exact adjustment possibility. Adjusting by the sound of the exhaust beats or measuring with a cold machine does not allow a checkup of the result, does not detect the temperature-induced length extensions and is therefore only conditionally suitable.
The indicator diagrams, on the other hand, provide a deep insight into the mechanical and thermodynamic processes in the cylinder. Possible valve gear faults, leaks, valve damage as well as the correct dimensions of the clearance volumes can be reliably read from the diagrams. Thats why many railway departments required test runs with indicator after every extensive work on the motion, valvegear or the vales itself. In eastern Germany for example, this had been done consequently until the end of main line operation in the late 80s.
Some of the disadvantages of classical mechanical indicators are:
In other words, valve setting of steam engines by means of mechanical indicators has long been outdated. Thanks to the digital measurement technology available today, it is possible to create a system which overcomes the weak points of the known, old system and also provides further diverse possibilities.
The application of up-to-date measuring and evaluation technology has created a system that is quick and easy to install, which does not require time-consuming loco-specific adaptation work and is immediately ready for use.
With this "plug and play" solution, the time required for installation on any two-cylinder machine is less than an hour.
Of course, the system is not limited to steam locomotives: the flexible device can be installed on every steam engine - whether it is on water or land, mobile or stationary.
On this basis, a detailed documentation on the condition of the steam engine and its valve gear can be compiled after the test run. This demonstrably opens opportunities to reduce costs for maintenance or operation of the steam locomotive or the steam engine considered in each case.