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How long to build?

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RevStew20/08/2018 17:22:59
60 forum posts

Hi all.

Apologies for the rather vague question, but how long do you reckon does it take the average builder to put together the average live steam loco? Ball park?

Also, can you think of any instances where it's taken an absolute age?!!

Stew.

JasonB20/08/2018 17:27:53
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Moderator
13228 forum posts
1203 photos

1000-1500hrs work, some people spend all day and every day at it so does not take long. Others may only get a few hours a week so it will run into many years before it is completed

Brian Baker 120/08/2018 17:30:07
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74 forum posts
13 photos

Greetings Stew,

I have built 16 locos over the years, the quickest build was Martin Evan's 2-6-4 tank which I completed in 53 weeks, whilst the second one I built took 16 months.

The longest build was a rebuild of a 71/4 Britannia ex Winson kit, which took over 5 years.

Regards

Brian

Edited By Brian Baker 1 on 20/08/2018 17:30:28

SillyOldDuffer20/08/2018 17:39:19
3194 forum posts
652 photos
Posted by Brian Baker 1 on 20/08/2018 17:30:07:

...

I have built 16 locos over the years, the quickest build was Martin Evan's 2-6-4 tank which I completed in 53 weeks, whilst the second one I built took 16 months.

The longest build was a rebuild of a 71/4 Britannia ex Winson kit, which took over 5 years.

...

Brian

Wow. Respect!

HOWARDT20/08/2018 18:21:03
318 forum posts
13 photos

The question begs how many parts are made from raw material. Obviously buying castings will speed things up as well as laser cut parts, or go the whole hog and buy a kit of machines parts. At the moment I am trying to build Evening Star in 3 1/2” from scratch with the purchase of a few of the more awkward parts as castings including the wheels. I’ve probable spent a 100 hours this year starting again from scratch and got the frame and cylinders complete. Don’t expect to have it finished any time soon, but then it’s the build that I am interested in more than driving it round a track.

Neil Wyatt20/08/2018 18:57:17
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14110 forum posts
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69 articles

40 years is far from unknown.

I took about 27 years to make a balsa air-sea rescue launch to a Vic Smeed design...

If you want to get up and going with a loco, electric is an increasingly popular alternative. As it can be set up and go, it electric can generally run between the steamers without stealing their track time.

Neil

NJH20/08/2018 19:14:20
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2310 forum posts
139 photos

Well Stew

I’ve started my loco about 18 years ago ..... boiler completed and many parts machined .... however I don’t anticipate an early completion so this is a case of “ an absolute age” ! Life and “stuff” has got in the way and, in truth, running a loco is not a priority. I have made a few stationary engines and have a couple on the go now and this satisfies my workshop bug....... however a workshop is a VERY useful place to have. Once you have it almost all jobs become much easier. ( It is also a sanctuary to retire to where you will not be disturbed and you can ponder on life (or calm any frustrations you may have with life by wielding a large file and hacksaw until you feel better)!

Norman

PS Once you have your workshop it is best not to let too many folk know about it. There is always someone who will have a “ little job” they would like you to “help”them with...... it will likely be complicated, time consuming and inconvenient . (They will probably consider a beer as suitable payment)

 

Edited By NJH on 20/08/2018 19:22:46

SillyOldDuffer20/08/2018 19:28:45
3194 forum posts
652 photos

It's a broad question, and the answer also depends on the skill of the operator and how well equipped the workshop is.

Teaching yourself to drive a lathe is slow compared with having a mentor or professional training. Some people are natural craftsmen and quick learners, others like me aren't! I'm not a talented machinist, perhaps you are!

To make a part you have to plan a sequence of cuts to achieve the desired shape, dimensions and finish. It's not always easy to work out how to hold the work correctly to minimise dimensional errors. Planning could involve decoding an ambiguous drawing and spotted draughting errors.

Experience helps enormously. The first time I make a complex part, I usually start by redrawing it. Holding the work and cutting it takes an age and I'm liable to make silly mistakes. Making a second will be faster, and the third will be quick. Gradually I'm building up a kind of mental encyclopedia of what works and best practice. The best cutting speed, depth of cut, and tool shape for a particular material have to be learnt; the books and web help, but you have to understand the limits of your machine.

Judging by what he reports on the forum, I reckon Jason works 10 to 20 times faster than me, and he's not the only one. I suspect this is because they don't suffer from my faults! These include: long thinking times due to inexperience, dithering & lack of drive due to personality, mistakes, and poor workshop layout. (I spend a lot of time walking between machines because of how they are positioned.) My actual work rate improves dramatically if I sit down and plan how the job will be done and then make sure I have everything to hand before I start work. 'winging it' usually ends badly for me, either because I cock-up, or because I waste a few days discovering I have to order something to complete the job.

Point is, you don't really know how what your work rate is until you've made several simple things. Once you have a lathe you discover how much workshop time family commitments will really allow you. You find out if you're a natural or a duffer. You identify what else you need in the way of tooling, and how much time it will take if you have to do jobs by hand. For example, a band-saw saves huge amounts of time compared with a hacksaw.

I don't think it's a 'quick results' hobby. But, the more practice you get, the faster things get made. I'd recommend playing with the lathe to get a feel for it, then look at a plan or a real engine, and guesstimate how long it might take you to make each part.

My main regret about lathes and milling is not getting stuck in earlier.

Dave

Brian G20/08/2018 19:42:02
327 forum posts
8 photos

I wonder what the record is? My son is at least the third owner of a 3 1/2" 9F project, and amongst the copies of Practical Mechanics there is correspondence from LBSC regarding queries. Without digging out the letters it must have taken between 50 and 55 years to become a set of frames with drivers and one machined cylinder, and at our present rate of progress it will probably take at least another 10.

Brian

DMB20/08/2018 20:24:58
821 forum posts

My Sweet Pea chassis is still only part complete with many bits stored in a large collection of boxes. When I can finally assemble them will only have a few boiler fittings to do as I have a complete boiler. To give some idea how long it's taken so far, I bought a ready made boiler from Blackgates when Ron Drake was running that outfit and how long is it since he flogged the business and retired? I have made and fitted some blanking plugs to keep the spiders out. Try to spend a few hours some not every week in workshop so maybe not too long now.

Fowlers Fury20/08/2018 21:47:24
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247 forum posts
54 photos

Re: " how long do you reckon does it take the average builder to put together the average live steam loco?"

A few factors (not entirely tongue-in-cheek) to further complicate a straightforward answer?
(1) Never clean up and restore lathe or milling machine to 'as was' before you've checked what you've just made. So many times have I done so only to discover later a cock up with the part. Time involved to remake item far exceeds original when having to retrieve & reset everything on the machine again.
(2) Having completed a series of components (e.g. cylinders & pistons), never pay attention to those who'll tell you that it won't last / work that way. For example *that combination of rings and cylinder will wear out in a couple of months". Otherwise, you'll spend ages cogitating on whether to stop & rebuild or carry on regardless.
(3) NEVER believe the drawings. If possible check websites for errors identifed by others. Special regard should be paid to drawings in construction series by Martin Evans.
(4) Resist reliance on the stated diameter of twist drills, slot and end mills. Doing so can lead to hours of wasted work. Similarly, don't use calipers to measure the ID of bores and turn a part to fit the recorded ID.
(5) If a small, newly made item falls from the bench, it's invariably quicker to make another than search for the original.

If I subtracted all the time wasted on such things, sadly often repeated, then the as yet incomplete loco might have been built in the proverbial "half the time".

Andrew Johnston20/08/2018 22:24:08
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4037 forum posts
497 photos
Posted by RevStew on 20/08/2018 17:22:59:

Hi all.

Apologies for the rather vague question, but how long do you reckon does it take the average builder to put together the average live steam loco? Ball park?

How long is a bit of string?

I'm not building a loco but I am building two 4" scale traction engines, which are taking an age. Ten years in and I suspect another 10 years to go. As has been mentioned there are many factors to take into account. Some of these are:

The complexity of the design - in theory my traction engines are simple, but it doesn't seem like that

The standard of the drawings - my drawings are crap, so I've spent hundreds of hours redrawing everything in 3D CAD. I'm idle so I want to make parts once and expect everything to fit. To achieve that I'm prepared to expend the time doing CAD. Modelling is also required to account for material that is no longer available in imperial, like sheet and plate

Facilities available - I've got a fairly well equipped workshop with machine tools appropriate for a 4" scale traction engine; but it still takes me an age to get things done

How much you make yourself - I've bought the boilers (steel at 170psi, not something I can do) plus some castings but otherwise I'm making everything myself including all the gears and most of the bolts, studs and nuts because I don't like the commercial offerings

How closely you follow the drawings - my drawings are poor anyway but I end up redesigning a lot of items for other reasons. I've completely redesigned the water pump as the drawn version is grossly oversized. I've also done daft things like make hollow cast iron pistons, as per fullsize, instead of using aluminium alloy like everyone else. I'll be redesigning the valve gear, the injector and I've revamped the governor as the drawn version would never work in a month of Sundays. See the posts today in "What did you do Today" to see how time can be wasted on something that has no bearing on how the engine will function, but does allow you to thumb your nose at the rivet counters

The standard you work to - I'm no perfectionist, but I do like things just so. And I'm an awkward sod (*) so I often end up remaking parts I'm not happy with.

What else you do - I'm still working, employed and self-employed, I've got aeroplanes and gliders to fly, a garden to keep going and a bungalow to maintain so I don't have as much workshop time as I'd like. And if I don't buy it and cook it I don't eat.

To summarise the answer is a few months to many decades, or even never. I hope to finish my traction engines before I kick the bucket.

Andrew

*: sod as in awkward not as in SillyOldDuffer (TM)

Trevor Crossman 120/08/2018 23:25:19
97 forum posts
9 photos

RevStew, I do not know of your abilities, skills, experience or equipment, but from someone whose life has been spent making and repairing with metal and has a reasonably well equipped workshop with a lathe, mill, saw, shaper, pillar drill and welding gear, but has never built a model locomotive and knows nothing of the technicalities of live steam; it has taken me 6 weeks to get this far by doing something no matter how small, every day. At this rate and with my limited skill and knowledge...…..2 years perhaps to completion?

Trevor

img_20180820_225128626.jpg

Paul Lousick20/08/2018 23:28:30
870 forum posts
404 photos

My 6" scale Ruston Proctor traction engine has taken 5 years so far and another 6 months to finish. I have lost count of the time taken. probably 1500+ hours. A large part of the process is making/modifying/checking drawings to suit available materials and correct mistakes in the supplied drawings. The boiler had to be modified to suit the Australian safety code and pressure pipe is not available in the required diameter shown on the drawings. (did not want to roll my own).

Making special tools and jigs often takes longer to produce than the machining of the actual part and like Andrew, I hope to enjoy my finished engine before I get too much older.

Paul.

bricky20/08/2018 23:34:49
307 forum posts
41 photos

I fell for the look of the Burrell Gold Medal Tractor in the EIM magazine in the early eighties .I travelled down to Ringwood for the Boiler materials and all the materials so that I could make a start.I didn't anticipate the detail on this engine and I finished it six years ago.I had a small business to run and the usual alterations at home and a family,so don't expect it to be quick.29 years and I haven't got around to steaming it yet.Good luck with your chosen project.

Frank

David Taylor20/08/2018 23:40:20
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117 forum posts
29 photos

I'm over 5 years into a 5" gauge 2-6-0. Previous experience was building a few missing bits for a loco I bought in parts, and the maintenance of that loco over about 8 years now.

For the new loco, the tender was built first to get it out of the way and that took about 3 years.

The loco is running on air and the boiler was finished in April this year. So hopefully that's most of the hard stuff done!

I have a very supportive wife who encourages me to work on the project, good drawings straight from the designer, and the designer lives in the same town I do. So ideal circumstances and no hold-ups there!

I've done nothing since April as I've had the workshop rebuilt (completed a couple of weeks ago) so it is much nicer to be in than a steel garage. It started snowing the other day (rare around here) and I didn't notice.

I work pretty slowly because I hate the idea of scrapping a part or having to do it again.

I can usually do only do a few hours at a time because by the end of it if I haven't made a mistake I'm stressed enough that I will do so soon or just need to stop.

I get sick of the project and stop for weeks or months at a time.

So probably ten years for this one. The designer did it in about 18 months I think, but he had a lot of other work on meanwhile.

I'd like to push on and get it done but I just don't enjoy the process that much. I like the results, I like looking at something and thinking "I made that", and I want to make my own loco rather than buy one, but I find it very stressful. The workshop isn't a relaxing retreat for me!

David.

duncan webster20/08/2018 23:58:36
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1631 forum posts
18 photos

It took me 25 years to make my first loco, but then I did get married, build 2 extensions, have 3 children during the same time frame. The second loco only took about 2 years!

Edited By duncan webster on 20/08/2018 23:58:57

stephen goodbody21/08/2018 13:01:08
34 forum posts
29 photos

As others have said it's tough to distill this down to an 'average' because there are so many variables in play. Examples include, locomotive complexity and size, available equipment, access to materials, access to money, builder's skill, actual time realistically spent per week, acceptable level of detail and quality......

Personally my first loco (an O gauge effort based on a Mamod stationary plant) took about four months - I was 10 years old.

My next one (3 1/2" gauge Rob Roy) took 3 years between the ages of 13 and 16 while at school and interrupted by O levels.

My current one (7 1/4" narrow gauge Elidir) has taken 34 years so far and is not yet finished. It has been interrupted along the way by A levels, university, career, moving continents, marriage, children, two house expansions, and life generally. (I have no complaints about any of this however!)

And I consider myself pretty average!

Best regards

Steve

Martin Kyte21/08/2018 14:25:20
1305 forum posts
9 photos

A few tips.

1. If you find you are treating it like work and rushing to complete something, slow down a little and you will find you enjoy it more.

2. If you hit a 'wall' on a complex componant because you are a little unsure of the next process, put it to one side and do something else. When you return to it you will have forgotten how much effort went into getting it that far and be less nervous about fouling it up.

3. Treat every part as a project in itself.

4. Look at how far you have come not how far you have to go.

5. Remember you are building the thing because you want to build one, not have one because otherwise you would have bought one.

regards Martin

Derek Lane 221/08/2018 14:41:39
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72 forum posts
14 photos
Posted by Martin Kyte on 21/08/2018 14:25:20:

A few tips.

1. If you find you are treating it like work and rushing to complete something, slow down a little and you will find you enjoy it more.

2. If you hit a 'wall' on a complex component because you are a little unsure of the next process, put it to one side and do something else. When you return to it you will have forgotten how much effort went into getting it that far and be less nervous about fouling it up.

3. Treat every part as a project in itself.

4. Look at how far you have come not how far you have to go.

5. Remember you are building the thing because you want to build one, not have one because otherwise you would have bought one.

regards Martin

These are the things I tell people when building any model when asked how do you build this or that.

As you say break it down into manageable parts like for example the cab and ignore the rest of the plans unless it is directly associated with the cab build and fitting

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