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Model Railroading > Owning a live steam locomotive?


Date: 05/27/17 10:25
Owning a live steam locomotive?
Author: hotrail

I am always impressed with live steam locomotives. For example, if you visit Riverside Live Steamers on a public run day, you will see those little engines pulling about 30 passengers around the park. And where the track is running up a grade, and the engineer gets the throttle opened up a bit, they make a great sound. Like so many hobbies, I see that and say "gosh it would be cool to have one of those."

My question is this: I know these are complex little machines that are typically built by hand and require a good deal of maintenance for safe and efficient operation. Every time I read about someone's live steam project there is discussion of all of the machining they had to do, etc. Or I see a locomotive for sale and there is mention of the need to replace flues, or repair the boiler. I get the impression that a lot of the guys who own and operate these locomotives have serious skills in welding or machining, often acquired in their careers. I don't have those skills at all (and don't have the time to learn them). Sure I can rebuild a motorcycle transmission or a carburetor, but I have never run a lathe or a milling machine or a welder. To me it just seems unrealistic that I could ever own a live steam locomotive. Is that a fair assessment, or am I looking at it too pessimistically?



Date: 05/27/17 10:40
Re: Owning a live steam locomotive?
Author: SeaboardMan

They have ready to run new ones you can buy. Look around the net and you shall find. I wish I had one too!
John



Date: 05/27/17 12:02
Re: Owning a live steam locomotive?
Author: livesteamer

I, for one, have almost no machining skills...never operated a lathe or milling machine. But, I have owned and operated 2 different live steamers over the past 35 years. I can work on piping, the injector, axle pump. I can repair minor leaks in steam lines and water lines. But, when it comes to major work such as new tubes, reset the valve gear, etc I am willing to turn to the pros and pay for their professional skills. That is the price I am willing to pay to own and operate a live steamer. Now, it is important to note that my engines were and are not complex machines but they steam and that's what counts for me.

Getting into steam for guys like you and me means a willingness to set sight on a simpler model--such as an Allen engine and be ready to seek out the pros when we need it.

Marty

Marty Harrison
Knob Noster, MO



Date: 05/27/17 14:28
Re: Owning a live steam locomotive?
Author: PHall

livesteamer Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I, for one, have almost no machining
> skills...never operated a lathe or milling
> machine. But, I have owned and operated 2
> different live steamers over the past 35 years. I
> can work on piping, the injector, axle pump. I
> can repair minor leaks in steam lines and water
> lines. But, when it comes to major work such as
> new tubes, reset the valve gear, etc I am willing
> to turn to the pros and pay for their professional
> skills. That is the price I am willing to pay to
> own and operate a live steamer. Now, it is
> important to note that my engines were and are not
> complex machines but they steam and that's what
> counts for me.
>
> Getting into steam for guys like you and me means
> a willingness to set sight on a simpler
> model--such as an Allen engine and be ready to
> seek out the pros when we need it.
>
> Marty

And bring money. Lot's of it!



Date: 05/27/17 14:43
Re: Owning a live steam locomotive?
Author: livesteamer

Yup!

Posted from Android

Marty Harrison
Knob Noster, MO



Date: 05/27/17 15:15
Re: Owning a live steam locomotive?
Author: santafedan

We have a member at the Indiana Live Steamers who bough one last summer. He found that the learning curve is pretty steep. He hopes to have a grip on it by later in the summer.



Date: 05/27/17 21:49
Re: Owning a live steam locomotive?
Author: tomstp

You can buy a used Allen 4-6-0 generally between $12,000 and 15,000 depending on age and how it is equipped. The Allen engines are of a very nice design, easy to fire on coal or propane. Very difficult on oil.

This link is favored by most on the hobby for selling equipment. http://www.discoverlivesteam.com/discoverforsale/locomotive.html
Have them add you to notices of engines for sale at your email address. Be aware that before buying one you need to go run it and make sure it is a good engine. There are good machinist and terrible machinists. If you don't know how to judge an engine find someone to go with you. Never buy an engine with steel flus, only copper flus. Be sure to join a live steam group and be prepared to WORK on track or other items needing work at a club. You will meet some very good down to earth people. Live steamers everywhere are quick to share their knowledge. A good thing for you to remember: If you don't know much about a subject don't try to make others think otherwise. LEARN.

It is a fantastic hobby.



Date: 05/27/17 22:20
Re: Owning a live steam locomotive?
Author: ESPEE5318

Option 1. Have the skills/knowledge/tools/equipment etc etc to build/maintain it yourself.

Option 2. Have a big pile of cash to pay someone with the skills/knowledge/tools/equipment to build/maintain it.

This also applies to many other things........



Date: 05/27/17 22:34
Re: Owning a live steam locomotive?
Author: steamdiesel

I was in 1 1/2 scale like riverside live steamers. Another option is to make friends with the owner of a steam engine and volunteer to help. You get lots of experience of no cost. A live steam engine needs lots of maintenance before and after operation. You can also see if this is something you want to tackle.

Posted from iPhone



Date: 05/27/17 23:44
Re: Owning a live steam locomotive?
Author: WrongWayMurphy

I have owned an Allen ten-wheeler for about 8 years now. I have a love-hate relationship with it, it
steams great some days and fights with me like a jilted lover on others.

I am not a machinist and had I not hung around other like minded Live Steamers, I would have melted it
down into a ball of molten iron by now, but thankfully others have helped me through the tough times
and I have been thoroughly enjoying the engine as of late and become one with it.

If you plan on going it alone, you will fail along with your engine to enjoy each other.



Date: 05/28/17 06:12
Re: Owning a live steam locomotive?
Author: hotrail

Thanks for all of the good info and recommendations. Clearly it is not an endeavor to jump into without a lot of thought and the willingness to make a serious commitment to investing one's cash and investing one's time to join a club or get involved in the live steam community. The latter is an additional challenge insofar as it is an hour drive from where I live to any of the clubs that run live steam. I don't have the bandwidth to take that on now, but will try to learn more when I can.
Thanks again.



Date: 05/28/17 09:30
Re: Owning a live steam locomotive?
Author: Frisco1522

As I've told tomsp, if I were younger I would have a live steamer.
My whole working life has been as a machinist and tool maker.
I don't have big enough lathe and milling machine to pull it off, but I know someone who does.
I spent 18 years involved with 1522 so have steam experience, albeit it prototypical both maintaining and running.
I could probably stretch and buy an Allen 4-6-0 or similar and make it look like a Frisco engine.
Problem is, I've waited too long! And as far as I know, there's only one 1-1/2" running club close by.
I'll stick with HO brass, maintaining my photo and negatives and playing with my new toy, a 98 Mustang GT convertible.
Over the years I've seen some beautiful models and have seen more that look like a dog's breakfast. I'm nit picky enough to want to make an engine as prototypical as possible. There are sure some gaudy paint jobs and wild detailing out there.



Date: 05/28/17 13:01
Re: Owning a live steam locomotive?
Author: mcdeo

Join the local club, that's the best and easiest way to get involved. I didn't think I would ever own one, or be involved with hernia scale, but I am, a bit. As mentioned, it's all choice.

I think the money is relative though. HO scale, 20 cars at $30 is $600. You can get a single car in 1.5" scale for 600-1200 depending on options. So 40 HO scale cars is about the same price. G Scale is around $100 per car, last I looked, so 6-12 cars. O scale is I think around $60 a car or so, but it all depends.

Yes you can purchase a used steam engine for about $10-15k. However, add up your collection and see if you're at or maybe even well beyond that already in money. I got a small electric and single car, now hang out occasionally, lots of options.

Rule of thumb still applies to maintenance. 60% of the time the steam loco is in maintenance, 40% you'll be running, or less, depending on what you do with the engine. Hence another reason why the electric diesel engine is more popular both in 1:1 and large scale, simple time management.

The gist of the story, don't be afraid! Seriously, it's easier than you think. And if you can turn a wrench, it's even much easier than you think. Sure you can get the entire machine shop setup, or just use basic tools and friends. In town here, there are even a few machine shop club groups. You pay a monthly fee, and have access to shared resources. Lots of options, so please, don't hesitate, get involved!

Mike ONeill
Parker, CO
Colorado Photos



Date: 05/29/17 01:03
Re: Owning a live steam locomotive?
Author: Harlock

If you ask 10 different live steamers an opinion, you'll get 10 different answers. :) There is also a lot of bad advice out there that results in people be scared away from the hobby.

Building a live steam locomotive does take a lot of patience and the willingness to see a long project through to completion, but you will learn quite a bit and put yourself in the company of some very talented people, not to mention the satisfaction that comes with saying "I built it."

When I first began in this hobby, I could barely use a cordless drill. Now I have a complete shop and can make just about anything. There is no secret sauce or magic involved; just the willingness to learn and take it one step at a time.

I do highly recommend that you attend a club meet and get to know the members, and see some quality engines. You will get a much better sense of what is possible and what you might want to do. While I will give you some very good 'book learnin' below, there are some fine details to be absorbed by talking to and watching experienced machinists.

You don't even have to build a locomotive. You can learn to run the club engine for starters, or befriend someone who would appreciate the help with their own engine. The more experience you have the more you will know what you want and what you don't want, and what works and what doesn't. Even if you build a nice riding car or scale freight or passenger car, people will be very impressed and appreciative of your work and you will be welcomed wholeheartedly into the hobby.

There are plenty of beginner level projects out there which take less effort and time than huge, modern superpower engine.

While there unfortunately is no one place you can go to learn everything, I can give you some recommendations on where to get started on your path which do not require a heavy investment.

Step one is to get two useful books, which you can read to get a good idea of what is involved. Whether you decide to enter this aspect of of the hobby or not, you will enjoy having these volumes in your library.

The first and best book is "Building the Pennsylvania A3 Switcher: The First Project for the Beginner" by Kozo Hiraoka.
https://secure.villagepress.com/store/items/detail/item/844

This is one of the only books that describes every step of the machining process for every part. As the book progresses, it builds on prior knowledge and only shows new operations in detail. by the time you graduate from "Kozo University" you will know how to machine every part on a locomotive.

The book describes the construction of a small 3.5" gauge locomotive, but the techniques shown are useful for any locomotive you may choose to build from Gauge-1 up to 7.5" gauge.

If you only buy one book, buy Kozo's book.

The second book is "So You Want to Build a Live Steam Locomotive" by Joe Nelson.
https://secure.villagepress.com/store/items/detail/item/855

This is a general collection of how-to documents that serves as a useful reference when you are unsure of how to go about an operation.

My 'local' live steam track is an hour away as well but don't let that stop you. It is an easy day trip.

A good online reference for Live Steam and general metalworking is the Chaski Home Machinist Forums at https://www.chaski.org/homemachinist/

Chaski has the most active live steam forums on the internet.

Regarding used engines -

It is my personal experience through the purchase of two previously built engines that if the locomotive looks bad, it will also be in mechanically poor condition, and possibly made incorrectly from the get-go; fixing it often entails a total disassembly and rebuild. Or you end up constantly having problems with it. That tends to suck the joy out of the hobby. Do not be tempted by inexpensively priced engines that look mediocre. If you build it right to begin with, you will not have troubles beyond basic teething issues, and you will have many hours of enjoyment. You will spend less outfitting your shop than you will spend on a mediocre used locomotive that you may never be happy with.

Don't be afraid to dip your foot in the water by ordering a book and talking to your nearest club members who have completed an engine. The opportunity cost is low. And you may find other ways to involve yourself other than building an engine if that's not to your taste or time availability.

Good luck! PM me if you have any questions.

-Mike

Mike Massee
Tehachapi, CA
Photography, Railroading and more..



Date: 05/30/17 00:50
Re: Owning a live steam locomotive?
Author: C.P.Huntington

If your mechanical skills are good enough to rebuild a motorcycle transmission or a carburetor,
you will be able to build an maintain a live steam locomotive. You will have to learn a lot
of new things but you don't have to do it all at once. Start with the machining the simple parts
and work your way up to the more difficult ones. The Kozo Hiraoka book that Mr. Harlock recommends
is excellent and will give you an idea of what it takes to build your own locomotive. Koso
builds almost everything from metal bars and sheets but to save time you can buy rough metal
castings instead. You can also by parts already machined if they are to large or difficult
for you to make. I had to buy the drivers for my engine machined because my lathe was to
small to make them.

Before you buy an engine you might want to join a club first and try running a few different
engines. The experience you gain will help you when you purchase your engine. But before you are
allowed run the club's engine you will probably have to donate some of your time helping
maintain the track, help out on run days, etc.

The Chazski Live Steam forum is a good place to ask questions and get more information.
Here is their address: https://www.chaski.org/homemachinist/viewforum.php?f=8

A couple more thoughts:

- This stuff is HEAVY. If your HO scale 4-8-4 derails you can pick it up with your fingers;
doing the same thing with a 1 1/2 scale 4-8-4 will mean breaking out the crowbars and
re-railing frogs and spending the next 15 minutes or more wrestling the engine back onto the rails.

- Running your engine will take a bit of planning ahead. If you want to run an HO scale train you
just walk over to your layout, turn on the power and start running trains. With a live steam
engine you will have to load it into your car (or pick-up truck) along with some fuel and
a tool box (you will always need the tool box - when you take the engine out it's not unusual
to find something that needs to be adjusted, tightened or fixed). Drive to the track, unload
the locomotive, and spend about another 30 - 60 minutes firing it up. Shutting down at the
end of the day is a bit quicker but it's not like an HO scale layout where you just turn it off
and walk a way.

- You will learn why the railroads got rid of steam and switched to diesel.

Good luck. I think you will find it to be an very interesting part of the model railroading hobby.



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 05/30/17 00:58 by C.P.Huntington.



Date: 05/30/17 13:23
Re: Owning a live steam locomotive?
Author: CPRR

I own two steam locomotives in the "sane" gauge (1" to the foot), as opposed as a good friend says "hernia gauge" (1.5" to the foot). I enjoy driving my two, and it is a get away from the rest of the world, concentrating on running them. When I finally started, I did not have the equipment, and purchased a used engine from another steamer in Wisconsin, a 0-6-0. Very well built, and done right. The maintenance formula is 1 hour running, 3-4 hours fixing (cussing). That is what my wife says.

I agree with the other posters, for sure go to a club and look around, ask questions, listen to the old men tell you building it is have the fun, listen to the young bucks who say they do not have the time , and would rather spend the cash for a excellent used one.

The other truth to the reality of the hobby is that there are several members who are getting up there, and would rather sell the equipment to another member/interested party than leave it to the kids who would not care for it when they die.

If interested in 1" scale, I know of a person in the San Fernando Valley that has a ton of equipment for sale. If you want 1.5", look on Discover Live Steam.

If you would like to come up to Los Angeles Live Steamers on a Sunday, i would be more than happy to escort you into the inner area (members only) and you can ask all the questions you want. Best Sundays are the third Sunday of the month, when the Steam power plant is running, the Disney Barn is open, the gauge 1 folks are there and the 1" guys come out. The club has a excellent running steam locomotive also.

Chris
LALS 1 Inch Foreman



Date: 05/31/17 18:36
Re: Owning a live steam locomotive?- GO BIG!!
Author: SandingValve

If you are going to own one I say go BIG, like 5" scale-15" gauge. You either afford the proper machine shop/tools/tooling or you afford to pay someone to do the machining regardless of what scale/gauge you choose. Live steam is machinery and eventually it wears out or needs to be repaired/replaced.

I myself like the bigger scales/gauges such as these images show. I sure have a blast with them!


Living VERY LARGE scale,
SV








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