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Live Steam Loco Questions

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Stewart Mason14/12/2017 19:35:34
35 forum posts

Hi all.

As a newcomer to model engineering, I have no idea how live steam locomotives are built and operated. I have not had the chance to ask an owner of such a model yet, so maybe you can help me. I have been enthusiastically reading LBSC's articles in my selection of Austerity era ME magazines and it seems a nice idea, but I get the feeling it may take over one's life...which of course may be no bad thing.

Does a prospective builder buy rough castings of various parts from a foundry and then machine them and make the rest (the sheet metal parts) by his/herself? Or is it possible to scratch build the lot?

In the case of LBSC's articles in for example my 1947 issues, what equipment is the writer assuming the model engineer has available?

I assume any locomotive carrying paying members of the public will need a regular boiler inspection and adequate insurance? or is this insurance normally provided by a model engineering club in the form of annual subscriptions? (I'm not a member of any model engineering club yet).

These may seem basic questions but I honestly have no clue, I'm that new to it all.

As an 18 stone 6 feet 3 man, what sort of loco would I need to build that would be capable of hauling me, and what sort of money would I be looking at to complete it, assuming I already have the necessary equipment.

Many thanks.

Stewart.

JasonB14/12/2017 19:45:40
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Does a prospective builder buy rough castings of various parts from a foundry and then machine them and make the rest (the sheet metal parts) by his/herself? Or is it possible to scratch build the lot?

That is the usual way but the castings could be cut from solid or fabricated. You could do a bit of both and just buy the complicated castings like the cylinders and then make the rest from barstock

In the case of LBSC's articles in for example my 1947 issues, what equipment is the writer assuming the model engineer has available?

At that time most hobby engineers would have just had a lathe and maybe a drill press, the lathe in conjunction with avertical slide would have been used for all the milling.

I assume any locomotive carrying paying members of the public will need a regular boiler inspection and adequate insurance? or is this insurance normally provided by a model engineering club in the form of annual subscriptions? (I'm not a member of any model engineering club yet).

Club membership will cover the yearly boiler testing and also insurance

As an 18 stone 6 feet 3 man, what sort of loco would I need to build that would be capable of hauling me, and what sort of money would I be looking at to complete it, assuming I already have the necessary equipment.

I'll leave that one to the Loco guys

J

Stewart Mason14/12/2017 19:56:39
35 forum posts

Thank you Jason

Simon Collier14/12/2017 21:14:45
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318 forum posts
52 photos

You are already doing one of the things you need to do, reading magazines. The other is to join a club and be advised by the members. Don't be in a rush to start a loco. You need to decide whether to build something simple, or something you like. I remember the day I walked into the local club and asked the first group of blokes I saw how you build a loco. I didn't have a clue, but they were very helpful and friendly.

JasonB15/12/2017 16:26:36
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Rant Timeangry 2

Is it any wonder that members keep harping on about the lack of new blood coming into the hobby when not one of you with a Loco persuasion can help Stewart with advice as to what size and type of Loco is likely to be able to haul him round in circles.

Are you all too interested in staying in a warm armchair and discussing VAT and the weekly parting-off topic. Surely someone must once have driven a loco and can help. Just hope you don't all belong to Stewart's local ME Club when he decides to visit!

Rant over.

J

geoff walker 115/12/2017 17:14:10
373 forum posts
145 photos

I have very little knowledge of live steam locomotives, never made one and it's highly unlikely at my age that I ever will.

What I can say to help Stewart is that my local model engineering society ( Warrington ) attends our local carnival every year and sets up a portable track about 40 yards long. For a small charge around 10 - 12 people can ride on open carriages behind the driver of a small 5" gauge locomotive.

The locomotive in question is a "Simplex" which I believe is very popular club locomotive. Now if it can pull ( and push ) all them people Stewart it will handle a big lad like you, no problem.

Now whether Simplex is simple to make I really don't know but I would suggest it would make a good challenge for somebody with real enthusiasm and a determination to see the job through.

What you are considering Stewart may indeed take over your life but if you are really up for it and you have deep pockets, it aint cheap to make one, my guess would somewhere around £2000 just for the materials, go for it you'll love it.

geoff

Neil Wyatt15/12/2017 17:26:10
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I thought I had replied - just to agree with your first post, Jason, and to let Stewart know that there should be no problem with a 3 1/2" gauge loco pulling you. I have a tiny 3 1/2" gauge electric loco and it's puled someone of your sort of size!

I can't comment on budget, but live steam is not cheap. For a cheap start you may be best looking for a part-built loco with a tested boiler.

Neil

Norman Rogers15/12/2017 17:31:11
17 forum posts
2 photos

Stewart: the help is slowly arriving! Reading is good, joining a local Model Engineering club is much much better and once you start to develop 'a feel' for the hobby then you'll need to make a few choices. Is there perhaps a locomotive you have always liked, or are you not too fussed? Perhaps go for something reasonably straight forward and save your master piece for the second build. In either event take a look through the catalogues of the main suppliers - Blackgates, Polly, Reeves 2000, GLR, GS Model Supplies .... they may have the castings etc for the locomotive you like or there may be one that catches your eye. You'll also get some idea of the costs involved. Simplex is a good all rounder but there are many others. I'd suggest 6 driving wheels and 5" gauge, that way it'll pull a big lad and a few mates at the same time.

As Geoff says it'll take over your life but it's not a bad way to pass the time!

N

Stewart Mason15/12/2017 17:47:13
35 forum posts

Hi, yes, It would be quite a big decision to make. Such locomotives seem to go for a lot of money if and when they are sold, but I'm much happier making things than buying, although when I started making free flight model aircraft a few years ago I bought a few completed airframes from one of the masters of the art to see what a good standard looked like, and then copied them. It's a useful technique, but obviously out of the question with a steam locomotive.

I have a Model Engineering cub fairly local to me that has a fully equipped workshop and track, but I've yet to pop along. It is my plan to do that in the new year once Christmas is safely out of the way. It's as much about the people as the facilities I find. I'm lucky that I belong to a model flying club with lovely helpful members, but I've always fancied building a loco, and at the age of 44 I'm lucky enough to have time on my side.

I'm very much at the basic information gathering stage, just a tentative toe in the water really.

I read somewhere not long ago about the world of live steam locomotives being something of a closed shop, with a select few new members appearing from out of the ether to replace the old hands, with traditional ways of doing things very important, and if that is the case in some places, it's fine, and I fully understand. I should think it's the same as that which is found in the Free-flight world with the traditional 'sticks and tissue' free-flight contingent being naturally wary of the new-blood RC and Drone crowd.

It's their world, and I'm an outsider, so all I can do is what I did with my flying, which is be friendly, get involved in club life, learn from the old hands, respect the rules, and prove my dedication by producing the best work I'm capable of.

Stew.

John Alexander Stewart15/12/2017 18:53:25
758 forum posts
51 photos

Stew;

It's random thought day from me today.

1) My little Tich (about 20 lbs) has pulled somewhere about 450 lbs. These little locomotives can pull more than one would expect, but it does take time to learn how to fire if using coal. A larger locomotive would make the driving easier.

2) Castings. I live in Canada, where castings imported from Britain are expensive to ship. However, fabricating everything is easy; maybe spoked wheel castings could be purchased, but the rest can be fabricated.

3) My latest locomotive is a Shay geared locomotive, as built in the USA. It is designed by a fellow named Kozo Hiraoka, who has a series of books that not only have geared locomotive designs, but he also shows how to fabricate everything - no castings required.

4) A fellow from the state of New York built Kozo's "New" Shay design using small Sherline equipment; he built it in something like a year, and, the job he did is impressive and the output beautiful. His writeup was on a site called "modelenginemaker.com".

I think your attitude is great - I'd expect that any club would be lucky to have you as a member.

JohnS.

HOWARDT15/12/2017 18:53:32
506 forum posts
14 photos

Hi Stewart. I started two years ago after retiring from a lifetime, or so it seemed, in engineering as a machine tool designer and wanted to do exactly as you. I looked around at what was available, looked at YouTube and decided this was going to be a long term project. Recent threads on this forum concurr that you may finish a live steam in this lifetime unless you have nothing else to do with your time. As to model, I chose 3 1/2" Evening Star and a gauge 1. The gauge 1 I though I may finish quickly and its small enough to run in the modern small garden. But most time has been spent on evening star, the frames done with axles fitted but no wheels and cylinders nearly finished. All this being made from bar stock with the intention to only use castings for the more shaped parts. No idea on the boiler at this time. I would say just go for it, look at models you like the look of and decide on on. Scale depends on what you can machine, I only have a mini lathe and mill, and can't get anything bigger in my work space, so 3 1/2" is good. Remember you are doing this for you and get satisfaction from achieving what ever level of finish you can. At the end of the day you will have achieved more than most people out there.

John Alexander Stewart15/12/2017 19:06:08
758 forum posts
51 photos

Stew - as to my little Tich pulling people; a number of years ago I took it (on the plane, as cabin baggage, of course!) to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

I did borrow a heavy riding car. I brought along some coal.

Anyway, the Manitoba track is long but quite flat; a fellow model engineer, who was about 18 stone or heavier, said something to me as I stopped for water - "that little thing can sure pull!"

So, without thinking, I told him to "hop on!"

Fortunately he did, and the little 20 lb Tich took us around their track; attached is a picture of me coming back into the station area. Tich is really hard to see, but YES, these locomotives can sure pull.

(note, not that I think that a Tich is the best all round locomotive, but it certainly helps you sharpen your firing and driving skills, and is easy to cart about)

It will make it around the Waushakum Live Steamers elevated track, Google it if you wish. A long track with over and under style bridges. I'd make one run, then really clean the fire, as the long grades required a good fire.

JohnS.

manitich.jpg

An Other15/12/2017 19:39:27
160 forum posts
1 photos

I would like to make a couple of comments to Jasons rant - perhaps I am a little off track, for which I apologise, but I felt I had to say something.

I first joined this forum under my real name way back when it first started, hoping to join in a friendly and useful forum. I am a lifelong modeller, and have tried to remain so while following my career in many countries - not always easy. I have built or partbuilt several small locos, a tractionengine, and uncountable other 'bits and pieces', so I consider myself reasonably competent.

At first, I tried to contribute to the forum, with both my own contributions, and attempts to help other members, but eventually became sick and tired of abusive comments, so eventually I stopped posting, and no longer visited the site.

After some time, I resumed 'lurking', and eventually couldn't resist the odd comment or offer of help, so I subscribed under a pseudonym. Almost the first thing that happened was that I saw a post demanding to know why I used a pseudonym!.

After many years, I consider the forum has almost evolved into a private group. The same names appear repeatedly. Some names have appeared which seemed to shine a beam of light into the forum ('Wolfie' springs to mind - never afraid to ask the question) - but many have appeared for a short time then disappeared. I stress this is only my opinion, but this apparent 'closed-shop' is a killer for me, and I suspect is off-putting to 'Noobs'. I'll probably continuing 'lurking', in the (vain?) hope that something interesting will turn up, but I have no interest in 'contributing', or offering help, because of previous experience.

Sorry if this offends sensibilities, it is my opinion, and you don't have to subscribe to it.

Stewart Mason15/12/2017 19:40:50
35 forum posts

Ah wonderful, thanks so much for your replies chaps, great stuff. It seems that size shouldn't really be a problem with they type of loco I'm looking at. I've spent the last few hours looking at model engineering suppliers and I have enjoyed seeing what can be built. No need to get everything all at once either.

I only have a tiny basic 'Adept' lathe at the moment, but I would obviously need to buy a larger machine, and some other workshop machine tools. I do have a garage, unheated but properly wired for power, and a work room in the house for my model aircraft efforts, which could handle being used for smaller parts.

I work as the Equipment Technician for a Fire Brigade, which involves light engineering at the most really, but it's a job that needs meticulous attention to detail. I'm very thorough and I do the job right, and I take as long as it takes, or else I refuse to do it, and my bosses support me 100%. I'm very lucky. I try to bring that to my modelling hobbies.

I love the photo! How great must it be to be pulled along by a machine you built yourself.

I find it amazing and very uplifting that in the 21st century no less, castings can still be purchased for these models of such ancient machines, and that in garages and sheds there are still people working away making them. In this throwaway age that's quite something.

Ian S C16/12/2017 11:49:13
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7468 forum posts
230 photos

Welcome to the club Stewart, recon your right saying you'll need to up grade from the Adept, it will do work, but you will be about 100 before you complete the smallest loco. Hunt around the forum, Super Adept comes up quite often for better or worse.

Ian S C

Here's a view of my one taking a ,010" cut in a bit of stainless steel.dsc01136 (800x600).jpg

IanT16/12/2017 15:09:15
1432 forum posts
141 photos
Posted by Stewart Mason on 14/12/2017 19:35:34:

As an 18 stone 6 feet 3 man, what sort of loco would I need to build that would be capable of hauling me, and what sort of money would I be looking at to complete it, assuming I already have the necessary equipment.

Many thanks.

Stewart.

Hi Stewart,

I didn't respond to your enquiry because (very simply put) there seemed to be an inherent desire in your original request to be dragged around a track by a small steam loco (e.g. Torturing a Tich!)

I originally started out in a larger gauge but eventually decided that something smaller would probably suit me better - both in terms of the overall costs, my ability to store & move my engines, the machinery required to build them - and perhaps as importantly - my willingness & ability to fully participate in my local MES activities.

Maybe I'm a miserable, unsociable so & so - but I wanted to my spend my free time (which was very limited back then) actually building my engine and not maintaining the track/grounds/clubhouse with all the effort and cost involved. I didn't think it was very fair to be one of the Members who just turned up on "running" days - and not all the other days when actual work was needed...

So I down-sized to Gauge 3 - although it could have just as easily have been to Gauge 1 or 16mm. I still get to enjoy the social aspects of Garden Get-togethers when I want to but the reality is that some 99% + of my model engineering is actually spent quite alone - it's a very solitary pursuit and that's fine. I'm quite happy in my workshop - although I have collaborated on various G3 projects over the years.

I was quite amused when you mentioned the "free-flight" vs "R/C & Drone crowd" - as I'm afraid it seems there are always 'factions' within any hobbyist grouping. Sometimes it's the 'Steam' vs 'Electric' and sometimes the 'Modeller' vs 'Engineer' - there always seem to be many flavours of division.

In G3 live steam terms, the modern trend Is towards R/C control but many still prefer to "free-flight" their engines. I must admit, I thought it looked so easy when a G3S Member fired up his G3 Pacific, set it running and then just casually turned away and started drinking his tea. Easy that is until I tried to do the same - when I discovered how hard it actually was to have everything set-up "just right", with no driver (via R/C or 'sat behind' ) to make those continuous little adjustments....

Anyway - after that scolding by Jason - I had better conclude my ramblings by saying that if you are going to build a live steam passenger hauler - I would build to a larger gauge if possible. If you do decide on 3.5" gauge then a Juliet is a nice engine but I'd just go straight to 5" and build something a bit larger like a Simplex I think. It will take time and patience but provided you enjoy doing it - it won't matter.

Personally - I'm happy to just sit, drink tea (oh - and eat cake - nearly forgot that!) and watch the trains go by but everyone is different in what they want to achieve - so my best wishes and I hope that you also get to where you want to be eventually....

Regards,

 

IanT

Edited By IanT on 16/12/2017 15:10:20

thomas oliver 216/12/2017 17:04:39
104 forum posts

Stewart, The keyword in machine work is RIGIDITY. The thinner metal becomes the more flexible it is, so small lathes are not quite so rigid as larger ones. I would go for something bigger than an Adept. An old Myford in fair condition will handle a 3 1/2 in loco. The Boxfords and Viceroys are very good and many schools throughout the country were equipped with them and there are plenty about. They should handle a 5" gauge also. The Chinese lathes are much better now and can be had for around £500 for a basic lathe in either metric or imperial. Beware however of the gears, many of which are plastic, but metal replacements can be bought. If you buy a new machine you will probably only get a 3-jaw chuck and maybe a drill chuck. You could be luckier by buying a lathe from someone retiring, with all its extras like a 4-jaw, tools, measuring gear etc. but if you do not feel competent to judge the quality of a lathe on offer, take along someone who is. Whatever it costs for the lathe will have to be doubled at least for all the drills, taps, dies, reamers.etc. Locos have a proliferation of valves and unions which need D bits, but these can be self made with a little practice at hardening and tempering. To make these unions and things, a few spare drill chucks are useful to keep often used taps or drills ready mounted. Mount a centre drill in a Morse taper arbor to save on a chuck. Start visiting any local car boot sales to see what you can pick up. Many stallholders have no idea of what they are selling or the value, and bargains are to be had. I have built both the Walschaerts gear LBSC Tich and the Juliet. The latter would pull you with ease and would be less demanding than say the 5" Simplex. Plans for a 5" gauge Tich exist, which is as simple and powerful as you can get. You should manage most work with a 4-way toolpost. Quick change tool-posts with a good few tool holders come pretty dear. Then there is the issue of high speed or tungsten carbide tooling. The latter were introduced for high speed production on heavy lathes. TC is brittle and edges could get cracked so the edges were actually rounded minutely. This was not good for amateur work but TC tips can now be obtained for even alloy which are sharper. However you will definitely need TC for iron castings and tough steel. HSS tools at much easier to sharpen I myself knew little about lathe work or locos when I started but it comes slowly and steadily, so get cracking.

Phil H117/12/2017 20:38:44
217 forum posts
16 photos
Posted by JasonB on 15/12/2017 16:26:36:

Rant Timeangry 2

Is it any wonder that members keep harping on about the lack of new blood coming into the hobby when not one of you with a Loco persuasion can help Stewart with advice as to what size and type of Loco is likely to be able to haul him round in circles.

Are you all too interested in staying in a warm armchair and discussing VAT and the weekly parting-off topic. Surely someone must once have driven a loco and can help. Just hope you don't all belong to Stewart's local ME Club when he decides to visit!

Rant over.

J

Jason,

I had to reply to this.

I have never quite got to the stage of actually driving an engine (I only have part built engines - unfortunately so I am a beginner too) but I suspect many of the builders left this forum a long time ago. I am trying my best to stick with it but I must admit that I am just about hanging on.

The forum seems to be dominated by workshop issues and many are repeated over and over again. I doubt if locomotive builders will notice the engine questions amongst the same old themes e.g., which lathe/ miller to buy and the problems of Chinese imports, Myford versus Boxford etc - oh and parting off of course. Each of these workshop questions are very relevant to the person asking the question but surely we could prepare a set of beginners guides to lathes and millers - oh nearly forgot - linear digital scales and how to fit them too.

I think your rant is to people who are no longer here.

My rant over.

Phil H

SillyOldDuffer17/12/2017 22:14:48
5300 forum posts
1086 photos
Posted by Phil H1 on 17/12/2017 20:38:44:
Posted by JasonB on 15/12/2017 16:26:36:
...

... I suspect many of the builders left this forum a long time ago. I am trying my best to stick with it but I must admit that I am just about hanging on.

...

Good point Phil, but what could to be done to attract them back? Is there anything you would like me or anyone else who uses the forum to do differently? I'm afraid I don't want to build a locomotive, but apart from that...

Dave

duncan webster17/12/2017 22:27:22
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2415 forum posts
39 photos

Stewart, I've sent you a pm

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